Research line 2

Value Change

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Objective

To develop a notion of value that can account for value change (project objective 1); to develop a taxonomy and mechanisms of value change in sociotechnical systems (project objective 2).

How do values change over time?

To understand how values may change, we will understand values as emerging from earlier responses to moral problems. In line with pragmatist philosophers like Dewey, values will be seen as generalized responses to earlier moral problems. In many situations, existing values are adequate as a response to (morally) problematic situations people encounter. However, in new types of situations or due to new experiences, current values may no longer be adequate or sufficient. Such situations may require an adaption of current values or the adoption of new values.

The above description gives already some clues about how, and when, values may change. They will particularly do so as a response to new problematic situations or new experiences. On this basis, we will develop a more precise account of different mechanisms of value change in sociotechnical systems. Possible mechanisms include the following:

  1. Technologies lead to new types of consequences that require new evaluative dimensions and therefore new values (e.g. privacy, sustainability) to evaluate sociotechnical systems;
  2. Technologies offer new opportunities (e.g. to protect homes against earthquakes) that lead to new moral obligations and therefore new values;
  3. Technologies create new moral choices and dilemmas where previously were no choices (e.g. predictive genetics) that require new values;
  4. Technologies lead to new experiences (e.g. friendship online) that lead to new values or change existing values.

In addition to distinguishing mechanisms of value change, we may also distinguish different degrees of value change, resulting in a taxonomy of value change. A first thing to note here is that the verdict whether a value has changed, and to what degree it has changed, depends on how that value is exactly defined. It is particularly important at what level of abstraction, or generality, a value is characterized. Usually values are characterized at a rather abstract or general level; they are typically referred to with one abstract noun, like safety, sustainability, privacy or well-being, although also longer expressions occur.

One of the consequences of the fact that values are often understood at a high level of conceptual abstraction, is that changes in the understanding or interpretation of a value can occur while the value itself remains the same. In car design, safety may refer to the safety of the driver and passengers (occupant safety) or to the safety of bystanders like pedestrians and cyclists (pedestrian safety), and while in car design the emphasis was originally mainly on the first it has gradually also become to involve the second. This can be interpreted as a change in how the value of safety is conceptualized and specified, but it could also be interpreted, if values are understood at a somewhat lower level of abstraction, as a change in the relative importance of the values of occupant safety and pedestrian safety.

So how we exactly characterize changes in values at least partly depends on the level of abstraction that we use to characterize values. With this in mind, it is nevertheless possible to distinguish between different kinds of value change:

 

  1. The emergence of new values;
  2. Changes in what values are relevant for the design of a certain technology;
  3. Changes in the priority or relative importance of values;
  4. Changes in how values are conceptualized;
  5. Changes in how values are specified, and translated into norms and design requirements.

Researchers

Dr. Steffen Steinert

Dr. Steffen Steinert

Postdoctoral researcher

S.Steinert@tudelft.nl

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Dr. Michael Klenk

Dr. Michael Klenk

Postdoctoral researcher

M.B.O.T.Klenk@tudelft.nl

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Dr. Olya Kudina

Dr. Olya Kudina

Postdoctoral Researcher

olya_kudina@yahoo.com

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Related events

Second edition of the Changing Values, Changing Technologies conference from 19-21 April 2023 in Delft (Netherlands) as part of fPET 2023 

Start date: April 19, 2023
End date: April 21, 2023
All-day event
Location: Tu Delft
Project workshop | Value Change
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In October 2020 we organised the first international conference on Changing Values, Changing Technologies. We are happy to announce the second edition, which will be an integral part of the 2023 Forum on Philosophy, Engineering, and Technology (fPET 2023) and will be held at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands from 19-21 April […]

Workshop ‘Explaining Value Change’

Start date: April 15, 2021
End date: May 6, 2021
Location: Online
Project workshop | Value Change
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This workshop series aims to shed light on this under-investigated topic of value change. Despite its seemingly common enough occurrence, it is not clear what value change amounts to. The first step towards a clearer understanding of value change is to make headway on what exactly we need to explain when we want to explain value change. The workshop will bring together internationally leading scholars on philosophical value theory to explore the topic of value change.

Related Publications

2022

van de Poel, Ibo; Kudina, Olya

Understanding Technology-Induced Value Change: a Pragmatist Proposal Journal Article

In: Philosophy of Technology, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 40, 2022, ISSN: 2210-5433.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

van de Poel, Ibo

Understanding value change Journal Article

In: Prometheus, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 7-24, 2022.

Links | BibTeX

Hopster, J. K. G.; Arora, C.; Blunden, C.; Eriksen, C.; Frank, L. E.; Hermann, J. S.; Klenk, M. B. O. T.; O’Neill, E. R. H.; Steinert, S.

Pistols, pills, pork and ploughs: the structure of technomoral revolutions Journal Article

In: Inquiry, pp. 1-33, 2022, ISSN: 0020-174X, (doi: 10.1080/0020174X.2022.2090434).

Links | BibTeX

Philip J. Nickel, Olya Kudina; van de Poel, Ibo

Moral Uncertainty in Technomoral Change: Bridging the Explanatory Gap Journal Article

In: Perspectives on Science, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 260-283, 2022, ISSN: 1063-6145.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

2020

Steinert, Steffen

Corona and value change. The role of social media and emotional contagion Journal Article

In: Ethics and Information Technology, 2020, ISSN: 1388-1957, 1572-8439.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX

2018

van de Poel, Ibo

Design for value change Journal Article

In: Ethics and Information Technology, 2018, ISSN: 1572-8439.

Abstract | Links | BibTeX