Trusting moral values

There are so many different people with different values. These values are influenced by different factors and can so be influenced by others. So can we then trust our values to use them in value sensitive design?

War is peace as a value, poster from the book 1984
What always blows my mind is that there are so many different people and that we all have different values. These values are mainly influenced by culture, media, environment, gender, religion and family. Our values are important to us, especially in decision making. This is also the case when looking at value sensitive design. A process in which products are designed through an iterative process in which the moral values are taken into account. This is seen as a step forward in innovation. What scares me though is the fact that we rely heavily on our values in this concept and use them in our design.

When do we actually know these values to be the right values to use in a design? These values we have can actually be given to us by others, through these factors that influence our values. So we may believe we have the right moral values but when are they and how do we now? For instance looking at the book 1984 of George Orwell the government controls all these factors so the people will have certain values they want people to have. These people actually think they have the right values but actually these values are there because of the government.

So what happens when these values are embedded in innovation. In the book 1984 for instance it could mean that designing new bombs would be a value sensitive design because the country is at war with bad people and eliminating these people is good. Another example is that the government is always right and people see this as an important value. So when the government says something different than they said in the past they have a design where all history is changed. I believe that this isn’t a good value and isn’t part of our moral values but these people in the book don’t know any better. Another example which made me think about these values in designing and innovation is about Robert Moses. He designed the overpasses on parkways in New York lower than the standard. Assumed is that he did this because in that way the white people with cars could drive through while the busses with often black people couldn’t. The value of white people being superior to black people was so embedded in the design of the infrastructure.

I think that value sensitive design can really be an improvement when looking at the process of innovations. I do believe that before we actually implement our values in the design we should be really sure that they are the right moral values. Although it may be very difficult to agree to what are the right moral values. As I said there are many different people and they all have different moral values. With some of these values we almost unanimously agree with each other but others can give heated discussions.

I think it is important in value sensitive design that all stakeholders are addressed and can decide on the values. Although this may raise more discussions with more people and different values, in this way society is best represented. The more people with different values, the more chance unjust values will be eliminated and the more right values will be taken into account.

I think we should encourage people in using value sensitive design and that we should use it ourselves as well. At the same time we should use value sensitive design with great care, for it can have great impact on society as the example of Robert Moses shows. Having all stakeholders involved in deciding which values are important in the design is a good way to start with carefully using value sensitive design.