Institutions & Values

RI 2016: Section 2.4

Values are not only present in technology, but also in institutions. Therefore it makes sense to extend the scope beyond technology and include institutions as well.

In the next web lecture, Eefje Cuppen will:

  • Discuss the role of the institutional context in which a technology is being developed and implemented.

    This is important because values are not only embedded in a technology, but also in the institutional context in which that technology is developed. Institutions have values too, and this has an impact on the public debate.

    She will pay attention to the (often wrong) response of institutes to the '
    NIMBY' effect (Not In My  Backyard).NIMBY is an argument where people oppose new technologies because they put their personal short-term interests (like a quiet living environment) - before the collective long-term interests (such as sustainable energy supply).
  • Briefly introduce the concept of Value Sensitive Design (VSD).

    Please do note that in week 7 we will discuss this approach in detail.
  • We conclude with a very interesting reading. Remember to have a look!


Readings for Institutions & Values

As seen in the web lecture, values are also embedded in the institutional context and in the processes of interaction between stakeholders. Hence, the prevention of controversies over conflicting values may be pursued by redesigning the institutional context, and by taking the dynamics of stakeholder interaction explicitly into account.

In this chapter titled Responsible Innovation in Energy Projects: Values in the Design of Technologies, Institutions and Stakeholder Interactionsthe authors take as a starting point the supply of energy. Traditionally, the supply of energy is associated with many problems. Today, three principal problems can be identified.

  1. Firstly, the use of fossil fuel causes air pollution which directly jeopardizes human health while the CO2 emissions adversely affect the Earth’s climate.
  2. Secondly, there is the perception that the resources that can be exploited easily and at low cost are being depleted rapidly, thus driving up the price of energy.
  3. The third problem is that the uneven regional distribution of energy resources is causing international geopolitical and economic frictions.

Such problems foster new initiatives and technological developments to produce, store or transport energy in novel, unconventional ways. But new energy initiatives repeatedly give rise to problems of societal acceptance because their implementation and operation have national or local repercussions. 

NB: This reading is a draft of a chapter that will form part of the forthcoming book titled:  Responsible Innovation, Volume 2: Concepts, Approaches, and Applications (Springer)