Values and Pragmatic Action: The Challenges of Introducing Ethical Intelligence in Technical Design Communities

I’ve written a lot here about the need for companies to engage in value-conscious design of their products and services. This, admittedly, is no simple task. Ever since spending a few weeks thinking about this topic a few years ago, my colleague Noëmi Manders-Huits and I have been organizing our thoughts on the pragmatic challenges of bringing ethics and values into the design & boardrooms.

The result of our efforts has just been published in a special issue of the International Review of Information Ethics focusing on the convergence between business and moral intelligence. Here’s the title and abstract:

Values and Pragmatic Action: The Challenges of Introducing Ethical Intelligence in Technical Design Communities
by Noëmi Manders-Huits and Michael Zimmer

Various Value-Conscious Design frameworks have recently emerged to introduce moral and ethical intelligence into business and technical design contexts, with the goal of proactively influencing the design of technologies to account for moral and ethical values during the conception and design process. Two attempts to insert ethical intelligence into technical design communities to influence the design of technologies in ethical- and value-conscious ways are described, revealing discouraging results. Learning from these failed attempts, the article identifies three key challenges of pragmatic engagement with technical design communities: (1) confronting competing values; (2) identifying the role of the values advocate; and (3) the justification of a value framework. Addressing these challenges must become a priority if one is to be successful in pragmatically engaging with real-world business and design contexts to bring moral and ethical intelligence to bear in the design of emerging information and communication technologies.

You can download the entire special issue here (pdf).

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