The Ecological Turn in Design: Adopting A Posthumanist Ethics to Inform Value Sensitive Design

Philosophies 6 (2):29 (2021)
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Design for Values (DfV) philosophies are a series of design approaches that aim to incorporate human values into the early phases of technological design to direct innovation into beneficial outcomes. The difficulty and necessity of directing advantageous futures for transformative technologies through the application and adoption of value-based design approaches are apparent. However, questions of whose values to design are of critical importance. DfV philosophies typically aim to enrol the stakeholders who may be affected by the emergence of such a technology. However, regardless of which design approach is adopted, all enrolled stakeholders are human ones who propose human values. Contemporary scholarship on metahumanisms, particularly those on posthumanism, have decentred the human from its traditionally privileged position among other forms of life. Arguments that the humanist position is not (and has never been) tenable are persuasive. As such, scholarship has begun to provide a more encompassing ontology for the investigation of nonhuman values. Given the potentially transformative nature of future technologies as relates to the earth and its many assemblages, it is clear that the value investigations of these design approaches fail to account for all relevant stakeholders (i.e., nonhuman animals). This paper has two primary objectives: (1) to argue for the cogency of a posthuman ethics in the design of technologies; and (2) to describe how existing DfV approaches can begin to envision principled and methodological ways of incorporating non-human values into design. To do this, the paper provides a rudimentary outline of what constitutes DfV approaches. It then takes up a unique design approach called Value Sensitive Design (VSD) as an illustrative example. Out of all the other DfV frameworks, VSD most clearly illustrates a principled approach to the integration of values in design.

Author's Profile

Steven Umbrello
Università di Torino


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