How are values taken into account in projects that carry out research through industrial and architectural design? A seed project of the Delft Design for Values Institute (DDfV) is currently exploring this question. Preliminary results were presented at the DDFV Playground Meeting of 17 May 2018. In this blog post a short report on those results – and a call to participate in a follow-up workshop.

  • Irene Conversano
    Irene Conversano
    Student Research Assistant
  • Livia Del Conte
    Livia Del Conte
    Student Research Assistant
  • Ingrid Mulder
    Ingrid Mulder
    Associate Professor of Design Techniques

1.Intro: aim of the research

During the DDFV Playground Meeting on the 17th of May we presented the preliminary findings of our DDfV seed project ‘Research through Design for Values’. The aim of the project is to gain insights on design research on values by studying seven projects carried out by the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering and the Faculty of Architecture & the Built Environment at Delft University of Technology.

The seven projects studied in this DDfV seed project have all been funded by the NWO program ‘Research through Design’ (RtD). This program aims to clarify distinctions and characteristics of design research in relation to the more established fields of science. Our seed project investigates if and how such projects also contribute to our understanding of values. The projects were:

The RTD for Values project aims to strengthen the synergy among these projects and their respective Faculties to stimulate awareness and debate on the values.

2.Methodology: how the research was conducted

Based on the Handbook of Ethics, Values and Technological Design (edited by DDfV researchers Van den Hoven, Vermaas and Van de Poel, 2015), eleven cards depicting the values discussed in the book were designed:

  1. Accountability and Transparency,
  2. Democracy and Justice,
  3. Human Well-Being,
  4. Inclusiveness,
  5. Presence/Empowerment,
  6. Privacy,
  7. Regulation,
  8. Responsibility,
  9. Safety,
  10. Sustainability,
  11. Trust

The cards (you can scroll through them below) were used as the main tool to conduct seven interviews with the key actors in the projects. The interviews aimed at understanding which role the eleven values  played in the projects. The participants could move the cards around paper sheets and write down different phases or roles of the projects. While some interviews were held by one participant only, in some five people were participating. This created an interesting discussion since the roles of the values and the values themselves were quite subjective.

3.Presentation of the first findings at the DDfV Playground Meeting

During the DDFV Playground of 17 May 2018 we presented the preliminary findings of our research:

  1. Shared hierarchy of values: In the first place we recognized that there was a shared hierarchy of values among the projects, where the values of Sustainability and Human Well-Being were the overarching goals and the one of Presence (that we referred to as Empowerment after a participant renamed it in such way) the medium to achieve those.
  2. Cultural challenge: Secondly, while trying to divide the projects in clusters, we saw that the seven projects – despite being extremely different in many ways – were all addressing a cultural challenge.
  3. Technology-driven vs. user-driven: The difference was in the starting point of this cultural challenge: while some projects started from the application of a certain technology (we named them ‘technology-driven projects’), others were moving from the users themselves: their needs and wants (we named those ‘user-driven projects’).

Dividing the projects into two groups allowed us to identify both common patterns and specifics related to the role of the prototypes and values in the projects. One noteworthy finding was that the two categories of projects aimed to empower different groups of people: users in the user-driven projects and researchers in the respective field in the technology-driven ones. The tech-driven projects were addressing categories of people within the field of knowledge such as designers, architects and researchers. The specificity of the technology used throughout the process generated indeed a kind of knowledge meant to be understood and further developed by a specific category of people. The other cluster of project, on the other hand, aimed at the production of another type of knowledge, able to empower the users directly, without the need of any specialists as a filter.

This turned out to affect the roles that values were playing in those projects. While discussing the values used in the tech-driven projects, the interviewees recognized that those were mainly related to the team and the prototype. For the second group of projects the values were rather brought up by the users hence related to their personal experiences.

The team and the prototype were identified as the main elements to which the values present in the project relate.

4.Next step: a co-analysis workshop

The audience at the DDFV Playground meeting actively participated in a stimulating discussion about our research and results. We would like to continue the discussion, as the ultimate goal of our research is to foster the debate and stimulate awareness about the role that values play in many design research fields.

We thus plan to organize a co-analysis workshop with our preliminary results shaping the content and the structure. The workshop should contribute to tangible tools to allow a further co-analysis together with the participants. This should enable participants to continue reflecting on how to account for values in design.

We are therefore looking for people that would like to participate in this co-analysis workshop at the beginning of September 2018. If you are interested and would like to know more about it, do not hesitate to contact us!

If you are interested to join the co-analysis workshop, please fill in our Doodle to select a date, by specifying ALL THE AVAILABLE DATES for you.

Irene Conversano
+39 333 4109421

Livia Del Conte
+31 6 19698626