Value-Sensitive Design for Designers

11 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2010 Last revised: 23 Jul 2011

See all articles by Ton Monasso

Ton Monasso


John Groenewegen

Delft University of Technology - Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management

Date Written: December 14, 2010


In this paper we discuss the question how in the design of socio-technical system values can be taken explicitly into account (so-called value-sensitive design: VSD).

In the introduction we present the concept of socio-technical systems: technology and institutions interact; private and public actors purposefully design technologies and institutions and are at the same time constraint by them. In its essence, values are incorporated in the design criteria. Sometimes as constraints – the design should conform to a certain value - but most often as goals – the design should try to maximise the beneficial effect on specific values. Central in this paper is the discussion of a practical analytical tool that can be helpful in the actual design process.

To analyse the role of technology and institutions and how actors operate in such complex systems we make use of insights of institutional economics. A layered model is discussed in which the relations between the technology, the institutions and the actors are outlined.

The core of the paper is the application of this framework in the so-called design cycle: a neutral analytical tool to compare the actual situation (what is the actual performance of the system?) with the desired performance (what is desired in the value system?). The design tool is illustrated with a case.

Conclusions are drawn about the importance of value-sensitive design and the applicability of the design cycle as a neutral analytical tool that would be helpful in designing in a value-sensitive way.

Keywords: value-sensitive design, socio-technical systems, ethics, information technology, institutional design

JEL Classification: A12

Suggested Citation

Monasso, Ton and Groenewegen, John, Value-Sensitive Design for Designers (December 14, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Ton Monasso (Contact Author)

Zenc ( email )

Alexanderstraat 18
The Hague, 2514 JM

John Groenewegen

Delft University of Technology - Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 5015
2600 GB Delft

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