Why do we Need Norm Sensitive Design? A WEIRD Critique of Value Sensitive Approaches to Design

Axiomathes 33 (4):1-19 (2023)
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The article argues that mainstream value-sensitive approaches to design have been based on narrow understandings of personhood and social dynamics, which are biased toward Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic cultures and contradicted by empirical evidence. To respond to this weakness, the article suggests that design may benefit from focusing on user behaviours from the joint perspective of values and norms, especially across cultural contexts. As such, it proposes Norm Sensitive Design as a complement to value-sensitive approaches when designing and implementing new technologies. Versus values, norms serve as more accurate predictors or descriptors of behaviours and can thus support value-sensitive approaches to realize the aspiration of informing user behaviour via design. The article makes two key contributions. On the theoretical side, it promotes the consideration of norms in design. On the practical side, it offers designers and instructors prompts for reflecting on design ethics from the perspective of norms.



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Rockwell Clancy
Virginia Tech
Gunter Bombaerts
University of Ghent (PhD)
Qin Zhu
Virginia Tech
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