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Technology Development with an Agenda: Interventions to Emphasize Values in Design


Researchers have begun exploring techniques to promote social values within the technology design process. Increasingly, such projects include interventions: action research that inserts social scientists into design to promote values of interest. This article evaluates interventions to promote privacy and anti-surveillance values in a ubiquitous computing laboratory. Data from two years of participant observation suggest how interventions by outside social scientists, mentors and colleagues, clients and research subjects, and institutional authorities increase designers’ ability to foreground, react to, and incorporate privacy and anti-surveillance ethics into design. The article also suggests criteria by which social science researchers can evaluate the success of a values in design intervention, including 1) moving the values advocate from outsider to insider; 2) changing the topic of conversation; 3) making values considerations a positive, rather than negative, part of design work; and 4) materializing new values in resulting technologies. Though the project features a difficult-to-replicate blend of personalities and situations, analysis of the structures that enabled successful interventions can be useful to researchers concerned with values in design.

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