Technology and Design
In this teaching activity, students will learn to explain what value tensions are, and how to apply the first steps of the Value Dams and Flows method to identify value tensions during the design process. By performing these first steps of the Value Dams and Flows method, students will learn to describe the potential harms and benefits of a product, system, or service, and relate these harms and benefits to values. Understanding value tensions is important because if a product, system, or service contains elements that go against some stakeholders’ values, this could hinder appropriation.
Value tensions occur when different stakeholders have different values or value priorities, causing them to dislike elements of a product, system, or service that other stakeholders do like. To be able to design the product, system, or service in such a way that it is as much in line with all stakeholders’ values as possible, the designer first needs to identify the value tensions.
It can be difficult for students to do this, because it requires an in-depth consideration of (the manifestation of values in) various design elements. As guidance in the process, this teaching activity provides an introduction to the Value Dams and Flows method (Miller et al., 2007), which is a method for identifying value tensions. By exploring what value tensions are, how the Value Dams and Flows method works, and taking the first steps toward working with this method, students will be equipped to identify value tensions in the future.
After the teaching activity students will be able to:
Step 1 - Introduction to value tensions:
Show the students the relevant part of the presentation by Batya Friedman or give a similar introduction.
Distribute to each student a (digital or analogue) copy of worksheet 1.
The students fill out worksheet 1, listing examples of value tensions at different levels. For reference, see the filled in example of worksheet 1.
Discuss the answers with the class.
Introduce the students to the Value Dams and Flows method (see also Miller et al., 2007, section 6). For this, the provided Value Dams and Flows slides can be used. These slides also form a guideline, and show examples, for the next steps in this teaching activity (the first steps of the Value Dams and Flows method). The slides can be distributed to the students.
Step 2 - First steps of the Value Dams and Flows method:
Distribute to each group a digital copy of worksheet 2 (worksheet 2A for only this activity; worksheet 2B to later continue with the follow-up activity) as well as a filled in example of worksheet 2A or 2B (the same example as given in the slides). Throughout this step in the activity, students can refer to the example worksheet for inspiration.
The students open worksheet 2 in collaborative software (e.g., Google Docs) so that all group members can work on the same file.
Each student group brainstorms to identify potential benefits and harms that could result from system use for each relevant stakeholder group (e.g. different roles of the direct stakeholders of the product, system, or service). They note down the benefits and harms on worksheet 2. It is possible that a harm can also be a benefit, and vice versa.
The harms and benefits should be related to underlying values relevant to the product, system, or service that is being designed. If students have already identified project or stakeholder values in previous teaching activities, such as the Project values identification or Stakeholder values elicitation, they should use these values as a starting point to guide the identification of harms and benefits. If students have not previously identified relevant values, they can write down harms and benefits first, and relate these to relevant values as they go. As inspiration, provide students with an existing values vocabulary (such as the HuValue Wheel or the Schwartz Theory of Human Values).
Note: Harms and benefits should be potential harms and benefits based on potential features and functionalities, and should focus on elements that are changeable and not absolutely necessary for the product, system, or service. This means harms and benefits will be more fine-grained than the harms and benefits identified in the Listing stakeholders and their values teaching activity. For example, if a group is designing a bicycle, they may consider the harms and benefits of using a flag, a bell, a very bright paint colour, wide vs. narrow tires, etc., as opposed to considering the harms and benefits of using a bicycle, because this is already set in stone.
Each student group looks at existing products, systems or services similar to the one they are developing, as well as literature about these products, systems or services, to further complete their list of potential benefits and harms and their underlying values.
Step 3 - Discussion/feedback:
(Especially if there will be no follow-up activity to complete the Value Dams and Flows analysis:) Students present their worksheet to the class (or to another group) and discuss which tensions they believe may occur between different values and harms/benefits they identified. Together with the class (or the other group), they think about ways to resolve these tensions.
(Especially if there will be a follow-up activity to complete the Value Dams and Flows analysis:) Provide each student group with feedback about their harms, benefits, and underlying values. This can be done (a) by the teacher, (b) by exchanging worksheets between groups and letting student groups provide feedback to each other, or (c) by letting each student group present their worksheet to the class and having a plenary discussion. Questions to be considered include:
Students can improve their work based on the feedback, and use these improved worksheets to continue the Value Dams and Flows method in the teaching activity Identifying and resolving value tensions.
To assess whether the intended learning outcomes were attained by the teaching activity the following assessment activities can be carried out (in class or after class).
Assess students' learning by asking them to create maps of their identified value tensions (summative assessment) focusing on a) visualising and describing the harms and benefits of the product, system or service, and b) connecting harms and benefits to concrete values.
Assess students' learning by making them write a reflective value report (formative assessment) about value tensions and reflect on how these value tensions relate to or emerge from values as well as how values of different stakeholders may be at odds with each other.
In the assessment activity ask students to focus on:
Design Lab (2018, March 16). Moral and Technical Imagination: A Value Sensitive Design Perspective [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HPgN050DIw
Presentation Batya Friedman, video (19:40–24:55). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HPgN050DIw
HuValue (2021). HuValue Tool. Retrieved 2021-04-15 from https://huvaluetool.com/
Schwartz, Shalom H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Readings. Psychology and Culture, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1116
Miller, Jessica K., Friedman, Batya, Jancke, Gavin, & Gill, Brian. (2007). Value tensions in design: the value sensitive design, development, and appropriation of a corporation's groupware system. In Proceedings of the 2007 international ACM conference on Supporting group work (pp. 281-290).