Transparency in Responsible Design: Avoiding Engineering Overconfidence and Supporting Societal Acceptance

DS 94: Proceedings of the Design Society: 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED19)

Year: 2019
Editor: Wartzack, Sandro; Schleich, Benjamin; Gon
Author: Vermaas, Pieter
Series: ICED
Institution: Delft University of Technology
Section: Responsible design
DOI number:
ISSN: 2220-4342


In this contribution it is argued that in responsible design engineers should be transparent towards stakeholders about the goals they intend to realise with their designs. The emergence of responsible design in, e.g., value-sensitive design, design for values, social design, nudging and positive design, is to be welcomed. It has however the weakness of overconfidence which may lead engineers to suspend earlier commitments to society as given in engineering codes of conduct and ethics, and practices of seeking informed consent and taking blame. It is argued that these earlier commitments lead to the requirement that engineers should be transparent about the goals in responsible designs. Providing this transparency support moreover the societal acceptance of responsible design since it positions engineers doing responsible design as subscribing to values such as respect, honesty and trust. I illustrate the argument with a case of social design and a case of nudging.

Keywords: Social responsibility, Ethics, Communication, Engineering codes of conduct, Transparancy


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