Value Sensitive Design

Grinnell College
Spring 2013
Instructor: Janet Davis (contacting me)
Discussion: Tuesday 2:15 - 4:05, SCI 3818
Studio: Thursday 2:15 - 4:05, SCI 3818


About this course

Value sensitive design was pioneered by Prof. Batya Friedman of the University of Washington's iSchool. She writes:

Value Sensitive Design refers to an approach to the design of technology that accounts for human values in a principled and systematic manner throughout the design process.

Value Sensitive Design is primarily concerned with values that center on human well being, human dignity, justice, welfare, and human rights. Value Sensitive Design connects the people who design systems and interfaces with the people who think about and understand the values of the stakeholders who are affected by the systems. Ultimately, Value Sensitive Design requires that we broaden the goals and criteria for judging the quality of technological systems to include those that advance human flourishing.

This class is an introduction to the theory and method of value sensitive design. We shall explore how values might (or might not) come to be embedded in information systems; the interactional stance on technology and society; direct and indirect stakeholders; designer values, stakeholder values, and explicitly supported values; and the co-evolution of technology and social structure. Most of all, we shall discuss a variety of different values and explore how values held by individuals, groups, and societies can be addressed during design.

Along with this introduction to the theory of value sensitive design, we shall develop practical skills for a range of methods such as:

During the course, you will apply value sensitive design to a semester-long project of your choosing. The project and class activities will equip you with a distinct, compelling perspective on the design of technology and its place in society.


This course draws extensively upon Prof. Batya Friedman's materials developed over several years for UW's INFO-444, and Prof. David Hendry's recent offering of the same course. I am grateful for their advice and the use of their materials. I take responsibility for any limitations or errors.

For more information about Value Sensitive Design, see

Janet Davis (

Created January 11, 2013
Last revised January 23, 2013

Thanks to Batya Friedman and David Hendry