At the conference for the Society of the Philosophy of Technology held in College Station (USA), Udo Pesch (TU Delft) presented a paper called ‘Adapting to changing values in smart cities: A framework for Responsible and Inclusive Decision-Making in Smart City Development’.
This paper is based on the master thesis of Marjolein Heezen (now Ministry of Internal Affairs) and co-authored by Aad Correljé (TU Delft), Janneke ten Have (Platform 31) and Liesbet van Zoonen (Erasmus University).
The paper introduces a method that helps decision-makers to reflect on the values that are affected by the new smart city projects. This is done firstly by identifying the relevant stakeholders and values and secondly by developing scenario’s about possible value changes. With that decision-makers can become more receptive about the values that are or might be affected by smart city projects.
The conference presentation was part of a special track on value change and technology which is increasingly seen as a challenge for theory and practice as values that are embedded in technology might change over time. The question thus becomes how to attend relevant values while introducing a new technological system, while acknowledging the possibility of changing values. The added value of the presented paper is that it introduces a practical method for doing so.
The session was well-attended and the need to translate philosophical and ethical notions into methods that are informative for practitioners was widely acknowledged, even if that goes to the extent of theoretical sophistication. Value scenarios are seen as a suitable approach, though such scenarios might also influence the decisions as they steer decision makers to think into a certain direction. Another point of debate is whether the proposed method looks at changes within the values or changes of the values that are relevant with regards to the technology.
This last point is illustrated by a discussion of the role of ‘surveillance’ which is used to identify a possible function of a smart city project. In the method, this function is opposed to that of ‘service’, allowing to plot a scenario in which a project shift from having a service orientation to a surveillance orientation. But as the prominent ICT ethicist Deborah Johnson remarked, the meaning over surveillance itself may also change over time. For instance, it may have a neutral connotation at first, pertaining to matters of monitoring and tracking, but later evolve into a connotation that pertains to policing and disciplining.