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Human Values and the Design of Computer Technology

edited by Batya Friedman

“Interesting and important … The chapter on computer bugs and accountability alone is worth the trip (or click) to the bookstore.” –Michael L. Gordon, Computing Reviews, September 1999

When we design and implement computer technologies, many of us focus on making a machine work—reliably, efficiently, and correctly. Rarely do we focus on human values. Perhaps we believe in value-neutral technology. Perhaps we believe that issues of value belong only to social scientists, philosophers, or policy makers. Neither belief is correct. In their work, system designers necessarily impart social and moral values. Yet how? What values? Whose values? For if human values—such as freedom of speech, rights to property, accountability, privacy, and autonomy—are controversial, then on what basis do some values override others in the design of, say, hardware, algorithms, and databases? Moreover, how can designers working within a corporate structure and with a mandate to generate revenue bring value-sensitive design into the workplace?

This volume brings together leading researchers and system designers who take up these questions, and more. Their responses, when situated within a larger conceptual framework, motivate the need to embrace value-sensitive design as part of the culture of computer science. Roughly half of the chapters are new material, and the remainder are reprints of pivotal articles from recent years

Batya Friedman is Associate Professor of Computer Science at Colby College and is codirector of The Mina Institute. Her areas of specialization include human-computer interaction and the human relationship with technology


  • Acknowledgements
  • Contributors
  • Introduction Batya Friedman
  • Part I Conceptualizing Human Values in Design
  • 1 Bias in Computer Systems Batya Friedman and Helen Nissenbaum
  • 2 Accountability in a Computerized Society Helen Nissenbaum
  • 3 Disability, Inability and Cyberspace John Perry Elizabeth Macken, Neil Scott, and Janice L. Mckinley
  • 4 Do Categories Have Politics? The Language/Action Perspective Lucy Suchman
  • 5 Categories, Disciplines, and Social Coordination Terry Winograd
  • 6 Commentary on Suchman Article and Winograd Response Thomas W. Malone
  • 7 Social Impact Statements: Engaging Public Participation in Information Technology Design Ben Schneiderman and Anne Rose
  • Part II Computers as Persons? Implications for Design
  • 8 Computers Are Social Actors: A Review of Current Research Clifford I. Nass, Youngme Moon, John Morkes, Eun-Young Kim, and B.J. Fogg
  • 9 When the Interface Is a Face Lee Sproull, Mani Subramani, Sara Kiesler, Janet Walker, and Keith Waters
  • 10 ‘Social’ Human–Computer Interaction Sara Kiesler and Lee Sproull
  • 11 Reasoing About Computers As Moral Agents: A Research Note Batya Friedman Lynette I. Millett
  • 12 Interface Agents: Metaphors with Character Brenda Laurel
  • 13 Human Agency and Responsible Computing: Implications for Computer System Design Batya Friedman and Perter H. Kahn, Jr.
  • Part III Practicing Value-Sensitive Design
  • 14 Workplace Database Systems: Difficulties of Data Collection and Presentation Harry Hochheiser
  • 15 Eliminating a Hardware Switch : Weighing Economics and Values in a Design Decision John C. Tang
  • 16 Steps toward Universal Access Within a Communications Company John C. Thomas
  • 17 Social Choice About Privacy: Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems in the United States Philip E. Agre and Christine A. Mailloux
  • Name Index
  • Subject Index


ISBN (Paperback): 1575860805 (9781575860800)
ISBN (Cloth): 1575860813 (9781575860817)

Subject: Computer Science; Technology--Social Aspects

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