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Materializing Morality: Design Ethics and Technological Mediation

Peter-Paul Verbeek
Science, Technology, & Human Values
Vol. 31, No. 3, Ethics and Engineering Design (May, 2006), pp. 361-380
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29733944
Page Count: 20
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Abstract

During the past decade, the "script" concept, indicating how technologies prescribe human actions, has acquired a central place in STS. Until now, the concept has mainly functioned in descriptive settings. This article will deploy it in a normative setting. When technologies coshape human actions, they give material answers to the ethical question of how to act. This implies that engineers are doing "ethics by other means": they materialize morality. The article will explore the implications of this insight for engineering ethics. It first augments the script concept by developing the notion of technological mediation. After this, it investigates how the concept of mediation could be made fruitful for design ethics. It discusses how the ambition to design behavior-influencing technologies raises moral questions itself and elaborates two methods for anticipating technological mediation in the design process: performing mediation analyses and using an augmented version of constructive technology assessment.

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