DS 110: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2021), VIA Design, VIA University in Herning, Denmark. 9th -10th September 2021

Year: 2021
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: Eggink, Wouter
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Twente, Netherlands, The
Section: Addressing Ethical and Social Issues in Design Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.18
ISBN: 978-1-912254-14-9


Industrial Design Engineers have social responsibility by the very nature of their activities; bringing new products and services into the world of the user. This responsibility calls for ethical awareness in the education of future design engineers, as they will be influencing the impacts of technology on people and society for better or worse. In our curriculum we approach this responsibility from the perspective of human-technology relations, informed by Philosophy of Technology. Philosophy of Technology has produced a substantive amount of theories and reflections about the impacts of technology and innovations on our daily lives and social behaviours. Combining these with technology development has led to the concept of ethics in technology and even in the notion of ‘technology design as experimental ethics’. So one can assume that teaching these perspectives on human-technology relations will raise ethical awareness among the students. One critique however is that ‘ethical reflection in design, [...] is often a theoretical perspective: focused on abstract users and abstract use situations […] Although illustrated with concrete examples, the theory remains theoretical, searching for a general position a designer should develop towards users.’ One way to overcome this is to focus on the development of the designer as a person, promoting the awareness of both professional and personal values. I think this is highly valuable, however also want to advocate a different approach. To make the reflections from philosophy of technology more tangible for design engineering students we experimented over the years with different tools and practical approaches in order to integrate these perspectives directly in the design process. In analogy with the empirical turn before, we named this closer integration with design ‘the Practical Turn in Philosophy of Technology’. My argument now is that by using these insights, one can cultivate ethical awareness with design engineering students by directly informing their design process in what I call ‘practicing the practical turn’. In this paper I will explore this approach, based on the experiences with a one-week Industrial Design Workshop at the University of Antwerp. Here, 17 second and third year bachelor students executed a conceptual design project for the improvement of public space. During the process they experienced and applied tools and theories from respectively Utopian Technology, the Product Impact Tool, and Open Script Design. The results ranged from an open electric bike-sharing system to a bus-stop that fosters ethical discussion. Apart from having interesting design results, the project shows how design can make tangible the inherent dilemmas and conflicts in designing for public space, where collective responsibilities and individual concerns often collide. This makes a strong case for the Practical Turn, that shows an inherent reciprocal effect; the materialization and visualization of ethical and social issues through design -based on the ethical reflection from the philosophical tools and theories- in its turn explicates the ethical reflection. In this way, students can experiment and 'live through' the ethical dilemmas and conflicts of their future profession in a way that is closely related to their design practice.

Keywords: Ethical Reflection, Practical Turn, Philosophy of Technology, Social Design, Responsible Design


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