Translating Ethical Theory into Ethical Action: An Ethic of Responsibility Approach to Value-Oriented Design


Calls for ethics by and in design of new technologies are now commonplace in academic literature, private businesses such as Microsoft and Google, and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe research projects.

This emphasis on ethics is necessary owing to the ways in which new technologies are embedded in our every day practices, can radically affect these practices, and have the potential for transgressing or promoting important values.

Despite this importance, there is a lack of clarity concerning how designers can translate ethical theories and ethical values into ethical action. In this paper, the author canvasses some of the most prominent ethical theories and explains their connection to action. Finding these wanting, the paper proposes an ethic of responsibility as a first step in a more ethically sensitive approach to value-oriented design. This approach internalizes responsibility for ethical action into the actor, rather than seeking ethical characteristics in the external act or value.


Goldberg, Zachary J.

Date Published

March 15, 2021