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The importance of values for technology governance

To responsibly develop and introduce new technologies into society, organizations need to address moral and societal values pro-actively. Governmental organizations might want to evaluate if policy programs had a significant impact on the consideration of privacy within target groups. Research councils might want to assess whether values voiced in society for AI and Blockchain Technology such as democracy and environmental sustainability are adequately reflected in research programs.

Resource intensive assessments

The realization of gap analyses and impact assessments is typically done by means of interviews and surveys. Unfortunately, these tend to be resource intensive (time, financial costs, expertise). Moreover, standard survey methods for monitoring values are often limited to general psychological and sociological values, while technology governance requires attention to technology-specific values (like explainability for AI). More accessible approaches exist, such as traditional text analysis tools, but they often fail to adequately capture the latent aspect of values.

The solution: ValueMonitor

ValueMonitor is a service developed at Delft University of Technology that can be used to perform value-based gap analyses and impact assessments, on a frequent basis and at relatively low costs. Based on a text-mining tool called probabilistic topic models, values can be traced in written sources (e.g. newspaper articles, policy documents, scientific articles), even if these values are not explicitly mentioned.

The method underlying ValueMonitor has been developed and validated in the project ‘Design for changing values: a theory of value change in sociotechnical systems’ which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 788321.