Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 945–962

Virtues in Participatory Design: Cooperation, Curiosity, Creativity, Empowerment and Reflexivity

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11948-012-9380-9

Cite this article as:
Steen, M. Sci Eng Ethics (2013) 19: 945. doi:10.1007/s11948-012-9380-9


In this essay several virtues are discussed that are needed in people who work in participatory design (PD). The term PD is used here to refer specifically to an approach in designing information systems with its roots in Scandinavia in the 1970s and 1980s. Through the lens of virtue ethics and based on key texts in PD, the virtues of cooperation, curiosity, creativity, empowerment and reflexivity are discussed. Cooperation helps people in PD projects to engage in cooperative curiosity and cooperative creativity. Curiosity helps them to empathize with others and their experiences, and to engage in joint learning. Creativity helps them to envision, try out and materialize ideas, and to jointly create new products and services. Empowerment helps them to share power and to enable other people to flourish. Moreover, reflexivity helps them to perceive and to modify their own thoughts, feelings and actions. In the spirit of virtue ethics—which focuses on specific people in concrete situations—several examples from one PD project are provided. Virtue ethics is likely to appeal to people in PD projects because it is practice-oriented, provides room for exploration and experimentation, and promotes professional and personal development. In closing, some ideas for practical application, for education and for further research are discussed.


Virtue ethics Participatory design Cooperation Curiosity Creativity Empowerment Reflexivity Social networking 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TNODelftThe Netherlands

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