Value change can occur in a variety of ways. One distinction is with respect to where value change originates. VSD takes an interactional stance with respect to the embedding of values: values result from the interaction of users and other stakeholders with technology (Friedman et al. 2006, p. 361). In line with this stance, we may distinguish between value changes that primarily occur due to social developments and value changes that are induced by technology. An example of a technology that has changed our values are contraceptives which have had an effect on sexual morality (Swierstra 2013). Another example are social media, like Facebook. Studies suggest that the use of Facebook has led to more lax attitudes towards privacy even if people have good reasons to be concerned about privacy intrusions (Debatin et al. 2009).
In addition to distinguishing sources of value change, we may also distinguish different degrees of value change. A first thing to note here is that the verdict of whether a value has changed, and to what degree it has changed, depends on how that value is exactly defined. It is particularly important at what level of abstraction, or generality, a value is characterized. Usually values are characterized at a rather abstract or general level; they are typically referred to with one abstract noun, like safety, sustainability, privacy or well-being, although also longer expressions occur.
One of the consequences of the fact that values are often understood at a high level of conceptual abstraction, is that changes in the understanding or interpretation of a value can occur while the value itself remains the same. Thus, safety may be understood as the absence of risk, or as the reduction of risks in as far as reasonably possible and desirable, but both understandings refer to the same value, i.e. ‘safety’. In car design, safety may refer to the safety of the driver and passengers (occupant safety) or to the safety of bystanders like pedestrians and cyclists (pedestrian safety), and while in car design the emphasis was originally mainly on the first it has gradually also become to involve the second (Simms and Wood 2009). This can be interpreted as a change in how the value of safety is conceptualized and specified, but it could also be interpreted, if values are understood at a somewhat lower level of abstraction, as a change in the relative importance of the values of occupant safety and pedestrian safety. So how we exactly characterize value change is at least partly dependent on the level of abstraction that we use to characterize values.
With this in mind, it is nevertheless possible to distinguish between different kinds of value change:
The emergence of new values;
Changes in what values are relevant for the design of a certain technology;
Changes in the priority or relative importance of values;
Changes in how values are conceptualized;
Changes in how values are specified, and translated into norms and design requirements.
Emergence of new values
Although it may be hard to pinpoint when, and how quickly, new values exactly emerge, at least in retrospect, it is often possible to distinguish new values that have emerged over time. One example is the value of sustainability. The value has particular gained prominence since the Brundlandt Report on sustainable development that appeared in 1987 (WCED 1987), although it can be argued that the value itself is older. Nevertheless it is striking that in the list of intrinsic values based on the philosophical literature that is given by Frankena (1973, p. 72), it is not mentioned, and even values like environmental care, or nature or ecology are not mentioned as intrinsic values in his list. This might be explained by the fact that sustainability as a value has become important due to the increased impact of mankind on the environment in the last decades or century, which is in turn partly due to technological developments.
Changes in what values are relevant for the design of a certain technology
Apart from cases where new values emerge, there may also be cases in which values become relevant for the design of a technology where they were previously not. Here it is important to keep in mind that what values are relevant for a technology depends on what evaluative dimensions, such as safety, sustainability or privacy, a technology does, or can potentially impact. So one reason, as already briefly alluded to above, for values becoming relevant for the design of a technology is that technology turns out to impact certain evaluative dimensions that were not considered relevant before. The example that was earlier given is mobile phones that turned out to effect traffic safety, which makes this a new evaluative dimension and a new value that should be taken into account in mobile phone design. Changes in the relevance of values may also result from broader social changes. For example, another concern that has come up in relation to mobile phone design is that the use of some rare materials in phones like tantalum contribute to the financing of civil conflicts in for example Congo. Some phone manufactures, like Fairphone, in response have developed phones with ‘conflict-free’ or fair materials (Fairphone 2017). Fairness is thus a value that has become relevant in phone design for some companies, not only with respect to tantalum but also with respect to other rare materials.
Changes in the priority or relative importance of values
A third type of value change is a change in the relative importance of values. Typically, design needs to take into account a range of values, and design choices that prioritize some values over others may sometimes be inevitable. The judgement on which values to prioritize or how to balance or weigh values may change in the course of time. An example that was already mentioned above is car design. Here the relative importance of the values of occupant and pedestrian safety has developed over time, with pedestrian safety becoming increasingly important. This category is different from the previous one because pedestrian safety was already concerned a relevant value; only its relative importance has increased.
Changes in how values are conceptualized
Also the conceptualization of a value may change. Conceptualization is here understood as “the providing of a definition, analysis or description of a value that clarifies its meaning” (Van de Poel 2013, p. 261). Privacy nowadays is often understood as informational privacy. Privacy, however, also has other, including bodily, connotations that might be important in the design of certain devices (like for example Google Glass). Koops et al. (2017) have proposed a typology of privacy that distinguishes eight types of privacy (bodily, intellectual, spatial, decisional, communicational, associational, proprietary, and behavioral) and they conceive of informational privacy as a concept that overlaps but does not coincide with these eight basic types.
Changes in how values are specified
One way in which values can be effectuated in design is by translating them into norms and design requirements (Van de Poel 2013). This process can be called specification. It is to be distinguished from the previous level that is about how a value is understood or conceptualized at a general level. In contrast, specification is about how a value is understood in a specific case and specification is typically more context-dependent than conceptualization: how a value is specified depends on the kind of technology that is designed. Specifications may, however, change over time. An example given in Van de Poel (2013) is the specification of the value of animal welfare in chicken husbandry systems. Whereas in earlier specifications (in the law), battery cages were seen as systems that could meet the value of animal welfare, in later specifications these systems were seen as unacceptable.