Master Thesis: Designing Worth in a Connected World: A Conceptual Approach for Participatory Design with a Focus on Values

Georg Schröder recently submitted and successfully presented his Master thesis “Designing Worth in a Connected World”, which was supervised by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Hartmann and Christiane Grünloh. We asked him to provide a short summary of his thesis for our blog:


Designing Worth in a Connected World: A Conceptual Approach for Participatory Design with a Focus on Values

by Georg Schröder

The master thesis introduces a new conceptual model for the design of web technology based on the concepts of worth and values. Using the holistic perspective of Web Science, the model not only takes users’ needs into account but also the demands of their social and cultural environment in order to facilitate the creation of better, more successful, as well as more responsible systems.
Since web technologies change and shape the world profoundly, it is important to take the positive and negative consequences into account that new systems might have for the environments in which they are embedded. The work investigates on a conceptual level how a relevant design approach that builds on the idea of making worth and values a main concern for the development of computer technology can be put into practice.

Worth, value, and values
First, the abstract concepts of worth, value and values are illuminated. Although these terms are frequently used in literature they are hardly defined and not used in a consistent way. Therefore, definitions are given followed by a conceptualization. Further, it is shown in which dimensions values generally can reside in order to provide guidance for their identification. On a high level there are economic, social, cultural, political, ecological as well as moral and ethical value dimensions that may all be potentially relevant in a design case. This diversity illustrates that an interdisciplinary approach is needed when values are concerned in design. The first part of the thesis ends with a demonstration on how values come to life in computer technology. By means of examples it is illustrated that values reside on every technical level in ICT and it is argued that technology is always value-laden no matter whether values have been an explicit concern in the development process or not.

Values- or worth-oriented design methodologies
The second part of the thesis presents the results of a literature research about existing values- or worth-oriented design methodologies.  Here, a couple of approaches were found, which differ in their perspectives and main priorities and which have different theoretical and practical substance. Overall, Value Sensitive Design (VSD) [4], Designing Worth (DW) [1,2] and Participatory Design (PD) [5] were identified as sophisticated methodologies that offer enough substance to be put into practice and to which many other approaches can be referred to. Each approach has a specific emphasis and it was found that none of them covers all aspects relevant to put a holistic worth- or values-oriented design of web technology into practice.

Comparing key principles
In the third chapter, a comparison of the approaches’ key principles is made, which illustrates relationships, overlaps, and differences of the approaches in a systematic way. Finally, a new conceptual design model is introduced, based on the idea to combine the elements from PD, DW and VSD into a new approach that can fill the gaps and shortcomings of the individual methodologies and thus brings designing for worth and values one step further.

Conceptual Approach with a Focus on Worth and Values
The proposed design model builds on the Worth Development Framework from Cockton [3] but is enhanced by a further process and refined by the inclusion of resources like Worth Maps and Value Stories.


Design model derived from Cockton [6], extended with an additional process “Understanding” and complemented with design/development artefacts and activities.

Thereafter, the design work is divided into five processes: Understanding for the pre-determination of human values, Opportunity Identification for the identification of stakeholders and values elicitation, Design and Evaluation that are closely intertwined and performed concurrently and, finally, Iteration that investigates design defects by causal analysis and determines targets for iteration. The practical design work is dominated by methods, tools and techniques from PD, which are well suited to elicit abstract and subjective values and worth and therefore represent the heart of the approach. VSD contributes with a focus on human values with ethical support and the stakeholder concept.

How far the proposed approach will work in practice has still to be proven. Nevertheless, it is a proposal which is theoretically founded on contemporary research and therefore it seems to be feasible and promising. At least, it contributes to the ongoing discourse and further advancement in the development of such web technologies that are not limited to the fulfilment of narrow and short-sighted interests but instead facilitates to create smarter, more successful and sustainable as well as responsible systems and thus helps to create a Web we want.

If you have questions about this approach, you can contact Georg Schröder via email:
info (at)


[1] Cockton, Gilbert: Value-centred HCI. In: Proceedings of the third Nordic conference on Human-computer interaction ACM, 2004, pages 149–160
[2] Cockton, Gilbert: Designing worth is worth designing. In: Proceedings of the 4th Nordic conference on Human-computer interaction: changing roles ACM, 2006, pages 165–174
[3] Cockton, Gilbert: A development framework for value-centred design. In: CHI’05 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems ACM, 2005, pages 1292–1295
[4] Friedman, Batya; Jr, Peter H.; Borning, Alan: Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems. In: The Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics (2008), pages 69–101
[5] Simonsen, Jesper; Robertson, Toni: Routledge international handbook of participatory design. Routledge, 2012
[6] Cockton, Gilbert: What worth measuring is. In: International Workshop on, 2008, pages 60–66


November 21, 2017 | | Christiane Grünloh