Work Package 4: Ethical Factors

WP 4, led by TU/e, investigates ethical issues in both development of smart grids and their implementation in rural India.

The main focus of WP4 is the ethical evaluation of the action-oriented ‘hidden design’ innovation method used in WP 2 (Tomico et al. 2012). WP4 investigates the degree to which observation and action can replace a deliberative process for the purposes of stakeholder involvement, in case such a process may not be organised effectively. In rural India, for example, social and cultural factors make implementing a deliberative process very difficult
(ibid.).

WP4 will do so by systematically analysing what Habermas’s guidelines for just deliberation (Habermas 1990, 87-89) would look like when applied to action rather than to speech, drawing on the experience of dr. Pols in action theory (e.g. Pols 2013a). For example, Habermas holds that in a deliberative procedure, everyone should be able to question any assertion made. Applied to action, this would mean that everyone should be able to contest an action that has consequences for him- or herself, and that consequences of actions should be reversible unless the whole community agrees with them (Pols and Romijn 2013).
The resulting framework is expected to resemble existing frameworks on responsible
innovation (e.g. Stilgoe et al. 2013) and treating new technologies as social experiments (Jacobs et al. 2010), which would enable a comparison between conditions for just deliberation and for responsible innovation.

Furthermore, WP4 advises WP 1 with regard to how technology incorporates values (Van de Poel 2001) and mediates behaviour (Pols 2013a). This will help identify value conflicts and resolution during the design phase, such as security vs. privacy, as well as anticipate (mis)use that a particular design may give rise to. WP4 advises WP3 with regard to the rationality, properness and justice aspects of Indian smart grid policy. It builds here on experience of the researcher in exposing hidden assumptions and conflicting goals in EU biofuel policy (Pols
2013b).

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