Value sensitive design rests on a foundation of theoretical constructs, which frame its position on the relationship among tools, technology and human values. Along with a commitment to a deeply interaction stance, the constructs enable designers and technologists to conduct analyses of direct and indirect stakeholders; distinguish among designer values, values explicitly supported by the technology, and stakeholder values; consider individual, group, and societal levels of analysis; and carry out integrative and iterative conceptual, technical, and empirical investigations. Multi-lifespan design represents a more recent development and signals the opportunity for new constructs to emerge in the future. Throughout, we hold a commitment to progress (not perfection).
Value sensitive design methods follow closely from the theoretical constructs. Some VSD methods adapt established methods, as with value scenarios that build from traditional scenario-based design to better account for direct and indirect stakeholders and systemic impacts over time. Other VSD methods are new, such as the stakeholder tokens that facilitate identification of direct, indirect, excluded, and other stakeholders as well as the relationships among stakeholder groups.
As a design practice, value sensitive design requires a commitment to the theoretical constructs coupled with skillful use and adaptation of method in response to the complexities of the design situation. To support this practice, we have developed several toolkits and other creative works.Some toolkits, similar to a pencil, are broadly applicable. The Envisioning Cards are one such toolkit and have been used, for example, in the United States to explore how mobile phones could help keep homeless young people safe and in East Africa to aid with designing national health care systems. Other toolkits, similar to specialized tools, are honed to do a particular task very well. The Security Cards bring together insights from value sensitive design with heuristics from security threat analysis to foster a more humanistic security mindset. They have been used with product designers in industry, engineering undergrads, and middle school students.