Postdoc "The potential of living labs for the ethics of technology: developing new empirical and philosophical methods"

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Name of institution: 
Technical University Delft
Job Description: 

You investigate how living labs can contribute to the philosophical and empirical study of value experiences of stakeholders in the phase of prototyping and (small-scale) experimentation with new technologies. This phase has received relatively scant attention in approaches at the intersection of ethics and engineering. You develop and deploy new empirical and philosophical approaches and methods to collect and reflect upon stakeholders’ value experiences. Scrutinizing and philosophically interpreting such value experiences is crucial for developing more responsible technologies.
Value experiences involve perceptions and emotions, but they also have a reflective and interpretative component. Relevant philosophical research on value experiences includes research on moral emotions and moral perception, as well as research on “transformative experiences”, research on situated, enacted, and embodied cognition, and research involving the pragmatist notion of “experiments in living”. Value experiences are crucial for (1) validating if a proposed design (prototype) is aligned with the values it claims to respect, (2) discovering new ethical issues that were not anticipated beforehand, and (3) tracing potential disruptive effects of new technologies on existing values and moral concepts (which might require rethinking these concepts).

The prime focus of the project is on the methodological question how to empirically collect and interpret value experiences (e.g., through interviews, participant observation, ethnographic methods, experiments, etc.). This requires taking a stance on the philosophical question as to what exactly value experiences are, how they differ from other experiences, or desires and preferences, and under what conditions they are normatively reliable. We do not expect you to develop a new philosophical account of value experiences, but rather to investigate how value experiences can be empirically researched in the context of technological development.

You will contribute to practical methods that can be employed in an engineering or design context. To do this, you collaborate with the Responsible Sensing Lab (RSL) of the city of Amsterdam. The envisaged output includes prototypes of responsible smart urban technologies that are relevant to the city of Amsterdam. You will use these prototypes in experiments to try out some of the possible methods for collecting value experiences of users and stakeholders. You will also explore possible collaborations with other partners, such as the Design Lab (UT), the Green Village (TU Delft), de Waag (Amsterdam), existing living labs at the TU/e, and the ELSA AI Labs funded by NWO.

This postdoc position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, an international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020. The programme has the aim of achieving breakthrough research in at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The project is embedded in the Human Condition research line and the STEM track of the ESDiT programme. Further information can be obtained from the ESDiT website: ESDIT

You will be employed at the section Ethics and Philosophy of Technology of the Department Values, Technology and Innovation Technology, Policy and Management of Tu Delft. More information can be found at Values Technology and Innovation

- You have, or are about to receive, a PhD in Philosophy, Science and Technology Studies (STS), design research, ethnography or a related discipline.

- You have demonstrated affinity with, and expertise in philosophy (in case you do not have a degree in philosophy).

- You have affinity with technology, design and empirical research.

- You are proficient in English.

- You are able to do independent research and have excellent writing and publication skills.

- Experience with transdisciplinary work, qualitative research methods and design methods and practices is an asset.

You are expected to perform high quality and internationally visible research with publications in peer-reviewed journals. You will be supervised by Prof. dr. ir. Ibo van de Poel (Technical University Delft), Dr. Julia Hermann (Philosophy Section, University of Twente) and Dr. Matthew Dennis (Philosophy & Ethics group, Eindhoven University of Technology).

Your work location is Delft. We expect that you will move to the Netherlands, to the region where the university is located or to a region from which a daily commute is feasible.

Conditions of employment
We offer a three-year fulltime postdoc position, preferably starting September 1, 2023.
- Salary: 2.960,00 - 4.670,00 Euro gross/month

- We provide excellent mentorship and a stimulating research environment.

- We encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other university staff, as well as with other partners within the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies consortium.

- We offer generous (conference) travel budgets.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation. An International Children's Centre offers childcare and there is an international primary school.

Application procedure
Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 15 May 2023 via the application button on the TU Delft website ( and upload your documents:

A motivation letter
A Curriculum Vitae
A research proposal (approx. 2 pages)
A writing sample (an article of a chapter of your dissertation
Please note:

You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.

Incomplete applications will not be processed.

A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.

Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

You find more information on this position here:

Deadline for Applications: 
May 15, 2023
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