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    Drawing problems from embedded values

  • Changes in a STS (e.g., the integration of a new technology) produce value mismatches as the values in the new component conflict with those already existing within the STS. Giving laptops to children produces a conflict between children's safety requirements and the safety features embedded in laptops as designed for adults.
  • Changes within a STS can exaggerate existing value conflicts. Using digitalized textbooks on laptop computers magnifies the existing conflict concerning intellectual property; the balance between copyrights and educational dissemination is disrupted by the ease of copying and distributing digitalized media.
  • Changes in STS can also lead to long term harms. Giving laptops to children threatens environmental harm as the laptops become obsolete and need to be safely disposed of.
Values embedded in sts
Hardware Software Physical Surroundings People, Groups, Roles Procedures Laws Data and Data Structures
Responsibility for Safety
Free Speech
Intellectual Property

Using socio-technical system grids for problem specification

The activity of framing is a central component of moral imagination. Framing a situation structures its elements into a meaningful whole. This activity of structuring suggests both problems and solutions. Framing a situation in different ways offers alternative problem specifications and solution possibilities. Since skillful framing requires practice, this part of the module suggests how socio-technical system tables can help provide different frames for problem specification and solution generation.

    Different problem frames

  • Technical Frame : Engineers frame problems technically, that is, they specify a problem as raising a technical issue and requiring a technical design for its resolution. For example, in the STS grid appended below, the Burger Man corporation wishes to make its food preparation areas more safe. Framing this technically, it would be necessary to change the designs of ovens so they are more accident-proof.
  • Physical Frame : How can the Burger Man corporation redesign its restaurants as physical facilities to make them more accessible? One way is to change the access points by, say, designing ramps to make restaurants wheel chair accessible. Framing this as a physical problem suggests solutions based on changing the physical structure and arrangement of the Burger Man STS.
  • Social Frame : Burger Man as a corporation has stakeholders, that is, groups or individuals who have an essential interest at play in relation to the corporation. For example, framing the problem of making Burger Man more safe as a social problem might suggest the solution of integrating workplace safety into worker training programs and conducting regular safety audits to identify embedded risks.
  • Financial or Market-Based Frames : Burger Man is a for-profit corporation which implies that it has certain financial responsibilities. Consequently, Burger Man should be concerned with how to provide safe, child-proof chairs and tables that do not cut unduly into corporate profits. But like the legal perspective, it is necessary to conduct ethical and social framing activities to compensate for the one-sidedness of financial framing.
  • Managerial Frame : Many times ethical problems can be framed as managerial problems where the solution lies in changing managerial structures, reporting relations, and operating procedures. For example, Burger Man may develop a specific procedure when a cashier finishes a shift and turns over the cash register and its contents to another cashier. Burger Man may develop cleaning procedures and routines to minimize the possibility of serving contaminated or spoiled food to customers.
  • Legal Frame : Burger Man may choose to frame its environmental responsibilities into developing effective procedures for complying with OSHAA and EPA regulations. Framing a problem legally certainly helps to identify effective and necessary courses of action. But, because the ethical and social cannot be reduced to the legal, it is necessary to apply other frames to uncover additional risks not suggested by the legal framing.
  • Environmental Framing : Finally, how does Burger Man look from the environmental standpoint? Does it consider environmental value (environmental health, safety, and integrity) as merely a side constraint to be addressed only insofar as it interferes with realizing supposedly more important values such as financial values? Is it a value to be traded off with other values? (For example, Burger Man may destroy the local environment by cutting down trees to make room for its latest restaurant but it offsets this destruction through its program of planting new trees in Puerto Rican tropical rain forests.) Framing a problem as an environmental problem puts the environment first and sets as a goal the integration of environmental values with other values such as worker safety and corporate profits.

Burger man socio-technical system table

Clicking on this figure will open as a Word file a STS table based on the fictional corporation, Burger Man. Below are a list of problems suggested by the STS analysis.

This module consists of two attached Media Files. The first file provides background information on STSs. The second file provides two sample STS grids or tables. These grids will help you to develop specific STSs to analyze cases in engineering, business, and computer ethics without having to construct a completely new STS for each case. Instead, using the two tables as templates, you will be able to zero in on the STS that is unique to the situation posed by the case. This module also presents background constraints to problem-solving in engineering, business, and computer ethics. These constraints do not differ absolutely from the constituents of STSs. However, they pose underlying constraints that outline the feasibility of an ethical decision and help us to identify obstacles that may arise when we attempt to implement ethical decisions.

Socio-technical systems

Socio-Technical Systems: Constituents, Values, Problems, and Constraints.

Sts templates

Two STSs, Power Engineering and the Puerto Rican Context of Engineering Practice.

Socio-technical environments table


  1. Brincat, Cynthia A. and Wike, Victoria S. (2000) Morality and the Professional Life: Values at Work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  2. Huff, Chuck and Jawer, Bruce, "Toward a Design Ethics for Computing Professionals in Social Issues in Computing: Putting Computing in its Place , Huff, Chuck and Finholt, Thomas Eds. (1994) New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
  3. Solomon, Robert C. (1999) A Better Way to Think About Business: How Personal INtgrity Leads to Corporate Success. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  4. Wike, Victoria S. (2001) "Professional Engineering Ethics Bahavior: A Values-based Approach," Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition , Session 2461.

    Bibliographical information on power sts

  1. Acceptable Evidence: Science and Values in Risk Management, edited by Deborah G. Mayo and Rachelle D. Hollander. London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  2. K. S. Shrader-Frechette. “Ethics and Energy” in Earthbound: New Introductory Essays in Environmental Ethics, 1st Edition, edited by Tom Regan. NY, NY: Random House, 1984.
  3. Nancy G. Leveson. Safeware: System Safety and Computers. NY, NY: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1995.
  4. Charles Perrow. Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies. North America, Basic Books, 1984.
  5. Malcolm Gladwell. “Blowup” in The New Yorker, January 22, 1996: 32-36.
  6. James Reason. Human Error. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 1990.
  7. Mark Sagoff. The Economy of the Earth: Philosophy, Law, and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Questions & Answers

Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Corporate governance. OpenStax CNX. Aug 20, 2007 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10396/1.10
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