Moral Agents for Sustainable Transitions: a CHI 2023 Workshop

Imagine things start engaging us in ethical debate, and demand we regard them as moral counterparts. That is the vision of moral agents. They present a potential new form of human-technology relation, and a new way of driving sustainability – with autonomous systems that transparently state and deliberate their embedded values with users, or speak for otherwise voiceless stakeholders like future generations, species, or ecosystems.

To jointly articulate key questions and possible futures of moral agents for sustainable transitions, this one-day CHI 2023 workshop convenes HCI, AI, behaviour change, and critical and speculative design researchers and practitioners in Spring 2023. The workshop invites participants to bring position pieces and creative artefacts, and will mix keynotes, short presentations, and a mini-barcamp with design fiction to imagine and reflect on opportunities and issues of moral agents in the form of video vignettes, sketches, and texts that will form the basis of an edited book.

Important dates

  • Submissions due: 23:59 AOE, February 23, 2023

  • Notification of acceptance: March 1, 2023

  • In-person workshop: April 23 or 28, 2023 (tbc)

  • Remote workshop: May, 2023 (exact day tbd)

How to submit

We invite interested researchers and practitioners to submit position pieces or annotated creative artefacts related to moral agents for sustainability transitions. All submissions should be made through the workshop Easychair submission system at by the submission deadline of 23:59 AOE on February 23, 2023.

Position pieces should be up to 1,500 words long (excluding references) and present an issue, opportunity, or perspective around moral agents, including but not limited to:

  1. Social-psychological mechanisms: Understanding how people interact with moral agents, when and why they ascribe moral status and agency to systems, and how moral agents can further sustainable transitions, building on affective computing, HRI, and socially interactive agents [33]

  2. Design: How to design acceptable, effective, responsible systems that people attribute moral agency to

  3. Ethics and politics: How to ethically move from value-sensitive to value-driven design, and from interactive systems as passive embodiments or mediators of human moral agency and values to systems as independent moral agents or moral representatives of other actors

Position pieces should be submitted as a single PDF using the ACM article template (single-column, not anonymised, use "\documentclass[manuscript,review]{acmart}".

Annotated creative artefacts can be speculative (e.g., concept sketches) or realized. They should be submitted as a single PDF with some artist statement or design rationale explaining how the artefact relates to the workshop topic, and should display the creative artefact itself. If useful, the PDF may contain a URL to an existing online portfolio site or additional files like videos, executables, images, and the like that constitute or showcase the artefact.

All submissions will be jury-reviewed by the organizing committee, and we will accept up to 55 participants: 25 onsite and 30 online. Selection criteria are (a) variety of topics and perspectives, (b) quality, (c) expected enhancement to the workshop, and (d) contribution to the HCI community.

Accepted participants can join either an in-person one-day session in Hamburg in April 2023 (23 or 28, exact date tbc with CHI), or a remote one-day session in May 2023 (date tbd with participants). Please note that all participants must register for both the workshop at and least one day of the CHI 2023 conference. CHI will publish registration fees soon. Based on past CHI fees, we expect one-day event + workshop early registration fees to be in the range of US$170-250 per participant.


Peter-Paul Verbeek

Peter-Paul Verbeek is one of the foremost contemporary technology philosophers and ethicists. He will discuss moral agents as a new form of human-technology relation from the perspective of his theory of technological mediation.

Marc Hassenzahl

A leading voice in user experience research, Marc Hassenzahl advances the theory and practice of designing pleasurable, meaningful, and transforming interactive technologies. His recent work on otherware and meaningful futures with robots explores how design can cultivate autonomous systems as social counterparts.


Moral Agents is a hybrid split workshop – we will run two fully separate sessions to make it accessible to in-person and remote participants and take out the friction of common hybrid events, and participants will sign up for either the in-person or the online session. We will run a one-day face-to-face session at CHI 2023 in Hamburg on April 23 or 28, 2023 (tbc), and a five-hour remote session in May 2023 (date tbd with participants). All participants will join a single shared Discord server where they can access all preparatory and recorded materials of all sessions and communicate with all attendees before and after sessions. All workshop notes will be taken in a single Miro board across sessions, and all materials will be shared online with all participants.

Before the workshop

Accepted position pieces and artefacts will be invited to make revisions based on reviews, and published on this workshop site prior to the workshop dates. Participants will also be invited to (a) provide short (150 word) case studies of moral agents that go into a public online library at and (b) reflect on an opportunity of sustainability moral agents in an everyday situation. The participants should record the situations arising from their reflections as short videos, which will be accessible to participants in advance of the workshop on a private channel.

On the workshop

Both on-site and in the online sessions, there will first be an opportunity to get to know each other and the organizers.

Another exciting part will be both keynotes by Peter-Paul Verbeek and Marc Hassenzahl. Marc Hassenzahl will be on site, give his keynote and be available for a Q&A session afterward.

Because we want to explore desirable futures and emerging questions about moral agents, the backbone of the workshop consists of a modified "Experiencing Utopia" design fiction format that combines service enactments or role-playing with anticipatory ethnography [1]. In groups of 4-5 people each, participants are asked to (1) imagine utopias with moral agents for environmental and social sustainability (including health, justice, etc.), create a free list, and then prioritize desirable outcomes. Participants then (2) call moral agents into being with contextual enactments by enacting a concrete everyday encounter that realizes a selected idea, with one participant playing the moral agent and the other(s) playing human(s) and/or other interaction partners. Positive and negative scenarios of the same idea are acted out, using various forms of moral agents as prompters. Finally, participants (3) will evaluate and reflect on the performances by asking participants about their experiences and impressions in the role, as well as analyzing and recording emerging problems, limitations, and insights. Groups then reconvene to act out selected scenes with comments for the plenary.

In the form of a mini-barcamp, participants have the opportunity to suggest topics of key interest to them and thus help shape the program. From the resulting sessions, a program is created from which participants can choose. Finally, sessions will give a lightning presentation of their findings, and the organizers will discuss post-workshop plans.

After the workshop

All workshop materials will form the basis of an article (slanted for ACM interactions) and proposal for an edited open access book collecting contributions from participants, currently targeting Open Humanities Press, with MIT Press, Valiz, or Minnesota University Press as alternatives.


Matthias Laschke, Universität Siegen

Sebastian Deterding, Imperial College London

Amy Bucher, Lirio

Paul Coulton, Lancaster University

Lenne Kuijer, Eindhoven University of Technology

Carine Lallemand, Eindhoven University of Technology

Dan Lockton, Eindhoven University of Technology

Geke Ludden, University of Twente


For questions about the workshop, submissions, etc. you can contact both Matthias Laschke or Sebastian Deterding.

About the cover image

The images depict Destabilising Common Grounds by artist Nirit Binyamini Ben Meir. This installation and workshop lets audience members directly interact and play with living moss, visibly affecting its wellbeing with light and water. (c) Nirit Binyamini Ben Meir, used with kind permission.