Steven Dorrestijn

Current work affiliation and contact details:

Dr. Steven Dorrestijn

  • Senior lecturer/researcher Ethics and Technology
  • Saxion | University of Applied Sciences | Hospitality Business School
  • Handelskade 75 | Postbus 501, 7400 AM Deventer
  • M: +31 (0)613398152 | | 


Currently I am senior lecturer/researcher at Saxion University of Applied Sciences. I have been working at the University of Twente in the departments of Industrial Design and of Philosophy where I also defended my PhD thesis, in 2012. In 2005-2006 I studied Philosophy in Paris with the support of a grant from the French government. In 2004 I completed a Master in Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Twente, including a two-year program in mechanical engineering and courses on the history of design.

For more information see also:



Our human way of being is being heavily marked and transformed by technology. In the case of mundane products we tend to take this for granted without much consideration. In other cases, like for example emergent e-paying systems in public transport, there is a lot of concern about the loss of privacy and freedom. Understanding of, and coping with the influences of technology is therefore an important and challenging task for design as well as for governance and ethics. In my PhD thesis I have developed a model and repertoire of exemplary effects of technology on humans. Also I studied social engagement in the history of (utopian) design and I developed a design tool that helps to apply product impact for socially responsible design today.


Regarding ethics my research has focused on the practices of how new technologies are accommodated in people’s way of living, how technologies become literally embodied, or part of people’s gestural routines. How do people experience the influences of technology and how does this affects their experience of agency, freedom and self? This research on “technical mediation and subjectivation” brings together philosophy, anthropology and design. The resulting perspective on the evaluation of new technologies in people’s everyday practices is a much needed complement to theoretical approaches in ethics. And at the same time it is helpful for user centered design to improve product usability and acceptation as well as to advance socially responsible design. 


In the years to come I wish to pursue my research in two directions. I am interested in approaching individual human existence and behavior as well as shared norms and values both on the level ‘below the ratio’, of the body and gestural routines, and on the level ‘above the ratio’, of ethical and spiritual aspects in our so called secular and postmodern world. These are two ways of approaching the human being at the margins of the rationalist focus of the modern West. The first direction extends my practice oriented research on the impact of technology on human existence, and also entails a further research theme of anthropology in relation to medical care. The second direction follows up on my work about redefining ethics with reference to the concept of style rather than to universal rational law-like principles


Thesis defended on 10 October 2012:

The design of our own lives: Technical mediation and subjectivation after Foucault - Download

The research was part of the project Design for Usability, supported by the Innovation-Oriented Research Program ‘Integrated Product Creation and Realization (IOP IPCR)’ of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Product impact project contributed to the overall project with a view from philosophy and ethics of technology. The project focuses on the impact that technical products have on user behavior. Design practices would greatly improve if they could anticipate this influence. In order to realize this, the project focuses on (1) elaborating a framework to anticipate product influences on user practices; (2) translating this framework to the practice of design; and (3) systematically addressing ethical questions resulting from the explicit design of behavior-steering products

Supervisors: Peter-Paul Verbeek and Prof.dr. H.J. Achterhuis.

Animation about the product impact tool

The topics of product design and philosophy were surprisingly brought together in an advertising slogan (by IKEA): “Design your own life”. The slogan (unintentionally) expresses the philosophical notion that design and human life merge. You design your life by gathering furniture, utensils and gadgets around you. Human existence has in many ways become technically mediated.

For theoretical elaboration of this theme I found particularly helpful the work of Michel Foucault (French philosopher, 1926-1984). Foucault initially addressed how people’s lives have become more and more governed and fashioned by the growing network of institutions, regulations, and technology. Later he complemented this by investigating how people govern and fashion themselves by actively coping with the influences from this network. His new notions of the subject, freedom, and ethics are highly relevant for ethics in contemporary technological culture. The stakes are not so much to retain human freedom by rejecting any technical constraints, but to shape and to practice concrete forms of freedom by deliberate design of constraints.

Foucault’s last work was titled Le gouvernement de soi et des autres. Together with Design your own live this explains the title of my thesis.


  • Human-Product Relations for Industrial Design (Mens-productrelaties IO) (with others)
  • Philosophy of technology for Industrial Design (Techniekfilosofie voor IO)
  • Engineering Ethics
  • Ethics and Governance
  • Guest lectures in courses on Philosophical Anthropology, Smart Products, Minor Philosophy, Media Studies (Mediabeschouwingen) at the University of Twente.
  • Guest lectures at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
  • Guest lectures at the Design Academy, Eindhoven.


Selection. See also complete list of publications and downloads

  • Dorrestijn, S., Van der Voort, M.C. & Verbeek, P. P.C.C. (2014). Future user-product arrangements: Combining product impact and scenarios in design for multi age success. In: Technological Forecasting & Social Change vol. 89, pp 284-292.
  • Dorrestijn, S., & Verbeek, P. P. (2013). Technology, wellbeing, and freedom: The legacy of utopian designInternational Journal of Design, 7(3), 45-56.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2012), The design of our own lives: Technical mediation and subjectivation after Foucault. Enschede: University of Twente (PhD thesis).
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2012), Theories and figures of technical mediation. In: J. Donovan and W. Gunn (ed.), Design and Anthropology (pp. 219-230). Surrey, UK; Burlington, USA: Ashgate.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2012), “Technical Mediation and Subjectivation: Tracing and Extending Foucault’s Philosophy of Technology”. In: Philosophy & Technology, 25 (2), pp. 221-241.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2009) “Design and Ethics of Product Impact on User Behavior and Use Practices”. In: M. Schneider et al. (ed.), Workshops Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Intelligent Environments: Volume 4. Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments. Amsterdam: IOS, pp. 253-260.

In Dutch

  • Hullegie, W. & Dorrestijn, S. (2014). Eerst zien, dan genezen? Een kritische blik op echografie in de eerste lijn. In: Sport en Geneeskunde (2), pp. 21-25.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2012), Latours keuringsdienst van waren en van waarden: Techniek en moraal. In Wijsgerig perspectief 52(4), pp. 16-22.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2012), De omvorming van onszelf in filosofie, kunst en techniek. In: P. Sambre, B. Van Huffel (red.), Michel Foucault: Een voortdurend proces. Bijdragen over kritiek, politiek, seksualiteit en techniek (pp. 163-181). Leuven: Acco.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2011), “Utopisch design: Technische mediatie in de ontwerppraktijk”. In: Kunst & Wetenschap 20(3), pp. 35-36.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2011) “Gedragsbeïnvloedende techniek en usability”. In: Tijdschrift voor ergonomie 36(1), pp. 5-12.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2010) “Design your own life: Over ethiek en gebruiksvriendelijk ontwerpen”. In: M. Huijer & M. Smits (red.), Moralicide: Nieuwe morele vocabulaires voor technologie. Kampen: Klement, pp. 90-104.
  • Dorrestijn, S. (2009) “Filosofie met het eigen bestaan als inzet. Inhoud en actualiteit van Foucaults late werk”. In: Wijsgerig Perspectief 49(2), pp. 30-37.