Towards a Darker Future? Designing Environmental Values into the Next Generation of Streetlights

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


This paper examines the ethical dimensions of a critical urban infrastructure: streetlights. The development and proliferation of nighttime lighting has been fundamental and formative for urban nights, and streetlights constitute the primary source of illumination. Recent developments to lighting technologies, namely LEDs and ‘smart’ systems, are spurring a new generation of streetlights, with retrofits being rapidly undertaken around the world. While they may offer substantial energy savings, their long-term environmental effects are still under debate. Concurrent to these technological developments, the adverse costs and impacts of nighttime lighting—known as light pollution—have emerged as an ecological, economic, and ethical issue. This confluence of technological innovations and moral evaluations creates new challenges, but also an opportunity to envision and enact new strategies. For this, designing for darkness is presented as a value-sensitive framework for responsible lighting strategies that strives to incorporate and foster both substantive environmental values and meaningful nighttime experiences into the next generation of streetlights. First steps are taken to explore how this framework can be operationalized, and three design concepts are put forward as a means to create darker urban nights.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
Subtitle of host publicationTowards a Philosophy of Urban Technologies
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)1879-7202
ISSN (Electronic)1879-7210


  • Environmental ethics
  • LEDs
  • Light pollution
  • Nighttime lighting
  • Philosophy of the city
  • Responsible innovation
  • Smart lighting
  • Streetlights

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