Main Content

A Strategy for Ethical Design in the Information Economy

About the Talk

March 23, 2018 3:30 PM

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

"Overview In the attention economy, business goals at many companies continue to pressure designers to capture and hold people’s attention. This race for attention is happening at the expense of the end user’s happiness and well-being. While a designer's charge is to improve the user's experience, in many instances, designers are actually harming it. This inadvertent trend is reversible. Designers can empower themselves with a strategy to build successful and responsible products. A successful strategy involves an understanding of the purpose of the company for which the designer works. It involves a discovery of a designer’s personal purpose to ensure it aligns with that of their company’s. It also involves an understanding of the major drivers currently influencing information dependence. In this session the audience will learn how to build and use a strategy to create more meaningful products for the world.

Purpose Driven Corporations Good design occurs at the intersection of people, business and technology. The most ethical and purposeful design can only occur in a purpose driven business that values ethical design. A designer’s strategy to build meaningful products begins with an understanding of the purpose of the company for which they work. In this talk, I will discuss the importance for designers to learn about their company’s purpose. I will also cover the importance for designers to discover their individual purpose to ensure that it aligns with that of their company’s. Attendees will learn examples of companies and their varied missions, goals and purposes. I will talk about how and why ethical design can or cannot occur in these different kinds of companies.

Drivers of Information Dependence An important step to creating a successful strategy for ethical design is to understand the factors that drive our dependence on information devices. I will review critical drivers in three broad areas of design, science and business that influence this dependency.

In the field of design, I will cover topics related to an advanced field of study called ""persuasive technology design."" I will present a brief history of the field and focus on work by Dr. BJ Fogg in the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford. I will present the Fogg Behavior Model and related concepts that influence the products we use every day. I will also review common design techniques used to ""hijack"" user's minds--as presented by Tristan Harris in articles and discussions on the same topic.

In the field of science, I will review studies in psychology and biology. These studies explain our vulnerabilities as humans. For instance, the ""bottomless soup bowl"" study conducted at Cornell University. I will also review brain and clinical research on internet addiction. This interdisciplinary review will illustrate our vulnerabilities to design ""hijack"" techniques. I will present the argument that these vulnerabilities call for ethical design as opposed to opportunist design.

In the field of business, I will cover concepts related to the attention economy. Herb Simon first presented this concept in a discussion on information abundance and attention scarcity in 1971, in the ""Proceedings of Computers, Communications, and the Public Interest."" Scholars have revisited this concept more recently. For instance, Thomas Davenport and John Beck discussed these topics in a book in 2001, ""The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business."" The attention economy often serves as the fundamental business driver for designers. It is critical for designers to know and understand this concept so they can make informed career and product decisions.

Building and Executing a Strategy of Influence Finally, I will talk about how designers can use the concepts presented in the session to build an effective strategy for ethical design. To that end, I will share tips and practices I have used--and continue to use--as a designer. I have included a non-exhaustive list of tips and practices for your consideration below:

  1. Know your company's purpose
  2. Discover your individual purpose and ensure that it aligns with your company's purpose
  3. Conduct product design research
  4. Build mechanisms that ensure the design research and company's purpose inform the design of your product or product suite
  5. Evaluate whether the design research and your company's purpose inform the design of the products you create
  6. If step f. is not true, then identify key stakeholders who can ensure alignment
  7. Plan informed presentations and conversations that can influence key stakeholders
  8. Continuously review and evaluate steps a. through g.

Designers will leave the session with a practical framework they can use to design ethical and meaningful products."

Ratings and Recommendations

This Talk hasn't been rated yet. Sign In to rate Talks.

comments powered by Disqus