Ethics, Values and Designer Responsibility

Track Chair

Colin M. Gray,
Purdue University

Track Subchairs

Austin L. Toombs,
Purdue University

Ann Light,
University of Sussex

John Vines,
Northumbria University

As we rely upon increasingly complex sociotechnical systems to support ourselves and, by extension, the structures of society, it becomes yet more important to consider how ethics and values intertwine in design activity. Numerous methods that address issues related to ethics and value-centeredness in design activity exist, but it is unclear what role the design research and practice communities should play in shaping the future of these design approaches. Importantly, how might researchers and practitioners become more aware of the normative assumptions that underlie both their design activity and the design artifacts that result?

Previous research has revealed that a designer’s awareness of ethical issues can be raised through value-centered design approaches and methods, but the broader ethical impacts of these approaches and methods are often underexplored. For example, the complexity of potential stakeholders and use contexts may not be immediately accessible to a designer, leaving their near- and long-term ethical responsibility towards the design of technologically-mediated experiences unidentified. There is always the spectre of unintended consequences, while shifts in culture make designs not only obsolete but unfathomable.

  • We invite contributions that explore the ethical implications of design activity in a wide variety of framings, including for example:
  • Alternate framings of ethics and values in the design of sociotechnical systems (e.g., the ethics of care)
  • The role and responsibility of the designer in designing artifacts at multiple scales (e.g., physical, digital, service, society)
  • Approaches to ethical training in design education
  • Designers’ identity formation and practices in relation to ethics and values
  • Designing to allow a play of values, acknowledging the need for flexible infrastructures in an evolving world.

Keywords: ethics, values, designer responsibility.

Indicative References

Gray, C. M., & Boling, E. (2016). Inscribing Ethics and Values in Designs for Learning: A Problematic. Educational Technology Research & Development, 64(5), 969-1001.

Light, A. (2011). HCI as heterodoxy: Technologies of identity and the queering of interaction with computers. Interacting with Computers, 23(5), 430-438.

Lloyd, P. (2009). Ethical imagination and design. Design Studies, 30(2), 154-168.

Shilton, K. (2012). Values Levers: Building Ethics into Design. Science, Technology & Human Values, 38(3), 374-397.

Toombs, A., Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2015). The Proper Care and Feeding of Hackerspaces: Care Ethics and Cultures of Making. In CHI’15: Proceedings of the 2015 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 629-638). New York, NY: ACM Press.