Ethical Issues for Interaction Designers

31 Jul 2007 - 9:46am
7 years ago
37 replies
2808 reads
Thomas J. Froehlich
2006

I am working on a paper on ethical issues for interaction designers
and information architects. What kinds of ethical issues arise in
IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
for IxDs or IAs? There is a lot of HCI literature on the proper use
of human subjects, but are there distinctive problems for IxDs or
IAs? What would they be? Can you provide any specific examples? I
suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
management. If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or examples.

Thomas J. Froehlich, Ph.D., Professor and Director
Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management
316 Library
Kent State University
Kent OH 44242-0001

http://www.personal.kent.edu/~tfroehli/
tfroehli at kent.edu
http://iakm.kent.edu

Comments

31 Jul 2007 - 10:05am
Taneem Talukdar
2005

If you haven't already seen it, I would recommend taking a gander through
the book "Set Phasers on Stun" by S.M. Casey. (Amazon
link<http://www.amazon.com/Set-Phasers-Stun-Design-Technology/dp/0963617885>
)

It's a little dated, but it contains stories of all kinds of accidents, many
with loss-of-life, where the interface/interaction design of the system
played a direct role in the accident. I think it was after reading that book
that I really began to understand how interaction design can be a life or
death issue.

A code of ethics would emphasize the exact extent of responsibility the
designer has for the consequences of the system -- I'm not sure how you'd
codify that principle but I hope the book I mentioned is inspiring :)

Cheers,

Taneem Talukdar

On 7/31/07, Thomas J. Froehlich <tfroehli at kent.edu> wrote:
>
> I am working on a paper on ethical issues for interaction designers
> and information architects. What kinds of ethical issues arise in
> IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
> for IxDs or IAs? There is a lot of HCI literature on the proper use
> of human subjects, but are there distinctive problems for IxDs or
> IAs? What would they be? Can you provide any specific examples? I
> suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
> designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
> management. If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
> distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or
> examples.
>
> Thomas J. Froehlich, Ph.D., Professor and Director
> Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management
> 316 Library
> Kent State University
> Kent OH 44242-0001
>
> http://www.personal.kent.edu/~tfroehli/
> tfroehli at kent.edu
> http://iakm.kent.edu
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

31 Jul 2007 - 10:30am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Jul 31, 2007, at 7:46 AM, Thomas J. Froehlich wrote:

> I am working on a paper on ethical issues for interaction designers
> and information architects. What kinds of ethical issues arise in
> IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
> for IxDs or IAs? There is a lot of HCI literature on the proper use
> of human subjects, but are there distinctive problems for IxDs or
> IAs? What would they be? Can you provide any specific examples? I
> suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
> designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
> management. If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
> distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or
> examples.

I cover this topic briefly in the epilogue of my book. In it, I
suggest that the ethical baseline for interaction designers should be
that the behaviors we engender through the products and services we
create treat both the actor and the receiver of the action with
dignity and respect.

It is surprisingly easy to do otherwise.

As interaction designers, we wrestle (often unknowingly) with ethical
issues all the time. Even the placement of buttons can be an ethical
act. How often, for instance, are our products unusable by those with
disabilities? The iPhone is pretty useless if you are visually-impaired.

Via the products and services we create, we're entrusted with a lot
of personal information: photos, passwords, financial information,
social security numbers, etc. etc. We trust that the designer hasn't
screwed us over and is collecting account information to sell to the
highest bidder.

As the consequences of our actions (via our products) grow larger, so
too does the need for an awareness of ethics in our community.

Dan

Dan Saffer
Designing for Interaction (New Riders)
http://www.designingforinteraction.com

31 Jul 2007 - 10:35am
mtumi
2004

I think it would be an ethical issue when the business insists on
cutting corners that the interaction designer knows will result in
frustration or worse for the end user. This certainly happens often
enough - another interesting point for your paper might be to define
at what point this kind of compromise ceases to be an unfortunate
byproduct of financial reality, and becomes an ethical problem.
potential physical harm is the obvious point. potential self-
inflicted physical harm due to frustration with the system might be
another. ;-)

MT

On Jul 31, 2007, at 11:05 AM, Taneem Talukdar wrote:

> If you haven't already seen it, I would recommend taking a gander
> through
> the book "Set Phasers on Stun" by S.M. Casey. (Amazon
> link<http://www.amazon.com/Set-Phasers-Stun-Design-Technology/dp/
> 0963617885>
> )
>
> It's a little dated, but it contains stories of all kinds of
> accidents, many
> with loss-of-life, where the interface/interaction design of the
> system
> played a direct role in the accident. I think it was after reading
> that book
> that I really began to understand how interaction design can be a
> life or
> death issue.
>
> A code of ethics would emphasize the exact extent of responsibility
> the
> designer has for the consequences of the system -- I'm not sure how
> you'd
> codify that principle but I hope the book I mentioned is inspiring :)
>
> Cheers,
>
> Taneem Talukdar
>

31 Jul 2007 - 10:41am
SemanticWill
2007

I remember in a reference to Ethics/Ethical interaction design in the
Cooper/Reimann book (About Face) I believe - about applications,
interactions needing to be ethical - I need to pull that down off the shelf
and take a perusal - I think a conversation about ethics in interaction
design would be facinating!

~ Will

On 7/31/07, Michael Tuminello <mt at motiontek.com> wrote:
>
> I think it would be an ethical issue when the business insists on
> cutting corners that the interaction designer knows will result in
> frustration or worse for the end user. This certainly happens often
> enough - another interesting point for your paper might be to define
> at what point this kind of compromise ceases to be an unfortunate
> byproduct of financial reality, and becomes an ethical problem.
> potential physical harm is the obvious point. potential self-
> inflicted physical harm due to frustration with the system might be
> another. ;-)
>
> MT
>
>
>
> On Jul 31, 2007, at 11:05 AM, Taneem Talukdar wrote:
>
> > If you haven't already seen it, I would recommend taking a gander
> > through
> > the book "Set Phasers on Stun" by S.M. Casey. (Amazon
> > link<http://www.amazon.com/Set-Phasers-Stun-Design-Technology/dp/
> > 0963617885>
> > )
> >
> > It's a little dated, but it contains stories of all kinds of
> > accidents, many
> > with loss-of-life, where the interface/interaction design of the
> > system
> > played a direct role in the accident. I think it was after reading
> > that book
> > that I really began to understand how interaction design can be a
> > life or
> > death issue.
> >
> > A code of ethics would emphasize the exact extent of responsibility
> > the
> > designer has for the consequences of the system -- I'm not sure how
> > you'd
> > codify that principle but I hope the book I mentioned is inspiring :)
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > Taneem Talukdar
> >
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
~ we

-------------------------------------
n: will evans
t: user experience architect
e: wkevans4 at gmail.com

-------------------------------------

31 Jul 2007 - 10:56am
Fred van Amstel
2005

> > What kinds of ethical issues arise in
> > IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
> > for IxDs or IAs?

The most important ethical issue of Interaction Design for me is that
it shapes human action, and in consequence, our moral considerations
over those action.

I would point to two papers. One that Toni Robertson analyses
inadequate social protocols enforcements over collaborative apps:

http://research.it.uts.edu.au/idwop/downloads/RobertsonEthics&IT.pdf

And one of mine inspired by Robertson and last chapter of Saffer's
book. I'm sorry for the poor english, but I tried to approach Ethics
in Interaction Design via Activity Theory and Pos-Phenomenology
accounts of mediation with some touch of Foucault's distributed power
concept:

http://tinyurl.com/2s79ow

Here follows an excerpt commenting Saffer's considerations:

Saffer gives emphasis to the designer's responsibility for ethical
choices because in the design process he outlines, users don't
participate in design decisions. He recognizes that "users will always
find ways to use products and services for purposes they weren't
designed for" (p.224), but the designer could be responsible for
"potential negative consequences of their designs on those who aren't
users or who are forced users", like the people who were arrested in a
World War II concentration camp and had been tattooed with a number
generated by a system provided by IBM. Designers of those systems
could, as German lower echelon militarists did, justify their action
in terms of unavoidable accomplishment of superior orders. Even though
they considered immoral what they were asked to do, they had little or
no choice; they not only had to comply with the Nazi ethics, but also
internalize it as their own ethics or else they would be punished or
undergo even worse sanctions. Nazi leaders were acting over their
agency, that's why the leaders were condemned at Nuremberg and not so
the lower echelon.

--
.
.{ Frederick van Amstel }. Curitiba ´´ PR
¶ ...''''''''''|| www.usabilidoido.com.br
.
ICQ 60424910 / MSN e Gtalk usabilidoido at gmail.com
\\...................

31 Jul 2007 - 11:15am
Christopher Fahey
2005

Thomas J. Froehlich wrote:
> What kinds of ethical issues arise in IxD or IA practice...?

What a coincidence, given my last post RE: gambling user experience
design.

Dan Saffer wrote:
> I suggest that the ethical baseline for interaction designers
> should be that the behaviors we engender through the products
> and services we create treat both the actor and the receiver
> of the action with dignity and respect.
>
> It is surprisingly easy to do otherwise.

Not just easy, but sometimes it's a fundamental requirement.

Your ethical proscriptions are great, but we should recognize and
examine the fact that there are plenty of top-notch user experience
designs out there whose fundamental design constraint is to treat the
user with utter contempt and disrespect. Not just gambling, but
scammers, spammers, and pornographers. The challenges they face in their
practice and craft are entirely parallel with ours, minus the moral
compass.

What's interesting is that this disrespect crosses over into the
legitimate business sphere. Once, working for a former employer
designing a web site for a financial institution, I noticed that the
client stakeholders were unanimous in instructing us to make the
legally-mandated friendly-language legal notices as hard to find and
read as we possibly could, basically to try to hide them as much as
possible without breaking the law. Suffice to say that we stayed within
the letter of the law.

I've also had to design a home page that forced users to enter their
email address just to give the product a test drive, and I knew full
well that the company planned to then send the user marketing emails
nearly daily until the user either figured out how to unsubscribe or
signed up for the product/program. I was told, in no uncertain terms,
that removing the signup form from the home page, thus letting users
check out the service without giving personal information, would have a
huge negative impact on their bottom line. Apparently the relentless
spamming actually worked in converting a large number of prospects into
paying customers, prospects who the client was convinced would not have
signed up if they simply were allowed to try the product out in their
initial experience with the site. What's more, simply having a large
number of registered prospect emails was helpful for the company's VC
efforts. We kept the form. Was I showing dignity and respect for their
users? I don't think so.

In terms of UX Ethics, is there a gray area between, say, designing a
web site to trick people into entering email addresses for spamming and
harvesting and something more benign like, say, designing a corporate
site navigation scheme where the customer service form is deliberately a
little bit hard to find? Or a gray area between designing hot-stock-tip
spam and desiging a short full-screen interstitial ad for a content web
site? That gray area is worth exploring, because so much of what we
think are ethical absolutes start to get a little blurry.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

31 Jul 2007 - 11:16am
Jason Witenstei...
2006

Good point.

>the behaviors we engender through the products and services we create
treat >both the actor and the receiver of the action with dignity and
respect.

To take it to the next level, I would posit that the question of "are
our products unusable by those with disabilities?" is one end of the
"dignity and respect" spectrum, one that I would label Thoughtfulness
(+). The other end, I would label Harmfulness (-) would emphasize a do
no harm rule. Using our knowledge, skills and abilities in service of
products or agencies whose intent is to do damage, harm or otherwise
inflict malicious acts on any living being should be rejected by our
code of ethics.

Jason Witenstein-Weaver

31 Jul 2007 - 10:25am
Ari
2006

my favorite is the label 'this side front', which appears on claymore mines.
i guess it might be responsible for a few accidents due to bad interaction
design.

On 7/31/07, Taneem Talukdar <taneem at dheo.com> wrote:
>
> If you haven't already seen it, I would recommend taking a gander through
> the book "Set Phasers on Stun" by S.M. Casey. (Amazon
> link<http://www.amazon.com/Set-Phasers-Stun-Design-Technolog
> y/dp/0963617885>
> )
>
> It's a little dated, but it contains stories of all kinds of accidents,
> many
> with loss-of-life, where the interface/interaction design of the system
> played a direct role in the accident. I think it was after reading that
> book
> that I really began to understand how interaction design can be a life or
> death issue.
>
> A code of ethics would emphasize the exact extent of responsibility the
> designer has for the consequences of the system -- I'm not sure how you'd
> codify that principle but I hope the book I mentioned is inspiring :)
>
> Cheers,
>
> Taneem Talukdar
>
>
> On 7/31/07, Thomas J. Froehlich <tfroehli at kent.edu> wrote:
> >
> > I am working on a paper on ethical issues for interaction designers
> > and information architects. What kinds of ethical issues arise in
> > IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
> > for IxDs or IAs? There is a lot of HCI literature on the proper use
> > of human subjects, but are there distinctive problems for IxDs or
> > IAs? What would they be? Can you provide any specific examples? I
> > suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
> > designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
> > management. If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
> > distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or
> > examples.
> >
> > Thomas J. Froehlich, Ph.D., Professor and Director
> > Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management
> > 316 Library
> > Kent State University
> > Kent OH 44242-0001
> >
> > http://www.personal.kent.edu/~tfroehli/
> > tfroehli at kent.edu
> > http://iakm.kent.edu
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> > Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
--------------------------------------------------
www.flyingyogi.com
--------------------------------------------------

31 Jul 2007 - 1:35pm
Fred van Amstel
2005

> I cover this topic briefly in the epilogue of my book. In it, I
> suggest that the ethical baseline for interaction designers should be
> that the behaviors we engender through the products and services we
> create treat both the actor and the receiver of the action with
> dignity and respect.

But only the actor and the receiver can judge what is a respectfull
act, because they know very well their context. In some contexts it's
acceptable to do some things it couldn't be otherwise and vice-versa.

Is it moral to send IM messages to all my contacts saying that my
mother is sick and I'm organizing a bazar to earn money for her
medicines? Is it moral to do that 2 times in the same day? 5 times? An
interaction designer could determine to block repetitive messages, but
if the sender could know if the receiver read the message, no more
messages would be needed. Although IM software don't give the receiver
information about if the message was read, people acknowledge it with
a follow-up message.

When interaction designers do moral judgements over acts in a context
and enforce or prohibit something, they are inevitablly reducing
people freedom to choose what to do, and in consequence, depriving
them from their own ethical considerations.

I think it's better to encourage people do their own ethical
considerations over their acts instead of doing it for themselves.

--
.
.{ Frederick van Amstel }. Curitiba ´´ PR
¶ ...''''''''''|| www.usabilidoido.com.br
.
ICQ 60424910 / MSN e Gtalk usabilidoido at gmail.com
\\...................

31 Jul 2007 - 3:43pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Jul 31, 2007, at 11:35 AM, Frederick van Amstel wrote:

> But only the actor and the receiver can judge what is a respectful
> act, because they know very well their context. In some contexts it's
> acceptable to do some things it couldn't be otherwise and vice-versa.
>
> Is it moral to send IM messages to all my contacts saying that my
> mother is sick and I'm organizing a bazar to earn money for her
> medicines? Is it moral to do that 2 times in the same day? 5 times?

I don't know how to deal with the ethics of the *content* of any
exchange, and I'm hesitant to venture into those waters and start
designing in checks for that. (Although there are certain cases like
the moderation of forums and such that I can see the necessity for
this.) And certainly context is important. But I am guessing that
there are certain behaviors that will nearly always be inappropriate
and not to be designed into a system, and that is where our judgement
should come in. If I designed an email client that made it
ridiculously easy to spam everyone with an email address, I'm pretty
certain people would be up in arms. Of course, most ethical dilemmas
aren't so cut and dried...

Dan

31 Jul 2007 - 4:00pm
stauciuc
2006

I would suggest that also environmental impact should be an ethical
consideration for designers, interaction designers especially. Interaction
designers can shape people's behavior, and people's behavior affects and
continuously shapes the environment. The environment, consequently, affects
the life of the people, responding in the same manner it is treated, I would
dare say.
On a small scale, interaction designs enable communication between people,
while on the large scale, the sum of all the products, services and systems
designed create a kind of communication between the people and the nature.
Maybe these larger scale relations are harder to perceive and acknowledge by
most people, but who should be more capable (and obliged) of taking on such
responsibility (of always considering the environmental aspect) if not the
people who thrive on dealing with complex constraints and relationships?

On 7/31/07, Thomas J. Froehlich <tfroehli at kent.edu> wrote:
>
> I am working on a paper on ethical issues for interaction designers
> and information architects. What kinds of ethical issues arise in
> IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
> for IxDs or IAs? There is a lot of HCI literature on the proper use
> of human subjects, but are there distinctive problems for IxDs or
> IAs? What would they be? Can you provide any specific examples? I
> suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
> designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
> management. If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
> distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or
> examples.
>
> Thomas J. Froehlich, Ph.D., Professor and Director
>
>

--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

31 Jul 2007 - 7:29pm
Fred van Amstel
2005

> this.) And certainly context is important. But I am guessing that
> there are certain behaviors that will nearly always be inappropriate
> and not to be designed into a system, and that is where our judgement
> should come in. If I designed an email client that made it
> ridiculously easy to spam everyone with an email address, I'm pretty
> certain people would be up in arms. Of course, most ethical dilemmas
> aren't so cut and dried...

I wouldn't say allways, but there are some macro-contexts that
designers as well as users are aware of, like the Internet as a
communication medium. Everybody on the Internet is concerned with
spam, so your example sounds right. But, consider if we take a
micro-context like communication activities between mutual contacts in
a social-network. Some people will consider acceptable sending to all
your contacts an announcement of the next party you're organizing on,
some won't. If there are no moderating rules from the system, it's
likely that some social protocol would arise and people who don't
respect it would be criticized or excluded from the conversation, like
in the real world. Interaction designers should give tools for people
to mantain or change social norms (like a contact block feature), not
to try to enforce them.

--
.
.{ Frederick van Amstel }. Curitiba ´´ PR
¶ ...''''''''''|| www.usabilidoido.com.br
.
ICQ 60424910 / MSN e Gtalk usabilidoido at gmail.com
\\...................

1 Aug 2007 - 2:07am
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Thomas J. Froehlich wrote:
>
> If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
> distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or
> examples.
>
I think we should create a code of ethics for IxDA. Something in the vein of
Asimov's laws of robotics:
0. A product may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to
come to harm.
1. A product may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a
human being to come to harm except where such orders would conflict with the
Zeroth Law.
2. A product must obey orders given to it by human beings except where
such orders would conflict with the previous laws.
3. A product must protect its own existence as long as such protection
does not conflict with the previous laws.

I do not expect that the code will change the minds of those, who have their
minds set. However I think it might serve as a good frame reminder to those
of us, who opt to delegate moral responsibility to higher authority, because
we are too busy to think about the consequences of this delegation.

The code will not stop production of unethical products, but it could lead
to making them more expensive, less profitable.
Oleh

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is the Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

1 Aug 2007 - 2:40am
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

On 7/31/07, Thomas J. Froehlich <tfroehli at kent.edu> wrote:
>
> I suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
> designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
> management.
>
I think you are right: in the final count the ethical responsibility for
product lies with business owners, strategists and clients – the people, who
invest in the product development.

The ethics of interaction designers then do not differ from any other
personal ethics. When confronted with moral dilemma we have three options:

1. Delegate the moral responsibility to higher authority (business
owners, managers, corporate ethics).
2. Quit and move on to find projects more in line with our ethics.
3. Subvert. This can be an outspoken appeal to public at large or a
passive-aggressive subversion of poor design.

We often opt for the first option, delegating moral responsibility to higher
authority because we:

- too busy to think about moral choices
- lack experience in introspection
- too insecure to quit (personal mortgage payments are more pressing,
than problems of abstract "users-losers")
- it is easier to fit in (a corollary of the previous three)
- trust the authority (they are examples of social success after all)

The main problem with this comforting choice is that, in reality, "corporate
ethics" is a sham (watch 'The Corporation' for detailed analysis of
sociopath nature of corporations and 'The Century of the Self' by Adam
Curtis for history of PR industry in the US).
One of possible solutions then is a code of ethics for IxDA, a framing
device.

Oleh
_______________

Note, that designers are not exceptional people - some of us are
psychopaths. These people are not covered in the analysis of moral choices
for one simple reason: psychopaths are not able to experience moral
dilemmas.

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is the Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

1 Aug 2007 - 5:26am
Olly Wright
2007

On 31 Jul 2007, at 22:43, Dan Saffer wrote:

> I don't know how to deal with the ethics of the *content* of any
> exchange, and I'm hesitant to venture into those waters and start
> designing in checks for that.

Completely agree. The first area of confusion with ethics (one of
many) that I have encountered is the blurring of the line between the
'form of behaviour' and the 'content within that form'. When, for
example, people rail against the web they'll frequently cite porn,
child molesters on MySpace, and phishing scams. To blame 'the
internet' for this is comparable blaming 'the street' for muggings
and people slipping on banana peels. Which reminds me of the fallacy
of "gun's don't hurt anyone, people do".

The categories I suggested at the last IA summit were:

Professional ethics: the practical ethics of doing business,
including who we work for and what we are willing / unwilling to do
for them. Similar to medical ethics for doctors for example.

User experience ethics: desiging things that lead to positive
experiences. Good usability / user friendly, accessible, not
frustrating or demeaning etc.

Cultural ethics: desiging technology that has a long term positive
effect on the behaviour and culture of its users. Encouraging
positive ways of being, and discouraging negative ones. The ethical
analysis of new (design-enabled) behaviour forms in terms of the
ethics of that behaviour.

/ Olly Wright

1 Aug 2007 - 11:46am
White, Jeff
2007

Something very big has been left out of this discussion: the idea of
sustainable design. I brought this up to the list a few weeks ago (I
certainly wasn't the first to bring it up at IxDA), and it was
quickly dismissed (or at least that was my perception). But, I think
it's real, more real than most of topics in this thread so far. I
also think designers should take this topic seriously. I hope Thomas
takes a serious look at sustainable design and considers it for his
paper.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_design

http://beta.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=18157#18157

http://beta.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=9662

http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1240624.1240705

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18831

1 Aug 2007 - 1:01pm
Stacy Felish
2007

I find it unethical to trick users?with fake/marketing functionality. In doing this we undermine their ability to have a good user experience.?

?- Faux Functionality Advertising. The fake dropdown and Go button?embedded on a standard sized ad were created to trick users. If marketers can't convince with a message, is tricking them really going to work? I don't think so.

?- Changing dispatches on Menu Options to drive fake page views. I'm a fan of AIM but was completely appalled today when I used the handy "Read Mail" menu item (as I had done many times before). Suddenly I'm looking at AOL.COM. I?try again thinking perhaps I selected?the wrong item. Nope -- I was tricked twice into delivering a page view.

I'm sure there are more "brilliant" marketing tricks out there, but I just?call it Evil UI. I am probably not alone.

Stacy Felish

?

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas J. Froehlich <tfroehli at kent.edu>
To: Interaction Design Association (IxDA) <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Tue, 31 Jul 2007 9:46 am
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Ethical Issues for Interaction Designers

I am working on a paper on ethical issues for interaction designers
and information architects. What kinds of ethical issues arise in
IxD or IA practice, ethical issues that are more or less distinctive
for IxDs or IAs? There is a lot of HCI literature on the proper use
of human subjects, but are there distinctive problems for IxDs or
IAs? What would they be? Can you provide any specific examples? I
suspect that ethical problems would occur between the architects or
designers and the clients or the architects or designers and upper
management. If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or examples.

Thomas J. Froehlich, Ph.D., Professor and Director
Master's Program in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management
316 Library
Kent State University
Kent OH 44242-0001

http://www.personal.kent.edu/~tfroehli/
tfroehli at kent.edu
http://iakm.kent.edu

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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1 Aug 2007 - 3:55pm
Robert Reimann
2003

A set of ethical guidelines allows designers to take an ethical stand.
You didn't "have" to design that home page you mentioned. You weighed the
ethics vs. the ethical imperative for you to put dinner on your family's
table,
and made a choice.

The point of a professional code of ethics is to give professionals a bit
more leverage
in making those kinds of ethical choices. Without a professional code of
ethics,
it is easy for a client to say "if you won't do it today, I'll find someone
who will
tomorrow". A professional code in theory makes this harder for the client to
say,
and more likely for them to listen to arguments that their strategy, while
productive in
the short run, will not build them the kind of customer relationships that
would
serve them best in the long run, and that other creative solutions exist.

As you say, however, there are applications that don't have that sort of
wiggle room:
gambling applications and military applications come immediately to mind. A
former
colleague of mine is now an interaction designer for battlefield
intelligence applications,
which for me is enough of a gray area that I would not seek that kind of
work. While
at Cooper, we took on a client who created software for tracking and
directing the
orbits of satellites... they could be weather satellites or spy satellites;
the software was
application agnostic-- so we took the business. The client later came back
wanting us
to design a module for tracking and directing cruise missles... and we
refused the
business. The point is that you're right, there are many subtle shades to
consider,
but I feel that a standard of ethics is a tool for informing such decisions
more than it
is for proscribing an absolute response.

And what about gambling? Would a code of ethics make it more difficult for
such clients
to procure their seductive and misleading designs? Hard to know, but it
would at least
allow us as ethical professionals to take a public stand on such issues,
which could in the
long run have a positive effect.

Some people, including some who are regarded as spokepersons for our field,
believe that
it is wrong to have any designer's code of ethics, and that the client is
always right, regardless
of what they ask us to do. I believe it is the responsibility of designers
as advocates of the
users (and others affected by the design) to point out to clients when their
choices are not
good for either their customers or their business in the long run. I believe
that among other
things this can lead to greater respect both for customers and for designers
as professionals.

Personally I draw the line at not designing products that will intentionally
directly harm
or help harm people (I would include gambling applications: predatory
financial harm).
"Do no (intentional) harm" is a basic ethical idea I'm almost always
comfortable sticking by.
Not surprisingly therefore, my favorite design projects have been medical
applications...
at the other end of the spectrum. My choice.

Robert.

On 7/31/07, Christopher Fahey <chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com> wrote:
>
> Thomas J. Froehlich wrote:
> > What kinds of ethical issues arise in IxD or IA practice...?
>
> What a coincidence, given my last post RE: gambling user experience
> design.
>
>
> Dan Saffer wrote:
> > I suggest that the ethical baseline for interaction designers
> > should be that the behaviors we engender through the products
> > and services we create treat both the actor and the receiver
> > of the action with dignity and respect.
> >
> > It is surprisingly easy to do otherwise.
>
> Not just easy, but sometimes it's a fundamental requirement.
>
> Your ethical proscriptions are great, but we should recognize and
> examine the fact that there are plenty of top-notch user experience
> designs out there whose fundamental design constraint is to treat the
> user with utter contempt and disrespect. Not just gambling, but
> scammers, spammers, and pornographers. The challenges they face in their
> practice and craft are entirely parallel with ours, minus the moral
> compass.
>
> What's interesting is that this disrespect crosses over into the
> legitimate business sphere. Once, working for a former employer
> designing a web site for a financial institution, I noticed that the
> client stakeholders were unanimous in instructing us to make the
> legally-mandated friendly-language legal notices as hard to find and
> read as we possibly could, basically to try to hide them as much as
> possible without breaking the law. Suffice to say that we stayed within
> the letter of the law.
>
> I've also had to design a home page that forced users to enter their
> email address just to give the product a test drive, and I knew full
> well that the company planned to then send the user marketing emails
> nearly daily until the user either figured out how to unsubscribe or
> signed up for the product/program. I was told, in no uncertain terms,
> that removing the signup form from the home page, thus letting users
> check out the service without giving personal information, would have a
> huge negative impact on their bottom line. Apparently the relentless
> spamming actually worked in converting a large number of prospects into
> paying customers, prospects who the client was convinced would not have
> signed up if they simply were allowed to try the product out in their
> initial experience with the site. What's more, simply having a large
> number of registered prospect emails was helpful for the company's VC
> efforts. We kept the form. Was I showing dignity and respect for their
> users? I don't think so.
>
> In terms of UX Ethics, is there a gray area between, say, designing a
> web site to trick people into entering email addresses for spamming and
> harvesting and something more benign like, say, designing a corporate
> site navigation scheme where the customer service form is deliberately a
> little bit hard to find? Or a gray area between designing hot-stock-tip
> spam and desiging a short full-screen interstitial ad for a content web
> site? That gray area is worth exploring, because so much of what we
> think are ethical absolutes start to get a little blurry.
>
> -Cf
>
> Christopher Fahey
> ____________________________
> Behavior
> http://www.behaviordesign.com
> me: http://www.graphpaper.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

1 Aug 2007 - 4:05pm
Jonathan Arnowitz
2005

Do No Harm, also recalls the Designer's Hippocratic oath that appeared in
interactions Magazine:

http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1016991&coll=Portal&dl=ACM&CFID=30430127&CFTOKEN=55581660

http://arnoland.blogspot.com/2007/07/designers-hippocratic-oatha.html

On 8/1/07, Robert Reimann <rmreimann at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> A set of ethical guidelines allows designers to take an ethical stand.
> You didn't "have" to design that home page you mentioned. You weighed the
> ethics vs. the ethical imperative for you to put dinner on your family's
> table,
> and made a choice.
>
> The point of a professional code of ethics is to give professionals a bit
> more leverage
> in making those kinds of ethical choices. Without a professional code of
> ethics,
> it is easy for a client to say "if you won't do it today, I'll find
> someone
> who will
> tomorrow". A professional code in theory makes this harder for the client
> to
> say,
> and more likely for them to listen to arguments that their strategy, while
> productive in
> the short run, will not build them the kind of customer relationships that
> would
> serve them best in the long run, and that other creative solutions exist.
>
> As you say, however, there are applications that don't have that sort of
> wiggle room:
> gambling applications and military applications come immediately to mind.
> A
> former
> colleague of mine is now an interaction designer for battlefield
> intelligence applications,
> which for me is enough of a gray area that I would not seek that kind of
> work. While
> at Cooper, we took on a client who created software for tracking and
> directing the
> orbits of satellites... they could be weather satellites or spy
> satellites;
> the software was
> application agnostic-- so we took the business. The client later came back
> wanting us
> to design a module for tracking and directing cruise missles... and we
> refused the
> business. The point is that you're right, there are many subtle shades to
> consider,
> but I feel that a standard of ethics is a tool for informing such
> decisions
> more than it
> is for proscribing an absolute response.
>
> And what about gambling? Would a code of ethics make it more difficult for
> such clients
> to procure their seductive and misleading designs? Hard to know, but it
> would at least
> allow us as ethical professionals to take a public stand on such issues,
> which could in the
> long run have a positive effect.
>
> Some people, including some who are regarded as spokepersons for our
> field,
> believe that
> it is wrong to have any designer's code of ethics, and that the client is
> always right, regardless
> of what they ask us to do. I believe it is the responsibility of designers
> as advocates of the
> users (and others affected by the design) to point out to clients when
> their
> choices are not
> good for either their customers or their business in the long run. I
> believe
> that among other
> things this can lead to greater respect both for customers and for
> designers
> as professionals.
>
> Personally I draw the line at not designing products that will
> intentionally
> directly harm
> or help harm people (I would include gambling applications: predatory
> financial harm).
> "Do no (intentional) harm" is a basic ethical idea I'm almost always
> comfortable sticking by.
> Not surprisingly therefore, my favorite design projects have been medical
> applications...
> at the other end of the spectrum. My choice.
>
> Robert.
>
> On 7/31/07, Christopher Fahey <chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com> wrote:
> >
> > Thomas J. Froehlich wrote:
> > > What kinds of ethical issues arise in IxD or IA practice...?
> >
> > What a coincidence, given my last post RE: gambling user experience
> > design.
> >
> >
> > Dan Saffer wrote:
> > > I suggest that the ethical baseline for interaction designers
> > > should be that the behaviors we engender through the products
> > > and services we create treat both the actor and the receiver
> > > of the action with dignity and respect.
> > >
> > > It is surprisingly easy to do otherwise.
> >
> > Not just easy, but sometimes it's a fundamental requirement.
> >
> > Your ethical proscriptions are great, but we should recognize and
> > examine the fact that there are plenty of top-notch user experience
> > designs out there whose fundamental design constraint is to treat the
> > user with utter contempt and disrespect. Not just gambling, but
> > scammers, spammers, and pornographers. The challenges they face in their
> > practice and craft are entirely parallel with ours, minus the moral
> > compass.
> >
> > What's interesting is that this disrespect crosses over into the
> > legitimate business sphere. Once, working for a former employer
> > designing a web site for a financial institution, I noticed that the
> > client stakeholders were unanimous in instructing us to make the
> > legally-mandated friendly-language legal notices as hard to find and
> > read as we possibly could, basically to try to hide them as much as
> > possible without breaking the law. Suffice to say that we stayed within
> > the letter of the law.
> >
> > I've also had to design a home page that forced users to enter their
> > email address just to give the product a test drive, and I knew full
> > well that the company planned to then send the user marketing emails
> > nearly daily until the user either figured out how to unsubscribe or
> > signed up for the product/program. I was told, in no uncertain terms,
> > that removing the signup form from the home page, thus letting users
> > check out the service without giving personal information, would have a
> > huge negative impact on their bottom line. Apparently the relentless
> > spamming actually worked in converting a large number of prospects into
> > paying customers, prospects who the client was convinced would not have
> > signed up if they simply were allowed to try the product out in their
> > initial experience with the site. What's more, simply having a large
> > number of registered prospect emails was helpful for the company's VC
> > efforts. We kept the form. Was I showing dignity and respect for their
> > users? I don't think so.
> >
> > In terms of UX Ethics, is there a gray area between, say, designing a
> > web site to trick people into entering email addresses for spamming and
> > harvesting and something more benign like, say, designing a corporate
> > site navigation scheme where the customer service form is deliberately a
> > little bit hard to find? Or a gray area between designing hot-stock-tip
> > spam and desiging a short full-screen interstitial ad for a content web
> > site? That gray area is worth exploring, because so much of what we
> > think are ethical absolutes start to get a little blurry.
> >
> > -Cf
> >
> > Christopher Fahey
> > ____________________________
> > Behavior
> > http://www.behaviordesign.com
> > me: http://www.graphpaper.com
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> > Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
> >
>
>
>
> --
> Robert Reimann
> President, IxDA
>
> Manager, User Experience
> Bose Corporation
> Framingham, MA
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
---
Jonathan Arnowitz
Co-Author, Effective Prototyping for Software Makers
Now Available from Morgan Kaufman www.mkp.com/prototyping

j.s.arnowitz at acm.org

1 Aug 2007 - 8:42pm
Robert Reimann
2003

We took a high-level stab at this in About Face 2.0 (and now About Face 3).
The following design values or
imperatives were the outcome of a long series of discussions amongst myself,
Dave Cronin, serveral
other Cooper designers, and Hugh Dubberly.

We state that interaction designers should endeavor to create designs that
are:

*Ethical* [*considerate, helpful*]
- Do no harm
- Improve human situations

*Purposeful *[*useful, usable*]*
*- Help users achieve their goals and aspirations
- Accommodate user contexts and capacities

*Pragmatic* [*viable, feasible*]
- Help commissioning organizations achieve their goals
- Accommodate business and technical requirements

*Elegant* [*efficient, artful, affective*]
- Represent the simplest, complete solution
- Possess internal (self-revealing, understandable) coherence
- Appropriately accommodate and stimulate cognition and emotion

There's some further discussion of each of these aspects in AF3 (if you
don't want to buy
it--though I hope you do--you can search the book for "do no harm" on
Amazon).

Robert.

On 8/1/07, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Thomas J. Froehlich wrote:
> >
> > If you were created a code of ethics, what would it
> > distinctively include? I would appreciate any thoughts, cases or
> > examples.
> >
> I think we should create a code of ethics for IxDA. Something in the vein
> of
> Asimov's laws of robotics:
> 0. A product may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to
> come to harm.
> 1. A product may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a
> human being to come to harm except where such orders would conflict with
> the
> Zeroth Law.
> 2. A product must obey orders given to it by human beings except where
> such orders would conflict with the previous laws.
> 3. A product must protect its own existence as long as such protection
> does not conflict with the previous laws.
>
> I do not expect that the code will change the minds of those, who have
> their
> minds set. However I think it might serve as a good frame reminder to
> those
> of us, who opt to delegate moral responsibility to higher authority,
> because
> we are too busy to think about the consequences of this delegation.
>
> The code will not stop production of unethical products, but it could lead
> to making them more expensive, less profitable.
> Oleh
>
>
> --
> Oleh Kovalchuke
> Interaction Design is the Design of Time
> http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

1 Aug 2007 - 10:30pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

On 8/1/07, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com > wrote:
>
> When confronted with moral dilemma we have three options:
>
> 1. Delegate the moral responsibility to higher authority (business
> owners, managers, corporate ethics).
> 2. Quit and move on to find projects more in line with our ethics.
> 3. Subvert. This can be an outspoken appeal to public at large or a
> passive-aggressive subversion of poor design.
>
>
"Zutallo! I have missed one!"

The fourth popular option is to do Woody Allen's shtick: to see that what
you are doing is wrong, nevertheless to confirm and to agonize about it.
Then to work on your conflicts with psychoanalyst, watch The Office, read
Dilbert and tell each other that management sucks.
Oleh

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is the Design of Time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

2 Aug 2007 - 6:47am
Olly Wright
2007

On 2 Aug 2007, at 03:42, Robert Reimann wrote:

> *Ethical* [*considerate, helpful*]
> - Do no harm
> - Improve human situations
>
> *Purposeful *[*useful, usable*]*
> *- Help users achieve their goals and aspirations
> - Accommodate user contexts and capacities
>
> *Pragmatic* [*viable, feasible*]
> - Help commissioning organizations achieve their goals
> - Accommodate business and technical requirements
>
> *Elegant* [*efficient, artful, affective*]
> - Represent the simplest, complete solution
> - Possess internal (self-revealing, understandable) coherence
> - Appropriately accommodate and stimulate cognition and emotion

For me, the problem with this kind of approach is you end up with a
list that is on a certain level arbitrary and feels incomplete. Aka
"ad hoc".

They are justifiable primarily in a circular way (eg, We should do
Elegant design for the sake of being Elegant, and Pragmatic design
for the sake of being Pragmatic). Then we take these as axioms and so
pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps towards ethics. We have no
way of knowing if we have a complete list, or of testing our
assumptions beyound intuition. Or really in the end justifying our
position beyond saying "don't you see, it's just obvious?".

Another way of seeing this is to ask the question: Should we be
looking for...

1. A set of common sense guidelines that the majority intuitively
feel are adequate / correct

2. A theory or theoretical framework that is testable / open to
psychological / scientific / mathematical / observational / logical
analysis. From this we can derive ethical imperatives through
deduction and inference.

I suggest that we're looking for the second type. The examples given
above are in my mind of the first type

Olly Wright

2 Aug 2007 - 8:43am
Jason Witenstei...
2006

*FYI

It is a widely held misconception that the "do no harm" dictum is a
tenet of the Hippocratic Oath. It is neither in the original nor in the
modern version.

It's actually from the Latin "Primum non nocere"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere

"The details are not the details. They make the design." -Charles Eames.

Jason Witenstein-Weaver
________________________________________________________________________
___

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Jonathan Arnowitz
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 5:06 PM
To: Robert Reimann
Cc: Interaction Design Association (IxDA)
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Ethical Issues for Interaction Designers

Do No Harm, also recalls the Designer's Hippocratic oath that appeared
in
interactions Magazine:

http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1016991&coll=Portal&dl=ACM&CFID=30
430127&CFTOKEN=55581660

http://arnoland.blogspot.com/2007/07/designers-hippocratic-oatha.html

________________________________________________________________________
___

2 Aug 2007 - 10:09am
Robert Reimann
2003

I would argue somewhat differently that they are the seeds for a theoretical
framework. The top level descriptors (ethical, purposeful, pragmatic, and
elegant)
are certainly broad, which is why the second-level explanations exist. The
wording
of these is fairly carefully crafted to cover what we saw as the problem
space.
There are in fact third levels for these as well, some of which are
described in AF3.

I think the core of our realization was that if you look across what most
people
consider to be good design practice and artifact, you find these elements:
design
should on balance help, not harm (this includes all levels of context, from
personal
to social to environmental). Design should take those using it (and those
affected by it), and their requirements, into account. Design should also
help achieve the
goals of those who requested it in the first place. And Design should, for
lack of a better
term, feel "designed": the act of design should add value to the outcome in
the
form of benefits we typically associate with good design: simplicity,
understandability,
artfulness, and what I'd call "affectiveness" (stimulating appropriate
emotion in the
context of use ).

You may note that this structure has a certain implied consequentialist
flavor... i.e., that
one must judge the goodness of a design by anticipating or extrapolating its
consequences.
One could argue (I do) that this is an appropriate way to judge designs, and
it is common practice
to use scenarios to craft and test designs, which in essence helps shape the
consequences
of a design, at least at the personal level. Also, I think it is relatively
common for designers
(of a UX/IxD bent anyway) to cast themselves in the role of an ideal
"informed observer" who
dispassionately weighs the consequences of a design as they craft their
solution. One could
I think easily argue that UCD and thus UXD is very much informed by the
tenets of
consequentialism: that it is imperative for designers to become as informed
as possible about
the contexts of a potential design, so that best outcomes are possible.

I agree that this list alone isn't entirely actionable... it was developed
primarily to
get exactly this kind of discussion started; that is, understanding exactly
what "good design"
really means. But I would not agree that it is completely ad hoc, nor is it
arbitrary.

Robert.

--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

On 8/2/07, Olly Wright <olly.wright at mediacatalyst.com> wrote:
>
> On 2 Aug 2007, at 03:42, Robert Reimann wrote:
>
> > *Ethical* [*considerate, helpful*]
> > - Do no harm
> > - Improve human situations
> >
> > *Purposeful *[*useful, usable*]*
> > *- Help users achieve their goals and aspirations
> > - Accommodate user contexts and capacities
> >
> > *Pragmatic* [*viable, feasible*]
> > - Help commissioning organizations achieve their goals
> > - Accommodate business and technical requirements
> >
> > *Elegant* [*efficient, artful, affective*]
> > - Represent the simplest, complete solution
> > - Possess internal (self-revealing, understandable) coherence
> > - Appropriately accommodate and stimulate cognition and emotion
>
> For me, the problem with this kind of approach is you end up with a
> list that is on a certain level arbitrary and feels incomplete. Aka
> "ad hoc".
>
> They are justifiable primarily in a circular way (eg, We should do
> Elegant design for the sake of being Elegant, and Pragmatic design
> for the sake of being Pragmatic). Then we take these as axioms and so
> pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps towards ethics. We have no
> way of knowing if we have a complete list, or of testing our
> assumptions beyound intuition. Or really in the end justifying our
> position beyond saying "don't you see, it's just obvious?".
>
> Another way of seeing this is to ask the question: Should we be
> looking for...
>
> 1. A set of common sense guidelines that the majority intuitively
> feel are adequate / correct
>
> 2. A theory or theoretical framework that is testable / open to
> psychological / scientific / mathematical / observational / logical
> analysis. From this we can derive ethical imperatives through
> deduction and inference.
>
> I suggest that we're looking for the second type. The examples given
> above are in my mind of the first type
>
> Olly Wright
>
>

2 Aug 2007 - 10:21am
Robert Reimann
2003

The main issue I have with your third point (cultural ethics) is that it
immediately
raises the question:"from the perspective of whose culture?". As unique
cultures
continue to be extinguished at an ever increasing rate by western
megaculture,
and understanding that technology is one of chief vectors of western
cultural
hegemony, the idea of a cultural ethics (presumably determined by the
majority culture)
and employed in the design of technology seems as though it could itself be
ethically suspect.

Robert.

On 8/1/07, Olly Wright <olly.wright at mediacatalyst.com> wrote:
>
> On 31 Jul 2007, at 22:43, Dan Saffer wrote:
>
> > I don't know how to deal with the ethics of the *content* of any
> > exchange, and I'm hesitant to venture into those waters and start
> > designing in checks for that.
>
> Completely agree. The first area of confusion with ethics (one of
> many) that I have encountered is the blurring of the line between the
> 'form of behaviour' and the 'content within that form'. When, for
> example, people rail against the web they'll frequently cite porn,
> child molesters on MySpace, and phishing scams. To blame 'the
> internet' for this is comparable blaming 'the street' for muggings
> and people slipping on banana peels. Which reminds me of the fallacy
> of "gun's don't hurt anyone, people do".
>
> The categories I suggested at the last IA summit were:
>
> Professional ethics: the practical ethics of doing business,
> including who we work for and what we are willing / unwilling to do
> for them. Similar to medical ethics for doctors for example.
>
> User experience ethics: desiging things that lead to positive
> experiences. Good usability / user friendly, accessible, not
> frustrating or demeaning etc.
>
> Cultural ethics: desiging technology that has a long term positive
> effect on the behaviour and culture of its users. Encouraging
> positive ways of being, and discouraging negative ones. The ethical
> analysis of new (design-enabled) behaviour forms in terms of the
> ethics of that behaviour.
>
>
> / Olly Wright
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

2 Aug 2007 - 4:15pm
stauciuc
2006

On 8/2/07, Olly Wright <olly.wright at mediacatalyst.com> wrote:

>
> For me, the problem with this kind of approach is you end up with a
> list that is on a certain level arbitrary and feels incomplete. Aka
> "ad hoc".
>
> They are justifiable primarily in a circular way (eg, We should do
> Elegant design for the sake of being Elegant, and Pragmatic design
> for the sake of being Pragmatic). Then we take these as axioms and so
> pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps towards ethics. We have no
> way of knowing if we have a complete list, or of testing our
> assumptions beyound intuition. Or really in the end justifying our
> position beyond saying "don't you see, it's just obvious?".
>
> Another way of seeing this is to ask the question: Should we be
> looking for...
>
> 1. A set of common sense guidelines that the majority intuitively
> feel are adequate / correct
>
> 2. A theory or theoretical framework that is testable / open to
> psychological / scientific / mathematical / observational / logical
> analysis. From this we can derive ethical imperatives through
> deduction and inference.
>
> I suggest that we're looking for the second type. The examples given
> above are in my mind of the first type
>
>
>
Even if we are looking for no.2, we still need no.1 to support it. Even if
we 'derive ethical imperatives through deduction and inference', they will
still need to intuitively feel adequate in order to be widely adopted. And
they will need to have different levels of detail and complexity when they
are formulated: I may not be able to understand the most complex definitions
of what ethical design means to some, but I still need something to relate
to when I decide which projects I am willing to work on.

By the way, it does sound like a good idea to have our own declared 'code of
conduct', or at least widely-accepted definition of 'ethical design'. I hope
we take it beyond this discussion.

--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

2 Aug 2007 - 4:22pm
stauciuc
2006

On 8/1/07, Jeff White <jeff.white at jtv.com> wrote:
>
> Something very big has been left out of this discussion: the idea of
> sustainable design. I brought this up to the list a few weeks ago (I
> certainly wasn't the first to bring it up at IxDA), and it was
> quickly dismissed (or at least that was my perception). But, I think
> it's real, more real than most of topics in this thread so far. I
> also think designers should take this topic seriously. I hope Thomas
> takes a serious look at sustainable design and considers it for his
> paper.

I noticed this as well. Is sustainable design too boring, or too complex for
designers to consider and talk about? Is it tabu? Or are we demonstrating
that we are, after all, only human, and would rather turn the other way when
the issue is just too overwhelming to face directly?

--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

2 Aug 2007 - 6:38pm
Josh
2006

I am coming into this one a little late and, apologetically, haven't read
the entire thread.

One thing that comes to my mind when considering interaction design ethics
is the idea of product integrity. The idea would be that products with
integrity do not lie/mislead about what they are or what they do. There is a
big difference, in my mind, between a poorly designed interaction and an
interaction that is deliberately designed to mislead. It's the difference
between negligence and malice or poor design and evil design. Of course we
should constantly work to avoid poor designs, but I don't want to be the
first to toss stones while living in my glass cubicle.

Examples:
A .44 magnum may be designed to do harm, but it's design is clear and it has
integrity.

A fishing email and landing page are designed with the clear intent to
mislead.

Of course discussion about design of weapons has potential for long drawn
out debate. I will say that given a choice between the two interaction
designers involved with the products above, the interaction designer of the
later would not be added to my Linkedin network.

--
Josh Viney
EastMedia Group
Company http://www.eastmedia.com
Blog http://www.kungpowthinking.com

2 Aug 2007 - 8:32pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

In my opinion, ethical behaviour in IxD is basically: don't design
products or services that are harmful or painful when used by humans
(including harm or pain towards someone that is not the user; ie:
weapons). This is related to actually using your product or service
to ensure that it's enjoyable to use or at least comfortable.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18831

3 Aug 2007 - 2:44am
Minkó Misi
2007

I think I missed a definition here. The definition of "sustainable
design". I know what sustainable development is, but sustainable design?
Is there a must read paper describing this concept? Could somebody send
me a link of it?

Thank you:

Misi

Sebi Tauciuc írta:
> On 8/1/07, Jeff White <jeff.white at jtv.com> wrote:
>
>> Something very big has been left out of this discussion: the idea of
>> sustainable design. I brought this up to the list a few weeks ago (I
>> certainly wasn't the first to bring it up at IxDA), and it was
>> quickly dismissed (or at least that was my perception). But, I think
>> it's real, more real than most of topics in this thread so far. I
>> also think designers should take this topic seriously. I hope Thomas
>> takes a serious look at sustainable design and considers it for his
>> paper.
>>
>
>
>
> I noticed this as well. Is sustainable design too boring, or too complex for
> designers to consider and talk about? Is it tabu? Or are we demonstrating
> that we are, after all, only human, and would rather turn the other way when
> the issue is just too overwhelming to face directly?
>
>

3 Aug 2007 - 8:25am
Olly Wright
2007

On 2 Aug 2007, at 17:21, Robert Reimann wrote:

> The main issue I have with your third point (cultural ethics) is
> that it immediately raises the question:"from the perspective of
> whose culture?". As unique cultures continue to be extinguished at
> an ever increasing rate by western megaculture, and understanding
> that technology is one of chief vectors of western cultural
> hegemony, the idea of a cultural ethics (presumably determined by the
> majority culture) and employed in the design of technology seems as
> though it could itself be ethically suspect.
>
> Robert.

That's a very good point. Daniel Dennett discusses it in a recent TED
lecture, talking about 'toxic memes' transmitted by western technology:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/116

It's would clearly be a mistake to think of 'cultural ethics' as
'what x culture says is good', and then apply that to 'culture y'.
And to justify this based on 'which culture is the majority' is
doubly flawed. However pure cultural relativism is broken also, the
answer has to lie somewhere in the middle (cultural relativism
leading to moral relativism leading to effectively no morality at all).

The way I have been looking at this is along the lines of nature
versus nurture. Nature being our biological / genetic / innate
behaviour, and nurture being learned / cultural / societal behaviour.
This second set (our 'culture') is determined in turn through
interaction between our environment and our nature (our genetic
behaviour). According to Darwin at least.

From this perspective, 'cultural ethics' in IXD / IA becomes a
matter of context design. We create contexts and then place humans in
them and see what happens. Given that humans have a natural set of
behaviours based on our genetics that are universal (ie transcend all
races + cultures), we are in a position to evaluate a whole range of
factors. Things like motivation, social interaction, healthy
activity, and so on.

My favourite current example of this is provided via the definition
of genetic reciprocal altruism established by Robert Trivers in 1971,
an evolutionary psychologist. In short he tells us that all humans
(except the occasional psychopath) have an innate tendency to act in
an altruistic way, given certain conditions. Conditions such as
established mutual trust, a reasonable likelyhood of the favour being
returned, and living within a fairly fixed social group where
altruistic behaviour is remembered and rewarded. This is a tool we
can use as designers: establish the necessary conditions for
reciprocal altruism to occurr (via technology-mediated social
interaction), and altruism will floursh. This is surely ethical design?

I think this approach has a few clear benefits. It's culturally
neutral (since genetics apply equally to all cultures), and provides
rich academic material to draw on, primarily evolutionary psychology
and anthropology, but also some moral philosophy. On the down side,
you have to show that this approach does lead to 'real' ethics
(contested by many), and especially it's easy to get mixed up in
arguing that something is 'good' just because it's 'natural'. Witness
the gross errors of the Social Darwinists for example.

If this is something that interests you, I wrote an article about it
for the ASIS&T bulletin:

http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Jun-07/Wright.pdf

Olly Wright

3 Aug 2007 - 8:52am
Robert Reimann
2003

This is an interesting direction.

Personally, I think Evolutionary Psychlogy (EP) is a very promising way of
approaching the understanding
of human behavior, but not one yet solidly grounded in strong theory. As
such, I'm not sure I would yet
consider it as a basis of design thinking (it remains for me an interesting
field to monitor, however). I'd
also worry a bit about designers (or any non-expert) generating lay
interpretations of EP theory, even
once it exists, to your point about Social Darwinism.

The programme of EP is very ambitious:

"A genuine, detailed specification of the circuit logic of human nature is
expected to become the theoretical centerpiece of a newly reconstituted set
of social sciences, because each model of an evolved psychological mechanism
makes predictions about the psychological, behavioral, and social phenomena
the circuits generate or influence." (Tooby and Cosmides, 2005)

But, that is of course decades away, at best.

In the meantime, how do we approach the problem?

BTW, for anyone interested in a very detailed explanation of EP by leading
proponents of the field, look here.

http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/papers/bussconceptual05.pdf

Robert.

On 8/3/07, Olly Wright <olly.wright at mediacatalyst.com> wrote:
>
>
> On 2 Aug 2007, at 17:21, Robert Reimann wrote:
>
> > The main issue I have with your third point (cultural ethics) is
> > that it immediately raises the question:"from the perspective of
> > whose culture?". As unique cultures continue to be extinguished at
> > an ever increasing rate by western megaculture, and understanding
> > that technology is one of chief vectors of western cultural
> > hegemony, the idea of a cultural ethics (presumably determined by the
> > majority culture) and employed in the design of technology seems as
> > though it could itself be ethically suspect.
> >
> > Robert.
>
> That's a very good point. Daniel Dennett discusses it in a recent TED
> lecture, talking about 'toxic memes' transmitted by western technology:
>
> http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/116
>
> It's would clearly be a mistake to think of 'cultural ethics' as
> 'what x culture says is good', and then apply that to 'culture y'.
> And to justify this based on 'which culture is the majority' is
> doubly flawed. However pure cultural relativism is broken also, the
> answer has to lie somewhere in the middle (cultural relativism
> leading to moral relativism leading to effectively no morality at all).
>
> The way I have been looking at this is along the lines of nature
> versus nurture. Nature being our biological / genetic / innate
> behaviour, and nurture being learned / cultural / societal behaviour.
> This second set (our 'culture') is determined in turn through
> interaction between our environment and our nature (our genetic
> behaviour). According to Darwin at least.
>
> From this perspective, 'cultural ethics' in IXD / IA becomes a
> matter of context design. We create contexts and then place humans in
> them and see what happens. Given that humans have a natural set of
> behaviours based on our genetics that are universal (ie transcend all
> races + cultures), we are in a position to evaluate a whole range of
> factors. Things like motivation, social interaction, healthy
> activity, and so on.
>
> My favourite current example of this is provided via the definition
> of genetic reciprocal altruism established by Robert Trivers in 1971,
> an evolutionary psychologist. In short he tells us that all humans
> (except the occasional psychopath) have an innate tendency to act in
> an altruistic way, given certain conditions. Conditions such as
> established mutual trust, a reasonable likelyhood of the favour being
> returned, and living within a fairly fixed social group where
> altruistic behaviour is remembered and rewarded. This is a tool we
> can use as designers: establish the necessary conditions for
> reciprocal altruism to occurr (via technology-mediated social
> interaction), and altruism will floursh. This is surely ethical design?
>
> I think this approach has a few clear benefits. It's culturally
> neutral (since genetics apply equally to all cultures), and provides
> rich academic material to draw on, primarily evolutionary psychology
> and anthropology, but also some moral philosophy. On the down side,
> you have to show that this approach does lead to 'real' ethics
> (contested by many), and especially it's easy to get mixed up in
> arguing that something is 'good' just because it's 'natural'. Witness
> the gross errors of the Social Darwinists for example.
>
> If this is something that interests you, I wrote an article about it
> for the ASIS&T bulletin:
>
> http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Jun-07/Wright.pdf
>
> Olly Wright
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

3 Aug 2007 - 9:46am
Olly Wright
2007

On 3 Aug 2007, at 15:52, Robert Reimann wrote:

> "EP is not yet solidly grounded in strong theory. As such, I'm not
> sure I would yet consider it as a basis of design thinking (it
> remains for me an interesting field to monitor, however). I'd also
> worry a bit about designers (or any non-expert) generating lay
> interpretations of EP theory"
>
> In the meantime, how do we approach the problem?

Agreed for the most part. There are a couple of well established
areas of evolutionary psychology where I think it's possible to start
looking at design applications (albeit with caution). But for the
most part there is still a huge amount of work to do, especially when
it comes to coming up with a complete new foundation for the social
sciences!

In the mean time there is also plenty of good material to look for
inspiration from in the areas of business ethics and ethics of user
experience.

Olly Wright

3 Aug 2007 - 11:25pm
Esteban Barahona
2006

Minkó Mihály misi at nexum.hu
Friday 12:44am

"I think I missed a definition here. The definition of "sustainable
design". I know what sustainable development is, but sustainable
design? Is there a must read paper describing this concept? Could
somebody send me a link of it?"

I was thinking of posting something about ecodesign/sustainable
design. I started studying Product Design few months ago. In talks
with the career Director Oscar Pamio
(http://www.uveritas.ac.cr/uv/index.php?id=145), this is a recurrent
topic. I attended an interesting seminar of someone that is pushing
ecodesign in corporations and institutions on Spain and Costa Rica.
The Product Design students are demanding more information for
ecodesign, sometimes it's the teachers who aren't that interested
(...some are). I haven't found sustainable design reference books
(there should be reference books of ecodesign divided by industry
that outlines best ecological designs/solutions).

Most of the ecological impact of products is because of wrong design
decisions. As a conceptual "bug" example: most part of the water
used to flush is wasted on standard (house) toilets. The technology
for saving water exists (the toilet for men that Duchamp used in a
photo) but is not implement in houses. In fact, there's no flush
mode for liquid wastes; everything defaults to solid. I don't know
how much water, but something is surely wasted. In National
Geographic channel there was a documentary of the tabu of toilets
(basically in all the world minus Japan)... I think it's silly that
this cann't be discussed (...and solutions designed and
implemented).

Personally, I think industrial society has something fundamentaly
wrong in its relationship with nature. Basically producers and
consumers doesn't care about nature. Changing this harmful mentality
and behaviour can be started and promoted from design (which is
responsible for planning the future, innovations, etc).

(there's no quote tag in beta.ixda.org?)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18831

6 Aug 2007 - 9:07am
Petteri Hiisilä
2004

Robert Reimann kirjoitti 3.8.2007 kello 16:52:

> Personally, I think Evolutionary Psychlogy (EP) is a very promising
> way of
> approaching the understanding of human behavior, but not one yet
> solidly
> grounded in strong theory.

The best single book for understanding human behavior (also EP) has
been Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works." I still return to it often
to find anecdotes and examples about the strengths and weaknesses of
the human mind. As some reviewer said: "Reading How the Mind Works
will change how your mind works..."

"Why do fools fall in love? Why does a man's annual salary, on
average, increase $600 with each inch of his height? When a crack
dealer guns down a rival, how is he just like Alexander Hamilton,
whose face is on the ten-dollar bill? How do optical illusions
function as windows on the human soul? Cheerful, cheeky, occasionally
outrageous MIT psychologist Steven Pinker answers all of the above
and more in his marvelously fun, awesomely informative survey of
modern brain science. Pinker argues that Darwin plus canny computer
programs are the key to understanding ourselves--but he also throws
in apt references to Star Trek, Star Wars, The Far Side, history,
literature, W. C. Fields, Mozart, Marilyn Monroe, surrealism,
experimental psychology, and Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty and his
888 children. If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would
be scalped for $100. This book deserved its spot as Number One on
bestseller lists."

http://tinyurl.com/2g74w9

Best,
Petteri

--
Petteri Hiisilä
Senior Interaction Designer
iXDesign / +358505050123 /
petteri.hiisila at ixdesign.fi

"Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated."
- Tim Peters

6 Aug 2007 - 4:40pm
Chant, Mary
2006

Thanks Petteri.
I read Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" a
couple of years ago. It captured my interest as a designer - and as a
parent. I'll try "How the Mind Works" based on your recommendation.
Mary

Message: 4
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2007 17:07:31 +0300
From: Petteri Hiisil? <petteri.hiisila at ixdesign.fi>
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Ethical Issues for Interaction Designers
To: IXDA list <discuss at ixda.org>
Message-ID: <F4319E8F-46B2-4820-84B1-85D401EE4346 at ixdesign.fi>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; delsp=yes; format=flowed

Robert Reimann kirjoitti 3.8.2007 kello 16:52:

> Personally, I think Evolutionary Psychlogy (EP) is a very promising
> way of
> approaching the understanding of human behavior, but not one yet
> solidly
> grounded in strong theory.

The best single book for understanding human behavior (also EP) has
been Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works." I still return to it often
to find anecdotes and examples about the strengths and weaknesses of
the human mind. As some reviewer said: "Reading How the Mind Works
will change how your mind works..."

"Why do fools fall in love? Why does a man's annual salary, on
average, increase $600 with each inch of his height? When a crack
dealer guns down a rival, how is he just like Alexander Hamilton,
whose face is on the ten-dollar bill? How do optical illusions
function as windows on the human soul? Cheerful, cheeky, occasionally
outrageous MIT psychologist Steven Pinker answers all of the above
and more in his marvelously fun, awesomely informative survey of
modern brain science. Pinker argues that Darwin plus canny computer
programs are the key to understanding ourselves--but he also throws
in apt references to Star Trek, Star Wars, The Far Side, history,
literature, W. C. Fields, Mozart, Marilyn Monroe, surrealism,
experimental psychology, and Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty and his
888 children. If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would
be scalped for $100. This book deserved its spot as Number One on
bestseller lists."

http://tinyurl.com/2g74w9

Best,
Petteri

--
Petteri Hiisil?
Senior Interaction Designer
iXDesign / +358505050123 /
petteri.hiisila at ixdesign.fi

"Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated."
- Tim Peters

This message and any attachments are intended only for the use of the addressee and may contain information that is privileged and confidential. If the reader of the message is not the intended recipient or an authorized representative of the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail and delete the message and any attachments from your system.

8 Aug 2007 - 8:33am
mtumi
2004

His first (mainstream) book, the language instinct, is also excellent.

On Aug 6, 2007, at 5:40 PM, Chant, Mary wrote:

> Thanks Petteri.
> I read Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" a
> couple of years ago. It captured my interest as a designer - and as a
> parent. I'll try "How the Mind Works" based on your recommendation.
> Mary
>
> Message: 4
> Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2007 17:07:31 +0300
> From: Petteri Hiisil? <petteri.hiisila at ixdesign.fi>
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Ethical Issues for Interaction Designers
> To: IXDA list <discuss at ixda.org>
> Message-ID: <F4319E8F-46B2-4820-84B1-85D401EE4346 at ixdesign.fi>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; delsp=yes; format=flowed
>
> Robert Reimann kirjoitti 3.8.2007 kello 16:52:
>
>> Personally, I think Evolutionary Psychlogy (EP) is a very promising
>> way of
>> approaching the understanding of human behavior, but not one yet
>> solidly
>> grounded in strong theory.
>
> The best single book for understanding human behavior (also EP) has
> been Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works." I still return to it often
> to find anecdotes and examples about the strengths and weaknesses of
> the human mind. As some reviewer said: "Reading How the Mind Works
> will change how your mind works..."
>
> "Why do fools fall in love? Why does a man's annual salary, on
> average, increase $600 with each inch of his height? When a crack
> dealer guns down a rival, how is he just like Alexander Hamilton,
> whose face is on the ten-dollar bill? How do optical illusions
> function as windows on the human soul? Cheerful, cheeky, occasionally
> outrageous MIT psychologist Steven Pinker answers all of the above
> and more in his marvelously fun, awesomely informative survey of
> modern brain science. Pinker argues that Darwin plus canny computer
> programs are the key to understanding ourselves--but he also throws
> in apt references to Star Trek, Star Wars, The Far Side, history,
> literature, W. C. Fields, Mozart, Marilyn Monroe, surrealism,
> experimental psychology, and Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty and his
> 888 children. If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would
> be scalped for $100. This book deserved its spot as Number One on
> bestseller lists."
>
> http://tinyurl.com/2g74w9
>
> Best,
> Petteri
>
> --

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