Are We The Puppet Masters? The Ethics of IxD.

23 Jul 2009 - 1:32pm
5 years ago
39 replies
1940 reads
Brad Ty Nunnally
2008

Hello,
A few months ago, I asked the group if we, as designers, had the right to
influence, or control, the behavior of another person. The feedback
I received was great and inspired me to take the discussion a step further
by writing an article on the subject for Johnny Holland. Please check it
out, and I look forward to your thoughts and feedback,

Thanks!

Johnny Holland - Are We The Puppet Masters? -
http://johnnyholland.org/magazine/2009/07/are-we-the-puppet-masters/

Brad Ty Nunnally
Interaction Designer
-----------------------------
Blog: http://bradsramblings.com/blog
Twitter: http://twitter.com/bnunnally
618.580.1989

Comments

23 Jul 2009 - 2:13pm
Anonymous

For a useful (and amusing) way to explore this subject further, you
should check out Chris Nodder's Evil By Design site:
http://design4evil.com which invites people to contribute examples of
"evil design" and match them up with one of the 7 deadly sins
(greed, pride, sloth, etc.).

As you point out, designers have power within the realm of "choice
architecture" to affect certain behaviors. The more we expose
abuses the less likely someone else will be to attempt it and be
successful.

-David

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

23 Jul 2009 - 2:25pm
Mike Myles
2009

This reminds me of a talk I saw by Bill Buxton recently. He asked
attendees to sketch a PDA in 15 seconds, then do the same for its UI,
and lastly for it's interaction design. In the last case he said
something to the effect, "If there isn't some part of a person in
the sketch of the interaction, you fail."

There is a need to always personalize our designs, in that we
continually remember that these are systems being used by real people
like ourselves who have wants, needs, goals, demands, and
distractions. Personas, role play, user research and other tools help
keep us grounded in the human implications of our work.

Empathy is a necessary trait for a designer.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

23 Jul 2009 - 3:44pm
Troy Gardner
2008

Interesting article.

I'll play contrarian. We as designers see a world as it could be,
often a more user friendly one. But if end users can't see it, they
won't every get there and we'd be stuck with torches and caves.
Progress is change, people don't like change, so we have to lure them
into the future. Design is also communication, which often involves
conveying a message. In short I don't know how really to not
influence people in the process of design.

I've had similar discussions on ethics and video games (with Will
Wright of Sims Fame), like how much responsibility to game makers have
for controlling the length and addictiveness of the the games they
create. We see with WoW, this can destroy marriages and be equally as
addicting as drugs. Is that the responsibility of the game maker to
temper the users, or the users responsibility to moderate themselves?

IxD that we think of is a more confined to applications, but the
rules still apply, there are paths to fun/productivity and paths of
tedium and dispair, as designers we have the responsibility to setup
roadsigns...and listen to users when they always miss that perfectly
placed sign to turn left at Albuqurque.

23 Jul 2009 - 3:56pm
milan
2005

Hi Brad,

I'd like to know what you and the others think of IxDs triggering intended
behaviour through persuasion or even "nagging". One scenario:

A company has received complaints that applications are being treated too
late and applicants receiving no response whatsoever for months. So, they
create a workflow on top of the applications database that sends a message
to the one responsible, reminding him to reply the candidate. Of course,
that message links directly into the HR app and makes it as easy as
possible to keep the applicant informed using predefined texts etc.

In this case the interaction design has the goal to influence the user
behaviour in order to ensure adequate Corporate Behaviour towards external
stakeholders, the applicants. The whole thing is being set up to influence
someone to do something differently. Would you consider that ok?

Milan
--
||| | | |||| || |||||||| | || | ||
milan guenther * interaction design
p +49 173 2856689 * www.guenther.cx

23 Jul 2009 - 9:26pm
Brad Ty Nunnally
2008

@ Troy – That’s the tricky part for me, design implies influence. There just
is no way around it. It is how we influence though that just consumes my
curiosity. You do bring up a good point though with Video games, especially
MMO’s like WoW. As an ex-WoW player myself, I know how hard it is to just
stop playing. From the business point of view you WANT your players
addicted, since that addiction is your paycheck. A ‘good’ game design would
reward its players for taking breaks, how you incorporate that into game
play would prove to be an interesting challenge.

@ Milan – The amount of nagging you give a user is a fun challenge. Too much
and it leads to annoyance and frustration. Too little and the users don’t
end up getting the proper feedback they need. It is a balancing act that can
be tackled in many different ways and is depending on the people involved.
Brad Ty Nunnally
Interaction Designer
-----------------------------
Blog: http://bradsramblings.com/blog
Twitter: http://twitter.com/bnunnally
618.580.1989

24 Jul 2009 - 12:57pm
Brian Mila
2009

"A %u2018good%u2019 game design would reward its players for taking
breaks, how you incorporate that into game play would prove to be an
interesting challenge."

Civilization would display a message saying "You've been playing
for 3 hours, take a break." Naturally, I dismissed the dialog and
kept playing ;) but it was a shocking reminder of how long I had
been playing because it was so easy to lose track of time. It
didn't "reward" you in the game, but it did help sometimes to keep
me from going all night until my eyes were burning.

Another game I can think of....Mafia Wars on facebook. You earn
money every hour if you buy land and properties, and it keeps track
even after you signed off. So it allows you to basically "play
without playing" so to speak.

Brian

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

25 Jul 2009 - 10:56pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 23, 2009, at 3:32 PM, Brad Nunnally wrote:

> A few months ago, I asked the group if we, as designers, had the
> right to
> influence, or control, the behavior of another person. The feedback
> I received was great and inspired me to take the discussion a step
> further
> by writing an article on the subject for Johnny Holland. Please
> check it
> out, and I look forward to your thoughts and feedback,

Brad,

I don't get this point in your conclusion:

> It appears that we have painted ourselves into a corner. Having
> direct control over another person’s behavior is wrong, as they did
> with the watchclock.

Wrong is a strong judgement.

For years, dentists have been trying to convince parents to help their
children brush longer. Longer teeth brushing sessions directly
correlate to better oral health and fewer cavities. Yet, the dentists
failed to make any progress.

Then Dr. John's Products released a line of children's power
toothbrushes. (Subsequently acquired by Proctor & Gamble.) The battery
powered devices only have an On switch and automatically turn off
after 3 minutes. The 3 minute run time forces the child to brush the
entire period. Children who use the toothbrush regularly demonstrate
substantial better long-term oral health than children who don't.

The design of the toothbrushes explicitly influences the behavior of
the child, guiding them to better oral health.

Is that wrong?

Mint.com shows users their spending and investing habits in a way
that, for many users, changes their behavior to spend more consciously
and invest more savings.

Is that wrong?

Sacremento's Municipal Utility District found that when they put
smiley faces on the bills that of residents who outperformed 100 of
their neighbors in homes of similar size that used the same heating
fuel, those households reduced energy use by 2%. The design of the
bills influenced the energy use of those individuals.

Is that wrong?

I'm not getting how directly influencing behavior is wrong.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool

26 Jul 2009 - 9:00am
jet
2008

Jared Spool wrote:

> Then Dr. John's Products released a line of children's power
> toothbrushes. (Subsequently acquired by Proctor & Gamble.) The battery
> powered devices only have an On switch and automatically turn off after
> 3 minutes. The 3 minute run time forces the child to brush the entire
> period.

To be pedantic, it forces the motor to run for 3 minutes. It certainly
doesn't weld itself to the child's hand, take over their neurons, and
force the toothbrush into the child's mouth.

> Children who use the toothbrush regularly demonstrate
> substantial better long-term oral health than children who don't.

The real question is: "why do they use it?"

Is it simply because the motor is on and it's fun? Because they know
how long to use it? If the former, is there a less environmentally
stressful way to make it fun? If the latter, would a simple egg timer
have worked just as well and saved on natural resources?

Sure, convincing kids to brush their teeth is something we can probably
all agree is good, but is making a battery powered toothbrush the right
way to go about it? What's the fully-loaded cost of that bit of kit
compared to a traditional toothbrush + a little parent/child education?

Would simply asking the parent to brush their teeth at the same time as
their child solve the problem while creating a positive parent-child
interaction?

--
J. Eric "jet" Townsend -- designer, fabricator, hacker

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
PGP: 0xD0D8C2E8 AC9B 0A23 C61A 1B4A 27C5 F799 A681 3C11 D0D8 C2E8

26 Jul 2009 - 12:37pm
Fredrik Matheson
2005

I'm pretty sure the puppet masters know who they are.

However, I am glad to see us take our responsibilities as designers
seriously, as John Thackara discusses in his book *In the bubble*
http://bit.ly/29AmwK
If you'd like a more thoroughly researched exploration of how people take
care of business and themselves in the face of our interfaces, I recommend
Clay Spinuzzi's (@spinuzzi) book *Tracing genres through organizations*.
There's a pretty comprehensive preview available at http://bit.ly/xntwr.

- Fredrik
@movito

26 Jul 2009 - 2:50pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 26, 2009, at 11:00 AM, j. eric townsend wrote:

> Jared Spool wrote:
>
>> Then Dr. John's Products released a line of children's power
>> toothbrushes. (Subsequently acquired by Proctor & Gamble.) The
>> battery powered devices only have an On switch and automatically
>> turn off after 3 minutes. The 3 minute run time forces the child to
>> brush the entire period.
>
> To be pedantic, it forces the motor to run for 3 minutes. It
> certainly doesn't weld itself to the child's hand, take over their
> neurons, and force the toothbrush into the child's mouth.
>
>> Children who use the toothbrush regularly demonstrate substantial
>> better long-term oral health than children who don't.
>
> The real question is: "why do they use it?"
>
> Is it simply because the motor is on and it's fun? Because they
> know how long to use it? If the former, is there a less
> environmentally stressful way to make it fun? If the latter, would
> a simple egg timer have worked just as well and saved on natural
> resources?
>
> Sure, convincing kids to brush their teeth is something we can
> probably all agree is good, but is making a battery powered
> toothbrush the right way to go about it? What's the fully-loaded
> cost of that bit of kit compared to a traditional toothbrush + a
> little parent/child education?
>
> Would simply asking the parent to brush their teeth at the same time
> as their child solve the problem while creating a positive parent-
> child interaction?

Over the past 20+ years, the ADA has tried a variety of solutions.
Nothing has been as successful as the introduction of children's
powered toothbrushes.

Now, you can debate whether they missed something or the resulting
design is somehow suboptimal. However, that misses the point of this
discussion.

This discussion, as I understand it, is about whether designs that
unknowingly influence behavioral changes is somehow unethical. Here we
have a design that has produced positive results by doing just that.
Is it wrong? Should the devices be taken off the market? Should
designers have a code of ethics that suggest they shouldn't engage in
such projects?

That's what I want to know.

Jared

26 Jul 2009 - 3:17pm
jet
2008

Jared Spool wrote:
> Over the past 20+ years, the ADA has tried a variety of solutions.
> Nothing has been as successful as the introduction of children's powered
> toothbrushes.
>
> Now, you can debate whether they missed something or the resulting
> design is somehow suboptimal. However, that misses the point of this
> discussion.

Actually, I was off on a bit of a tangent, I was wondering out loud why
motorized toothbrushes work and if there isn't a better way to implement
that functionality. Has anyone other than the ADA studied this in
other cultures, and what were their results? Is the mechanism really a
complex one of subtle manipulation or is it simple novelty that makes it
work?

--
J. Eric "jet" Townsend -- designer, fabricator, hacker

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
PGP: 0xD0D8C2E8 AC9B 0A23 C61A 1B4A 27C5 F799 A681 3C11 D0D8 C2E8

26 Jul 2009 - 6:30pm
Tim Semen
2008

I've got an electric toothbrush at home as well (Oral-B, I think it is)
which has an automatic timer for 2 or 3 minutes. I don't remember which it
is because I don't have to. When I start brushing it starts counting for me
and pulses to let me know when I've gone on long enough.

It doesn't matter how awake or tired I am, it doesn't make me remember to
set an egg timer, if I need to cut the brushing short I can... *it doesn't
make me do anything that I wouldn't be doing otherwise*.

That's why it works for me, and incidentally is exactly what I believe
technology is supposed to be.

Tim S.

On Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 7:17 AM, j. eric townsend <jet at flatline.net> wrote:

> Jared Spool wrote:
>
>> Over the past 20+ years, the ADA has tried a variety of solutions. Nothing
>> has been as successful as the introduction of children's powered
>> toothbrushes.
>>
>> Now, you can debate whether they missed something or the resulting design
>> is somehow suboptimal. However, that misses the point of this discussion.
>>
>
> Actually, I was off on a bit of a tangent, I was wondering out loud why
> motorized toothbrushes work and if there isn't a better way to implement
> that functionality. Has anyone other than the ADA studied this in other
> cultures, and what were their results? Is the mechanism really a complex
> one of subtle manipulation or is it simple novelty that makes it work?

27 Jul 2009 - 9:16am
Amy Jones
2009

I have to say I find this thread a little silly. Of course design
influences behavior. Everything in the environment influences behavior.
We design tools, and we wouldn't design them (or build them) if we
didn't want people to use them.

Influencing behavior is not the same thing as coercing behavior. There
are certainly ethical implications to design, but the bare fact that
design influences behavior seems, to me, to be both ethically neutral
and inescapable.

Amy Jones

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Jared Spool
Sent: Sunday, July 26, 2009 3:50 PM
To: j.eric townsend
Cc: IxDA Discuss Rule
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Are We The Puppet Masters? The Ethics of
IxD.

<snip>
> This discussion, as I understand it, is about whether designs that
> unknowingly influence behavioral changes is somehow unethical. Here we

> have a design that has produced positive results by doing just that.
> Is it wrong? Should the devices be taken off the market? Should
> designers have a code of ethics that suggest they shouldn't engage in

> such projects?
>
> That's what I want to know.
>
> Jared

27 Jul 2009 - 10:26am
Brian Mila
2009

"Influencing behavior is not the same thing as coercing behavior."

Where do you draw the line between influencing and coercing? Do you
even draw the line at all? Product advertisements have been made for
hundreds of years, with the intent of maximum persuasion to buy the
product (coercing?). Is that wrong? What about when it happens in
political commercials? Is it wrong then? Do we as designers need to
adopt a code of ethics like other professions have done?

Brian

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

27 Jul 2009 - 10:42am
Jennifer Vignone
2008

"Influence" and "coerce" are different in that coerce has the notion of force associated with its meaning.
Advertising may influence but I don't think it coerces.
Would you fall into submission so easily to a commercial?
What is "maximum persuasion"?
I think people are influenced as much as they allow.
"Persuade" implies using an argument or reasoning, hopefully backed by fact, which is not necessarily "influence" or "coercion".
There are usability issues with how words are being switched which confounds this discussion.

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27 Jul 2009 - 11:02am
Amy Jones
2009

Generally speaking, folks don't have to subject themselves to our
designs, and when they do, they can resist the behavioral adjustments.
There are exceptions, of course: children are often seen as having less
ability to resist adjustments, and less choice about what they
experience. That's why they have parents.

When a tool becomes omnipresent or necessary to access something we
consider non-negotiable, influence approaches coercion.

An example of this might be the design of voting machines. If
electronic voting is your only option, and the design of the machine
(whether industrial or software) influences you to vote a certain way,
that's obviously an ethical issue, especially if that influence isn't
apparent.

I see little ethical dilemma in the design of a children's toothbrush,
though. You can make an environmental argument, sure, but that's a
decision I think we make collectively (either through government or
popular sentiment/market forces), and that collective decision will
decide the success or failure of the product.

--Amy Jones

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Jennifer R Vignone
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 11:42 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Are We The Puppet Masters? The Ethics of
IxD.

"Influence" and "coerce" are different in that coerce has the notion of
force associated with its meaning.
Advertising may influence but I don't think it coerces.
Would you fall into submission so easily to a commercial?
What is "maximum persuasion"?
I think people are influenced as much as they allow.
"Persuade" implies using an argument or reasoning, hopefully backed by
fact, which is not necessarily "influence" or "coercion".
There are usability issues with how words are being switched which
confounds this discussion.

________________________________________________________________
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To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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27 Jul 2009 - 11:26am
Ian Chan
2005

Brian,

I think coercion is probably a misnomer. It suggests use of force or
the threat of use of force, and if we use it we'll confuse matters
with truly oppressive political and institutional strategies... I'd
prefer terms like "appeal," "suggest," even "deceive," "falsify," or
"manipulate" if you want to thematize the negative.

The most logical approach would be to distinguish, as linguists and
semioticians do, between information and form, or between the content
its expression. We can then say that there's a falsification occurring
in each: the content is false (advertising is a lie); the form is
manipulative (aesthetically pleasing, sexually suggestive, appeals to
lifestyle, etc).

We then have the two axes of "designing the false": one is to
deliberately mislead using content and information (what is said, how,
and what's not said); the other is to use familiar design languages,
images, signs, stories, etc to misrepresent and to appeal to the
customer's senses. The former engages the customer's knowledge; the
latter engages the customer's style.

Ethical questions could then be raised with each: is it right to use
information to mislead? is it right to use design to appeal to the
senses or to be suggestive?

Keep in mind that advertising, while it lies, is up front and above
board about lying -- so the consumer is complicit in the whole system
of buying into brand strategies, advertisements, and so on. The
consumer has the right to buy or not. (In political matters it's
different -- taxes have been paid on basis of a representative
political system and social contract).

adrian

415 516 4442 Twitter: /gravity7
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blog) (slideshare)
Sr Fellow, Society for New Communications Research (SNCR)
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On Jul 27, 2009, at 9:26 AM, Brian Mila wrote:

> "Influencing behavior is not the same thing as coercing behavior."
>
> Where do you draw the line between influencing and coercing? Do you
> even draw the line at all? Product advertisements have been made for
> hundreds of years, with the intent of maximum persuasion to buy the
> product (coercing?). Is that wrong? What about when it happens in
> political commercials? Is it wrong then? Do we as designers need to
> adopt a code of ethics like other professions have done?
>
>
> Brian

27 Jul 2009 - 11:54am
pyces
2007

Speaking from a mother's perspective, it's quite a bit easier to brush
kids' teeth (and to feel like you "got them all") of a sometimes squirmy
child with an electric toothbrush set to low (I use the plug-in electric
toothbrushes, not the disposable ones, as for whatever reason, they
decided not to make those have circular brushes, which is the ideal
shape for cleaning teeth - especially in tiny mouths!) rather than a
traditional toothbrush.

It's also a heck of a lot easier to simulate the "round circular
motions" that dentists prescribe to ensure proper teeth cleaning and
reduce gum recession. It seems that we took a difficult and tedious task
and made it easier so that hopefully more people will do it. I don't see
that there is an ethical dilemma in having made toothbrushing more fun.
We've also really improved floss from something that hardly anyone used
and pretty much everyone disliked to cater to a wide range of mouths and
personal preferences, from woven to wax to flavored to those little
flossing sticks.

I appreciate most products that promote personal hygeine and make it
easier for parents to effectively care for their children's personal
hygeine. It's resulted in a more educated (and dedicated!) populace on
the matter of personal hygeine. Better mouth care means you get to keep
your teeth longer and don't have to deal with dentures or implants, so
you make a little investment now to save thousands later.

It's not environmentally sound, but neither are those tons of plastic
bottles - why can't we just go back to glass - everything tasted better
out of glass - but of course, they lost money due to bottle breakage and
kids got cut on glass and the movies show people fighting with glass
bottles and so they brought in plastics with all their BPA and other
harmful chemicals that pollute our landfill at a much faster rate than
toothbrushes which we at least use for 3 months. Those little blue
bristle toothbrush indicators that let you know when your toothbrush is
no longer doing its job effectively are wonderful, and again, result in
a populace that can better understand that toothbrushes don't last
forever.

Okay, that's all I have to say on toothbrushes - brushing kids' teeth is
a difficult process, so if you don't get to do it every night, you can
live vicariously through my pain!

Don't even get me started on the voting machines!! Check out
blackboxvoting.org, if you haven't already!

Courtney

27 Jul 2009 - 2:49pm
Brian Mila
2009

I didn't mean to speak specifically to advertising, just to the
notion that you definitely can influence a person's behavior, to the
point of them taking an action they might not have done otherwise.
Take the example of default opt-out for organ donation. I'm sure
you've all heard of it where the organ donation rate went way up
simply because the person was defaulted to opt-in on the form.
Organ donation is a pretty big decision for some people, and yet they
were "coerced", "manipulated", or whatever you want to call it
because of the design of the form.

Adrian, in this case, the ethical concern is with the design of the
form, isn't it? Would you consider it an "ethical violation"? In
either case, the box being checked or not is going to influence the
user.

Brian

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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28 Jul 2009 - 9:53am
Murray Thompson
2009

As it's been mentioned, influence is out there in many contexts, not
just in Interaction Design. I don't think it's wrong to influence
someone, nor can you avoid it in any interaction with people. Being
ethical is being aware of the implications of that influence and
avoiding causing harm to those being influenced (which includes
making decisions they didn't really intend to make).

I think a lot of way we should approach things is summed up well by
Aesop's 'The North Wind and the Sun'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_North_Wind_and_the_Sun

"Kindness, gentleness, and persuasion win where force fails"

As you mention in the articles 'Influence' section, and j. eric
mentioned with the toothbrush, unless we're plugging into their
brains, the choice is inevitably up to the user. So I don't think
it's right to say we have direct control of another person's
behavior: a guard could go off the watchclock, a person could keep
their jacket on in the sun, and (a phrase I heard that's become a
favorite of mine) "If people *really* want to put a pea up their
nose, no matter what you do, you can't stop them from shoving it up
there...".

But we do set up the conditions for people to make certain choices
over others, and you're right in that those conditions need to to be
established in a way that address the human side of the equation, not
just the system's. Those that do it well, I think, will tend to be
more successful. Those that don't are found out, perhaps held onto
begrudgingly for a while, but eventually abandoned.

BTW, the link to Chris Nodder's site that David mentioned near the
top is http://usability4evil.com. As David pointed out, the examples
in there fall in line with this discussion.

Murray

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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28 Jul 2009 - 10:04am
Murray Thompson
2009

Ack.. Apparently the link correction I gave for Chris Nodder's Evil
by Design site still didn't work. Hopefully this one's right:
http://www.usability4evil.com/

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

28 Jul 2009 - 11:33am
Ian Chan
2005

Brian,

that's an interesting example, but even tho it's organ donation, i
wouldn't consider it a matter of ethics (ironically, or not, the
person's dead). we need to be careful with words here. the form that
defaults to opt in hasnt really "influenced the user" but has
influenced the outcome. perhaps bias would be a better term. if i were
looking at submitted forms i wouldnt be looking for ethical violations
but i'd be taking the form's bias into account. bias insofar as user
who dont pay attention to the form unwittingly select "yes".

I dont consider the fact that the checkbox is already checked "yes" to
influence the user. surely a user is capable of unchecking a checkbox
w/o being influenced by its state. or am i making an assumption? ;-)

a

On Jul 27, 2009, at 1:49 PM, Brian Mila wrote:

> I didn't mean to speak specifically to advertising, just to the
> notion that you definitely can influence a person's behavior, to the
> point of them taking an action they might not have done otherwise.
> Take the example of default opt-out for organ donation. I'm sure
> you've all heard of it where the organ donation rate went way up
> simply because the person was defaulted to opt-in on the form.
> Organ donation is a pretty big decision for some people, and yet they
> were "coerced", "manipulated", or whatever you want to call it
> because of the design of the form.
>
> Adrian, in this case, the ethical concern is with the design of the
> form, isn't it? Would you consider it an "ethical violation"? In
> either case, the box being checked or not is going to influence the
> user.
>
> Brian
>

28 Jul 2009 - 12:00pm
Scott McDaniel
2007

It is a kind of influence, and with the various terms, folks are talking
past one another in some of these messages.
The question for me is "do I use my powers of design for good or for
Awesome?"
I think ethics here is in what the user desires to have done.

Influence covers a wide range of factors, and while a pre-selected box isn't
on the coercion or forced end, the influence lies in the ease of use towards
the users' purposes: did they want to be an organ donor? Is it easier
and/or more common for people to let defaults remain no matter what their
intent was? Does the treatment of the form elements make it easy for the
user to understand what they want to do and how to do it?

Design choices will inherently influence the person using the web
page/application/widget/gizmo.
Despite my best efforts, this doesn't necessarily mean an arm pops out of
their machine and drags their finger to select what I want them to do.

:(,
Scott

On Tue, Jul 28, 2009 at 1:33 PM, adrian chan <adrian at gravity7.com> wrote:

> Brian,
>
> that's an interesting example, but even tho it's organ donation, i wouldn't
> consider it a matter of ethics (ironically, or not, the person's dead). we
> need to be careful with words here. the form that defaults to opt in hasnt
> really "influenced the user" but has influenced the outcome. perhaps bias
> would be a better term. if i were looking at submitted forms i wouldnt be
> looking for ethical violations but i'd be taking the form's bias into
> account. bias insofar as user who dont pay attention to the form unwittingly
> select "yes".
>
> I dont consider the fact that the checkbox is already checked "yes" to
> influence the user. surely a user is capable of unchecking a checkbox w/o
> being influenced by its state. or am i making an assumption? ;-)
>
> a

--
"You always have the carny connection." - Clair High

28 Jul 2009 - 12:03pm
Joshua Porter
2007

On Jul 28, 2009, at 1:33 PM, adrian chan wrote:

> Brian,
>
> that's an interesting example, but even tho it's organ donation, i
> wouldn't consider it a matter of ethics (ironically, or not, the
> person's dead). we need to be careful with words here. the form that
> defaults to opt in hasnt really "influenced the user" but has
> influenced the outcome. perhaps bias would be a better term. if i
> were looking at submitted forms i wouldnt be looking for ethical
> violations but i'd be taking the form's bias into account. bias
> insofar as user who dont pay attention to the form unwittingly
> select "yes".
>
> I dont consider the fact that the checkbox is already checked "yes"
> to influence the user. surely a user is capable of unchecking a
> checkbox w/o being influenced by its state. or am i making an
> assumption? ;-)

If we agree that influence means "to effect behavior" (as it does in
my dictionary), then defaults are indeed influential.

In fact, defaults are one of the most powerful ways to influence
someone (as evidenced by the organ donation example)

If a user *doesn't* have choice...that's something altogether
different (such as coercion)

Josh

28 Jul 2009 - 12:41pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Ok folks, time for a step back.
Interaction Design as defined in almost every place, but most
importantly on our web site
(http://www.ixda.org/about_interaction.php) is all about designing
behavior.

"Interaction design defines the structure and behaviors of
interactive products and services and user interactions with those
products and services."

Not just the behaviors of the products/services but also the user
(aka human) interactions (aka wait for it ... BEHAVIORS) with those
systems.

We are having a really long thread here which is inanely obvious and
the only issue is HOW not WHAT.

"Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right" -- Ani Difranco.

This quote comes to mind almost every time spouts that "this or that
technology is "bad" (or unusable)" (Usually who's initials are
Jakob Nielsen")

What is "good IxD" or even "ethical IxD" is very different from
what is IxD and what we do and don't do.

Good & yes even ethical are subjective to degrees of critical mass
agreement, and in many cases those some agents of subjectivity are
not just cultural but also temporal or historical in nature.

This whole issue of influence vs. coercion is a red herring b/c it is
a continuum based in judgement by those on the outside and by those
with historical vision to it. It is the ultimate in subjective.

We are all open to suggestion at various levels of degree. We can be
manipulated usually w/o even knowing it, and usually the most potent
types of manipulation occur when we don't realize (that's me
slurping my chocolate shake from McDonald's in the background, btw).

The examples put forth can be used in so many ways to both support
and counter all the examples given so far. No one put a gun to
Eichman's head, but I guarantee that he was manipulated though so
many tonics of suggestion that our minds would explode. He just
happened to be more open to them then say the person next to him.

But when it comes to Interaction/Service Design of course we are
trying to use our knowledge of cognition & emotional psychology
jointed together with theories of culture an society to not just
fulfill needs but to increase productivity, keep people shopping or
better, buying, and a host of other parts of the equation. Hell, it
is called a Crackberry for a reason, no?

So again, stop moralizing here and attaching that moralizing to any
sort of limit to what IxD should or shouldn't be. It is only IxDA
that says that IxD is to be harnessed for the improvement of the
human condition, but IxD can be used for gambling and porn and
military and advertising and media consumption and consumerism, etc.
and etc.

Hell, I know too many who wrote that "human condition" thing that
are obviously NOT doing work to improve the total human condition at
all, but that is an entirely different topic. I only mention it b/c
even "improving the human condition" is obviously subjective too!

Oh! and that example about organ donors was never presented by the
person who did the research (I'm forgetting his name) as an example
of those who filled it out to have been coerced, but rather the
opposite. That the opt-in to donate folks were missing out on
something they WANTED to do. He was comparing countries who both have
high cultural levels of altruism and individual sacrifice for the
whole. Sheesh, people!

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

28 Jul 2009 - 12:51pm
Dan Lockton
2008

I've been following this discussion with interest but haven't had time to
contribute what I'd like (seriously, there's a whole book to write about
this subject!). But Josh's mention of the power of defaults as a influence
technique tipped me into a quick response.

I'm researching *how design can be used to influence behaviour* -
specifically, for social benefit, more specifically, for reducing the
environmental impacts of product/service use, but also, in general, what
techniques have been used, in what contexts, and how they might be applied
elsewhere.

Over the last year or so I've tried to compile a set of design
pseudo-patterns for influencing user behaviour - The 'Design with Intent'
Toolkit - http://designwithintent.co.uk - and am currently running workshop
sessions with designers applying some of these ideas to particular briefs,
to see what sort of product/service concepts they inspire. The stage after
that is going to be prototyping and running user trials with some of the
concepts developed, to get some data on which ones are actually most
effective in practice at influencing users, in what contexts, and why.
Hopefully this will be a useful contribution to the interaction design
literature, and something that's actually applicable in the early stages of
a design (or redesign) process.

The "behaviour is our medium" debate eloquently stirred up by Frog's Robert
Fabricant recently - to which Brad's post on Johnny Holland is a great
companion piece - draws on aspects of fields such as behavioural economics,
ethnography, persuasive technology and science and technology studies in
discussing the ethical implications of designers being the 'puppet masters',
and there is quite a lot of precedent in the ethical issues, including
Thaler & Sunstein's "Libertarian Paternalism is not an Oxymoron" (
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=405940 ) and Berdichevsky
et al's "Analyzing the Ethics of Persuasive Technology" (
http://credibility.stanford.edu/captology/notebook/archives.new/2006/06/ethics_of_persu.html).
In a long post responding to Robert (
http://architectures.danlockton.co.uk/2009/06/14/frog-design-on-design-with-intent)
I try to make the point that no design is ever going to be neutral:
whether a default is chosen with helpful intent, manipulative intent, or
without any real thought at all, it's still going to influence user
behaviour. This seems obvious and trivial, but the effects can be large down
the line. So we ought to think about it.

Anyway, having just seen Dave Malouf's post I should stop myself going any
further off on this subject, but it's a great debate and, I feel, going to
be heard increasingly often as the power of interaction design to influence
(rather than simply *support*) what users do is realised explicitly by more
companies (and governments).

Dan

______________________________________________________________________________
Dan Lockton MPhil BSc(Hons) FRSA | Cleaner Electronics Research Group |
Brunel Design
Brunel University | London | UB8 3PH | http://danlockton.co.uk
|<http://designandbehaviour.com/>
@danlockton <http://twitter.com/danlockton>
Google Group on Design & Behaviour: http://designandbehaviour.com

p.s. I apologise for the odd [column width="..."] bits in some of my blog
posts - they're formatting for a WP plugin which appears to have just broken
with the update to 2.8.2. I'll fix them when I can.

> If we agree that influence means "to effect behavior" (as it does in my
> dictionary), then defaults are indeed influential.
>
> In fact, defaults are one of the most powerful ways to influence someone
> (as evidenced by the organ donation example)
>
> If a user *doesn't* have choice...that's something altogether different
> (such as coercion)
>
>
> Josh

28 Jul 2009 - 2:21pm
Dave Malouf
2005

i don't mean to stop the discussion. (nor do I have any sort of power
to insist on that anyway, or do it?)

My point being that we are not talking about whether or not we can
influence, the question of the debate is how far should we go and
even then that debate is really so subjective, I'm not even sure
what's the point except on a project by project basis.

Now, the real question in my mind is to discuss, theorize, etc. HOW
to do influence. What about perception and cognition and emotion can
we work? What cultural strategies are most effective.

i.e. in social networking design, and social collaboration design
there are a ton of means of getting people to be more contributor
oriented. This is designing to increase activity.

or in e-commerce models, how do we get more people to hit that final
"submit"?

or in health care how do we get people to take better care of
themselves, for clinicians to make less mistakes, etc.?

And the list goes on.

this is valuable. But whether or not we influence and what are hte
moral/ethical implications to me being a limiting factor of IxD as a
discipline or practice is odd. I mean are we going to blackball porn
site designers? Hell! I think we have a lot to learn from porn and
gambling. the like gamers are our pioneers in so many ways.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

28 Jul 2009 - 3:02pm
Ian Chan
2005

I find this whole debate fascinating. I really dont see where ethics
come into the picture, though I see where questions arise around
integrity, influence, design, and truth.

To supplement examples of design issues in social media, for example,
take Dave's: increase contributions. From my perspective this has
little to do with what's on the screen (not including content --
selection of content and what is shown/not is key). It has more to do
with the social dynamics, culture, community, and other matters of
social practice.

Why are contributors contributing? Perhaps because they have a sense
of the common good, and as motivates many wikipedians, they want to
maintain accuracy and breadth of open-sourced knowledge. Or perhaps
they're "contributing" to twitter because they've got an enormous ego
and no sense of self restraint.

Clearly the term "contribute" loses its meaning very quickly when we
get into social media, as nearly everything said or submitted is a
contribution: social bookmarking, retweeting, blogging, commenting...

How does one "design" the social -- that's what interests me, and in
particular, what kinds of social interactions, individual,
interpersonal, social, and public, can be codified? What concepts do
we need if we're to go from explaining a single user interaction on
social media to the social dynamics of two or more users? Clearly the
interactions are users with users, not users with software -- but we
cant just use real world social interactions as our models. Mediation
strips away face, body, and affect; it removes synchrony of time. etc
etc.. there's plenty more...

So the question of influence is a very good one. It's probably not an
ethical one, because "we" don't control the user, his/her perceptions,
interests, choices, motives, or his/her experience. Personally I think
"framing" may be a viable way to approach the issue of designing the
social, as it shifts emphasis from "design" to "perspective", and in
social interaction design it's mostly about shaping these nuanced
social meanings and negotiations, not functions (as with so much
product design or interface design -- and that's not to denigrate
style, etc).

The matter does seem v interesting if the question is explored not in
terms of our responsibilities as designers but in terms of the user
experience: what kinds of users choose to retweet an influencer? what
kinds of social incentives work with non-competitive users? are there
ways to reduce the bias or distortion that leaderboards often produce?
would there be a way to grow a service like twitter without it turning
into a popularity contest for so many users? what social incentives do
experts respond to, and could a system be designed to appeal to
experts without attracting promoters?

as the motivation is often the other person, the matter of influencing
the user does get interesting... are there ethics involved if a dating
site is designed to keep users hopeful, voyeuristically engaged,
addicted to checking for new flirts and message, and highly unlikely
to get a real date? dunno, that's the business of dating sites, none
of which would survive if they did what the claim to do.

we need to bear in mind that most social media, and perhaps a great
deal of software in general, operate in failure mode much of the time.
twitter is not conversational. followers are not friends. facebook is
not social. many modern social systems are but a disaster waiting to
happen. so how do we talk about influence and incentives if in fact
much user activity fails to communicate, is ambiguous in its intent,
is redundant with contributions elsewhere, goes unresponded to, is out
of context... if so much of social media interaction is actually
handling of failure, responding to breakdown, bridging
misunderstanding, and otherwise social "error handling," then perhaps
we ought to learn more about what "functional social media" means
before worrying that we have too much influence... and I'll say right
now that these errors and failures may in fact be the motor of
participation on social media: we're into breakdowns, ambiguities,
ambivalence, conflict, and drama.

--adrian

28 Jul 2009 - 6:44pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 28, 2009, at 11:51 AM, Dan Lockton wrote:

> it's a great debate

If only I understood what we were debating.

It's disappointing when an author posts his article for discussion
then doesn't participate in said discussion. Maybe we should debate
how that is "wrong"?

Jared

29 Jul 2009 - 8:55am
Brad Ty Nunnally
2008

Hi Jared,

Sorry for my lack if responses, currently adjusting to my new life as
a father and learning how to manage my time. I gave been following,
just not able to respond as much as I wish.

I don't see any moral issues when it comes to influencing a persons
behavior. Simple because at the end of the day the person can always
choose to do something different. It is when we as designers take that
choice away I see an issue. The real debate defing the line that
seperates influence and control and what types of influence seem to
push the envelope on "right" or "wrong".

Dave recent comment on HOW we influence is very interesting and one
that I want to explore more.

This message has been brought to you via my iPhone.

On Jul 28, 2009, at 7:44 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Jul 28, 2009, at 11:51 AM, Dan Lockton wrote:
>
>> it's a great debate
>
> If only I understood what we were debating.
>
> It's disappointing when an author posts his article for discussion
> then doesn't participate in said discussion. Maybe we should debate
> how that is "wrong"?
>
> Jared
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

29 Jul 2009 - 10:37am
jonkarpoff
2009

One ethical consideration I run into often is a client wanting the
marketing email option defaulted to "opt-in". Typically these options are
buried at the bottom of the page, below the fold and buried in fine print.
I always push for either "opt-out" as the default, or no default value at
all.

Jon Karpoff
Senior Partner
Director User Experience
Office: 1-212-237-5516
Cell: 1-914-419-4151
Email: jon.karpoff at ogilvy.com

We few, we happy few
636 11th Ave, New York, NY 10036.

Brad Nunnally
<bnunnally at gmail.
com> To
Sent by: Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com>
discuss-bounces at l cc
ists.interactiond "discuss at ixda.org"
esigners.com <discuss at ixda.org>
Subject
Re: [IxDA Discuss] Are We The
07/29/09 11:02 AM Puppet Masters? The Ethics of IxD.

Hi Jared,

Sorry for my lack if responses, currently adjusting to my new life as
a father and learning how to manage my time. I gave been following,
just not able to respond as much as I wish.

I don't see any moral issues when it comes to influencing a persons
behavior. Simple because at the end of the day the person can always
choose to do something different. It is when we as designers take that
choice away I see an issue. The real debate defing the line that
seperates influence and control and what types of influence seem to
push the envelope on "right" or "wrong".

Dave recent comment on HOW we influence is very interesting and one
that I want to explore more.

This message has been brought to you via my iPhone.

On Jul 28, 2009, at 7:44 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Jul 28, 2009, at 11:51 AM, Dan Lockton wrote:
>
>> it's a great debate
>
> If only I understood what we were debating.
>
> It's disappointing when an author posts his article for discussion
> then doesn't participate in said discussion. Maybe we should debate
> how that is "wrong"?
>
> Jared
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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29 Jul 2009 - 11:45am
Mike Myles
2009

How about the ethics of temporarily blinding users that don't use a
products as intended?

Read this story:
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/07/pepperspray/

Now that's what I call influencing behavior through design.

What's next, the tazer equipped vending machine? "You better have
exact change - punk!"

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

1 Aug 2009 - 11:44pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 29, 2009, at 10:55 AM, Brad Nunnally wrote:

> Sorry for my lack if responses, currently adjusting to my new life
> as a father and learning how to manage my time. I gave been
> following, just not able to respond as much as I wish.

Perfectly reasonable choice. Family stuff trumps IxDA discussion list
participation in my book anytime. Congrats to everyone!

> I don't see any moral issues when it comes to influencing a persons
> behavior. Simple because at the end of the day the person can always
> choose to do something different.

In the Johnny Holland article, you said:

> It appears that we have painted ourselves into a corner. Having
> direct control over another person’s behavior is wrong, as they did
> with the watchclock. But, we can’t help influencing a person’s
> behavior with the interactions we design.

I read that to mean that you equated direct control to influencing
behavior. When you get a chance, can you explain the difference?

> It is when we as designers take that choice away I see an issue. The
> real debate defing the line that seperates influence and control and
> what types of influence seem to push the envelope on "right" or
> "wrong".

Can you give an example of when designers take that choice away? I'm
still not seeing the difference clearly to understand what the debate
is.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool

1 Aug 2009 - 11:47pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 29, 2009, at 12:37 PM, Jon Karpoff wrote:

> One ethical consideration I run into often is a client wanting the
> marketing email option defaulted to "opt-in". Typically these
> options are
> buried at the bottom of the page, below the fold and buried in fine
> print.
> I always push for either "opt-out" as the default, or no default
> value at
> all.

Is this ethics?

In instances when I've tested sites with defaulted opt-in marketing
options, most users react by complaining that the company thinks they
are dumb enough to leave it checked. (Some users, for some brands, are
happy to have the choice.)

Those who accidentally leave it checked indicate they feel that the
organization doesn't really care about them. They show anger and
frustration.

In the end, defaulting to opt-in marketing reduces brand engagement
and diminishes the organization's reputation.

But is it unethical? What harm has been done, beyond the reputation of
the organization?

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool

4 Aug 2009 - 12:03pm
Brad Ty Nunnally
2008

Hi Jared,
Thanks for the kind wishes!

I read that to mean that you equated direct control to influencing behavior.
> When you get a chance, can you explain the difference?

To be honest this is a gray line, but here are my thoughts. When you
influence someone's behavior there is always the choice available to do the
unexpected, or undesirable. You can place the up selling section in the
most optimal position on an e-commerce site, but the customer can always
choose to ignore it. Control is simply the absence of that choice. I always
use supermarkets in the US as an example of controlling their customers
behavior. On average, the most common thing people want when going to a
supermarket is milk. The managers know this, and put it as far away as
possible from the entrance, forcing customer to walk past other products.
Customer just don't have the choice to by-pass other products, and their
path is controlled by the store (to a certain extent).

Can you give an example of when designers take that choice away? I'm still
> not seeing the difference clearly to understand what the debate is

The one off the top of my head is the above supermarket one. Another would
be what Sony did a few years with the Rootkit scandal. Someone made the
decision to have this get installed on customer's computers without letting
them know about it or opting in or out of its installation. There was no
influencing going on here, just wrong doing(in my opinion)

Thanks!

Brad

On Sun, Aug 2, 2009 at 12:44 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Jul 29, 2009, at 10:55 AM, Brad Nunnally wrote:
>
> Sorry for my lack if responses, currently adjusting to my new life as a
> father and learning how to manage my time. I gave been following, just not
> able to respond as much as I wish.
>
>
> Perfectly reasonable choice. Family stuff trumps IxDA discussion list
> participation in my book anytime. Congrats to everyone!
>
> I don't see any moral issues when it comes to influencing a persons
> behavior. Simple because at the end of the day the person can always choose
> to do something different.
>
>
> In the Johnny Holland article, you said:
>
> It appears that we have painted ourselves into a corner. Having direct
> control over another person’s behavior is wrong, as they did with the
> watchclock. But, we can’t help influencing a person’s behavior with the
> interactions we design.
>
>
> I read that to mean that you equated direct control to influencing
> behavior. When you get a chance, can you explain the difference?
>
> It is when we as designers take that choice away I see an issue. The real
> debate defing the line that seperates influence and control and what types
> of influence seem to push the envelope on "right" or "wrong".
>
>
> Can you give an example of when designers take that choice away? I'm still
> not seeing the difference clearly to understand what the debate is.
>
> Jared
>
> Jared M. Spool
> User Interface Engineering
> 510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
> e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
> http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool
>
>

4 Aug 2009 - 2:00pm
dirtandrust
2008

My opinion is that Interaction Design doesn't influence or manipulate
behavior it facilitates it; simplifies it.

Read my full opinon here:
http://thesalon.blogspot.com/search?q=bokardo

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44045

5 Aug 2009 - 11:45am
jet
2008

Brad Nunnally wrote:
> Control is simply the absence of that choice. I always
> use supermarkets in the US as an example of controlling their customers
> behavior. On average, the most common thing people want when going to a
> supermarket is milk. The managers know this, and put it as far away as
> possible from the entrance, forcing customer to walk past other products.
> Customer just don't have the choice to by-pass other products, and their
> path is controlled by the store (to a certain extent).

Supermarkets are a wonderful place to find this sort of thing.

My favorite example is the "on sale, limit N" sign. Marketing types
figured out that if the store puts a big "on sale, limit N" sign over
something instead of a "on sale" sign, customers are more likely to buy
N items than just one or two items.

Is that simply good marketing or is it an unethical attempt to get
people to do something they wouldn't normally do?

--
J. Eric Townsend, IDSA
Designer, Fabricator, Hacker
design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
PGP: 0xD0D8C2E8 AC9B 0A23 C61A 1B4A 27C5 F799 A681 3C11 D0D8 C2E8

6 Aug 2009 - 10:51am
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

"I think people are influenced as much as they allow."

The assumptions here are that people are rational and have an unlimited
length of time to analyze their decisions. Trouble is that both assumptions
are incorrect. We, people, are mostly unaware of our goals, attitudes,
drives and the subtle ways those goals, attitudes and desires can be
affected. It is physically impossible to be constantly aware of all
motivations, which shape our decisions.

For instance, I will not be swayed to buy Rolex, when I see ads for the
watch. However the real goal of those commercials in mass distribution media
is not to make people to buy them en mass (masses cannot afford Rolexes),
but rather to inform the common folks that the owners of those goods are
displaying higher fitness indicators; to affect our attitude towards the
owners (and to let the owners know that the folks are informed what Rolex
is)*. Can I resist this influence? Somewhat; but hardly, unless I understand
the purpose of these ads.

Is it ethical to influence uninformed people? We don't have a choice really
-- people, including us, interaction designers, will always remain somewhat
uninformed (it is physically impossible etc. - see above). Is it possible to
avoid influencing? Not unless you relocate into a black hole -- that would
make for a very lonely, if brief, life though.

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

* More information on various fitness indicators and the ways they influence
us in "Spent" by Geoffrey Miller: http://tinyurl.com/luadnc

On Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 11:42 AM, Jennifer R Vignone <
jennifer.r.vignone at jpmorgan.com> wrote:

> "Influence" and "coerce" are different in that coerce has the notion of
> force associated with its meaning.
> Advertising may influence but I don't think it coerces.
> Would you fall into submission so easily to a commercial?
> What is "maximum persuasion"?
> I think people are influenced as much as they allow.
> "Persuade" implies using an argument or reasoning, hopefully backed by
> fact, which is not necessarily "influence" or "coercion".
> There are usability issues with how words are being switched which
> confounds this discussion.
>
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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6 Aug 2009 - 3:14pm
Jennifer Vignone
2008

Here is an example. of sales and influence.
You have millions of people who cannot afford to buy a house. They just can't. No money. They should save and wait until they really can afford to even consider it. But the mortgage business says, yes you can. Don't worry about it. It will be fine and we will give you the money to get that dream home.

And guess what. People did.

They saw their bank accounts and they could have done the math, but they wanted something and went with it. They were indeed lied to. But in addition to real estate people's pressure and influence, they convinced and influenced themselves as well.

And many unfortunate people now have a terrible problem.

I don't think that I am saying that people have an unlimited length of time to analyze their each and every decision. But I do think they balance a decision in some way like, "I can't afford a Rolex, so I won't get one." It takes less than a second to reason that, but in that statement it is shown that a person saw/heard an ad, thought about it and realized "not for me".

Even if you tell people not to be influenced, you are trying to influence them. We're interactive and social beings and respond to emotional, mental, and physical triggers constantly. But should people perhaps consider their decisions more carefully? Yes. Could they benefit from being more self-aware, self-confident, and independent in their thinking? Yes. Isn't that what this type of work is ultimately about: to enable users to find their way through some sort of interface (consider faith/religion and life itself) to make an informed decision? Yes.

From: Oleh Kovalchuke [mailto:tangospring at gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 06, 2009 12:51 PM
To: Jennifer R Vignone
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Are We The Puppet Masters? The Ethics of IxD.

"I think people are influenced as much as they allow."

The assumptions here are that people are rational and have an unlimited length of time to analyze their decisions. Trouble is that both assumptions are incorrect. We, people, are mostly unaware of our goals, attitudes, drives and the subtle ways those goals, attitudes and desires can be affected. It is physically impossible to be constantly aware of all motivations, which shape our decisions.

For instance, I will not be swayed to buy Rolex, when I see ads for the watch. However the real goal of those commercials in mass distribution media is not to make people to buy them en mass (masses cannot afford Rolexes), but rather to inform the common folks that the owners of those goods are displaying higher fitness indicators; to affect our attitude towards the owners (and to let the owners know that the folks are informed what Rolex is)*. Can I resist this influence? Somewhat; but hardly, unless I understand the purpose of these ads.

Is it ethical to influence uninformed people? We don't have a choice really -- people, including us, interaction designers, will always remain somewhat uninformed (it is physically impossible etc. - see above). Is it possible to avoid influencing? Not unless you relocate into a black hole -- that would make for a very lonely, if brief, life though.

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

* More information on various fitness indicators and the ways they influence us in "Spent" by Geoffrey Miller: http://tinyurl.com/luadnc

On Mon, Jul 27, 2009 at 11:42 AM, Jennifer R Vignone <jennifer.r.vignone at jpmorgan.com<mailto:jennifer.r.vignone at jpmorgan.com>> wrote:
"Influence" and "coerce" are different in that coerce has the notion of force associated with its meaning.
Advertising may influence but I don't think it coerces.
Would you fall into submission so easily to a commercial?
What is "maximum persuasion"?
I think people are influenced as much as they allow.
"Persuade" implies using an argument or reasoning, hopefully backed by fact, which is not necessarily "influence" or "coercion".
There are usability issues with how words are being switched which confounds this discussion.

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org<mailto:discuss at ixda.org>
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
This email is confidential and subject to important disclaimers and
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confidentiality, legal privilege, and legal entity disclaimers,
available at http://www.jpmorgan.com/pages/disclosures/email.
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org<mailto:discuss at ixda.org>
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

This email is confidential and subject to important disclaimers and
conditions including on offers for the purchase or sale of
securities, accuracy and completeness of information, viruses,
confidentiality, legal privilege, and legal entity disclaimers,
available at http://www.jpmorgan.com/pages/disclosures/email.

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