Looking for a pledge, or ideas for same, concerning designing interactions
4 May 2005 - 10:34am
10 years ago
The context for this request is the possibility that
I may resume the teaching of a methodology that can be
used to help designers build interactive systems that
more powerfully lead users to satisfying ends, but
that *could* be used in a strongly perverse way.
I would like to hear of examples of, or even your ideas
for, a pledge you might agree with and to sign up for.
Nothing seriously binding, but enough to:
* Keep you thinking
* Give standing for others to call you out
* Offer some steel in the spine when attempting
to direct a client from something that's borderline
For those who want to avoid the bright lights of the
list, any links/ideas sent to me offlist I'll collect
and re-post in summary with attribution (unless you
What I'm looking for is something simple. Along the
Having recognized that the interaction design project
explicitly entails manipulating users, I pledge to use
these tools ethically. Such use entails introspection
and vigilance in seeking identification with the user's
perspective, of both means and ends, and helping the
user towards that end.
. . . . . .
I'm not interested (on this thread, or in general) in
countering the usual arguments against the axioms
concerning designing interactions and experience.
(An _un_usual argument could be entertaining, but
please start a separate thread :-).)
Those who would be likely candidates for the pledge
(and learning and using these methods) already agree
that it's uncritical, even irresponsible, to design
as if it were otherwise.
Even though designing experience may be axiomatic among
the targeted crowd, interpretations will run the gamut.
I am not speaking of playing three-card monte (Follow
the Lady) with users. Neither is this a pledge of
neutrality or fealty to users' surfaced choices.
Every card shuffler has grounds to claim that they are
giving players precisely what they want (which for
the "mark" is an emphasis more of means than end). But
their TCM enterprise intimately depends on a perverse
interpretation of these needs.
But it is not enough to pledge that we would avoid the
TCM artist's sin, which we might say is revealed by the
mechanisms designed to draw the mark into a false sense
of skill. Think here of activism through design, where
designers entrain users in a course of action that draws
otherwise unlikely results from users (with the claim
that it benefits the commons, e.g.). In this very little
separates the environmental signage designer's program
of influencing traffic flow in public spaces against
'natural' instinct (in order to change pacing or even
encourage use of trash receptacles, to chose examples
from the benign) from the retail store designer's
So I admit it: even once you align with the overall
program, the simplicity of a two-sentence pledge
belies the difficulties. I may be seeking the impossible,
something more user-directed than a professional code
(such as AIGA's) and less concrete than the objective
measures of safety found in various engineering codes.
I've looked at many of both of these types, and
For some time we've had variants of this discussion,
so I'm hopeful someone's figured it out. Possibly in a
way we can all use directly. For a more personal note,
see the postscript.
For me it's gone beyond the *doing* problem to the
*teaching* problem. It's been an unresolved problem for
me since 1999 when I first derived this method. I've
often coached the problem in the question: Would you
use these tools to help design a casino? My answer has
But would I teach these to others, who might use them
in that way? Well, I've flirted with it. In 2000 I
noticed how this impacted designers and researchers with
whom I shared it; including potential partners and
investors in a business proposal that put them to practice.
Subsequently I was conflicted about the prospect of
a book project of which I was a part, and somewhat
relieved that it did not get picked up ... saving me
from having to lay this out, including to my co-authors.
In 2002 I taught a short overview (including to some on
this list) but seeing the impact on some in the group
could not bring myself to share the materials afterwards.
The 2002 AIGA meeting in Las Vegas reinforced and sealed
that decision, I thought. But by the 2003 DUX I could
see that the method was seriously needed, as is research
to extend it (and to obviate a bunch of other flailing in
our discipline). By that time I had more actively been
using results from it with clients (without explanation).
In early 2004 I'd begun thinking the method could be
ethically shared and actively pursued an engagement to
teach it. Now I'm considering that again, and hoping to
improve my cover, ethically-speaking.
Ah, the joys of situational ethics ... aka real life