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Dimensions of UX Practice that Shape Ethical Awareness



HCI researchers are increasingly interested in describing the complexity of design practice, including ethical, organizational , and societal concerns. Recent studies have identified individual practitioners as key actors in driving the design process and culture within their respective organizations, and we build upon these efforts to reveal practitioner concerns regarding ethics on their own terms. In this paper, we report on the results of an interview study with eleven UX practitioners, capturing their experiences that highlight dimensions of design practice that impact ethical awareness and action. Using a bottom-up thematic analysis, we identified five dimensions of design complexity that influence ethical outcomes and span individual, collaborative, and methodological framing of UX activity. Based on these findings, we propose a set of implications for the creation of ethically-centered design methods that resonate with this complexity and inform the education of future UX practitioners.
Dimensions of UX Practice that Shape Ethical Awareness
Shruthi Sai Chivukula, Chris Rhys Watkins, Rhea Manocha, Jingle Chen, & Colin M. Gray
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
{cshruthi; watkin48; rmanocha; chen2287; gray42}
HCI researchers are increasingly interested in describing the
complexity of design practice, including ethical, organiza-
tional, and societal concerns. Recent studies have identified
individual practitioners as key actors in driving the design
process and culture within their respective organizations, and
we build upon these efforts to reveal practitioner concerns re-
garding ethics on their own terms. In this paper, we report on
the results of an interview study with eleven UX practitioners,
capturing their experiences that highlight dimensions of de-
sign practice that impact ethical awareness and action. Using
a bottom-up thematic analysis, we identified five dimensions
of design complexity that influence ethical outcomes and span
individual, collaborative, and methodological framing of UX
activity. Based on these findings, we propose a set of impli-
cations for the creation of ethically-centered design methods
that resonate with this complexity and inform the education of
future UX practitioners.
Author Keywords
UX practice; practice-led research; ethics; values.
CCS Concepts
Human-centered computing Empirical studies in in-
teraction design;
Empirical studies in HCI;
Social and pro-
fessional topics Codes of ethics;
In parallel with a greater popular awareness of ethical
concerns—often manifest through the lenses of privacy, secu-
rity, or sustainability [9,10]—there is also increasing interest
in the role of ethics in HCI, UX, and design disciplines by
researchers [27, 45] and practitioners [5, 39]. While there
have been substantial efforts to identify, codify, and institution-
alize ethical standards and practices, both through methods
and methodologies (e.g., [17, 45]) and formal codes of ethics
(e.g., [6, 16,21]), there are still clear gaps in ethical guidance,
particularly with regard to emerging technologies [19].
In framing this paper, we do not wish to gloss over or diminish
the important work that has already been done to describe
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the nature and importance of designer responsibility [29, 51],
the landscape of values that we may wish to consider from a
design perspective [18], the ways in which values and ethical
concerns are inscribed into our work [53,54], and the impact of
the growing awareness of ethical concern on HCI and UX edu-
cation [55] and practice [15,26]. However, we do wish to build
upon work that describes ethical concern in highly situated,
contingent, and designer-centric ways (e.g., [43, 44, 46, 48]).
In particular, we seek to build upon previous conceptions of
design complexity [49] and ethical design complexity [26],
contributing not only a descriptive account of UX practice, but
also building connections among methods and tools, organiza-
tional and individual practices, and the ethically-central role
of the designer that adds ecological context to prior work on
UX practice.
While the majority of previous work in this practice-led fram-
ing [34] is described through a single or multiple case study
methods, often with an explicit a priori ethical framework,
our goal for this paper is to present participants’ felt design
complexities and value tensions through dimensions of their
UX practice. Our intention is to describe these dimensions to
inform future frameworks of ethics that can strengthen design
preparation and practice. We seek in this paper to describe di-
mensions of UX practice that shape ethical awareness through
engagement with a broader range of UX practitioners repre-
senting multiple types of educational preparation, industry
experience, and work contexts. Through a bottom-up thematic
analysis of eleven practitioners, we describe five dimensions of
design complexity that these practitioners have encountered in
their work that shape their ethical awareness and action. These
dimensions span individual, organizational, and methodolog-
ical positionings of design activity, including: attempts to
position UX within organizational strategy; engage in conflict
resolution and balancing when engaging in wicked problems;
prioritizing appropriate design approaches and methods; con-
tinuously learning about design and ethical practices; and
identifying utopian or dystopian futures as edge cases. These
findings facilitate further consideration of the role of designer
responsibility in acting ethically, and how this role might be
more fully supported through enhanced design methods and
educational practices.
The contribution of this paper is two-fold: First, we provide a
range of practitioner experiences in relation to ethical aware-
ness across multiple levels of stratification, further contex-
tualizing experiences captured in existing case studies and
providing a broader set of factors that may impact or motivate
future research on ethics in a practice-led framing. Second, we
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provide an enhanced description of the ethical design complex-
ity these practitioners have experienced through a proposed
set of five dimensions, marking out a space to further develop
and define new ethical perspectives, methods, and educational
approaches in HCI and design research.
Ethics and Values in Practice
Substantial work has been done in the past decade to describe
the role of ethics and values in HCI and design practice. These
strands of practice-motivated or practice-led work include a
range of approaches, including a focus on methods or organi-
zational practices that enable designers to engage with ethical
concerns (e.g., [12,18,47]). Specific approaches that have been
popularized in the research literature include methods such
as value-sensitive design (VSD) [17, 35] and approaches that
designers can use to foreground ethical concerns such as value
levers [43]. Additionally, other researchers have addressed
the ethical complexity of emerging technology through lenses
such as persuasive technologies [3,37], dark patterns [5,15, 30],
and value-centered HCI and design education [25, 32, 55].
Many accounts of ethical complexity in practice contexts has
been described through rich and detailed case studies, fre-
quently in the Science Technology Studies (STS) tradition
(e.g., [44, 46,48]). However, there are few accounts of broader
ethical concern in HCI practice that build upon these cases.
Researchers have also been influential in the creation and
maintenance of professional codes of ethics, in both com-
puting and design contexts (e.g., [6, 21]. While it is unclear
how often these codes are invoked in everyday practice, these
codes do provide a documented standard and boundary object
by which and through which practitioners might define the
ability of their organization to operate in a legal and “ethical”
manner [16]. However, Buwert [6] argues that the adoption
and implementation of such professional codes in organiza-
tional settings can compromise the ability of the practitioner
to actively solve complex ethical issues in a manner sensitive
to and accounting for core human values, going beyond the
rigid rules inscribed within the code which describes what “is”
ethical or legal. Ultimately, the adherence to the guidelines
set out in this code can cause practitioners to feel an aesthetic
sensation of ethicality, while actually not attending to the full
ethical design complexity present in the design situation.
The shift from the more traditional lens of professional ethics
to pragmatist ethics, valuing both the designer’s character and
the uniqueness in complexity of each design situation, is ex-
emplified by van Wynesberghe and Robbins’ [52] concept of
“ethicist as designer.” Their proposal, echoed by other schol-
ars (e.g., [24, 33, 38]), calls for ethics to take a central place
in design activity, as a critical motivator and mediator in the
judgments of everyday practice. This pragmatist framing of
ethical concern, awareness, and action seeks to engage de-
signers in decision-making practices regarding ethics which
include the uncovering, scrutinizing, and translation of values
into design artifacts and technical content. This perspective
builds upon previous notions of design as being involved with
world-making and inscription [50,53,54] that inherently has
an ethical character with clear broader links to social respon-
sibility [1, 13,31,33]. Building upon these traditions, in this
paper we seek to describe the everyday work of UX practition-
ers as inherently ethical, but as researchers, we do not seek
to describe this ethical complexity within a specific a priori
ethical frame. This positioning and lack of a specific fram-
ing definition of ethics or values is intentional, allowing for a
range of complex practices and shaping factors to emerge that
might not be fully captured through only one ethical paradigm.
How Designers Work in Practice
We build upon previous efforts to describe the design com-
plexity inherent in HCI practice [20, 22, 51, 56]. By taking
on this practice-led approach, we acknowledge the need for
HCI researchers to describe the interactions, experiences, and
judgments of practitioners on their own terms, rather than
primarily through the lens of academic or researcher-driven
theories [41, 49]. We seek to highlight the concerns and prac-
tices of practitioners in their everyday design practice, with
the goal of strengthening existing methods and approaches to
facilitate ethical engagement of designers, and identifying new
opportunities to build on designers’ capabilities in relation to
their tools, methods, and local knowledge [28, 49, 51]. We
build upon previous work on how design knowledge is created,
disseminated, and used—in particular the concept of a flow
of competence in UX design practice [28]. This framing of
design knowledge and competence foregrounds the ways in
which the espoused values of an individual and organization
they work within can differ greatly from the values that are
activated in the design process, emerging as an interplay of
individual, organization(s), and situated design context(s).
In framing our work as a form of practice-led research, we also
rely on ethical dimensions of knowledge sharing, including
the notion of ethical design complexity and the mediation of
this complexity through individuals, organization and applied
ethics [26]. By ethical design complexity, we refer to Gray
et al.’s [26] description of “the complex and choreographed
arrangements of ethical considerations that are continuously
mediated by the designer through the lens of their organization,
individual practices, and ethical frameworks. This description
of designers as inherently being engaged in ethical work that
is complexly and continuously mediated resonates both with
a philosophical account of design activity from Verbeek [53,
54], as well as previous descriptions of designers’ interaction
with examples of dark patterns on Twitter [15]. Building on
these research examples, we do not assume that notions of
empathy or user control are always oriented or manipulated
in ethical ways. While UX designers perhaps support human
needs in more direct ways than other disciplines, we have
identified the need to describe how practitioners engage with
different dimensions of design complexity that have an ethical
character across a range of organizational contexts.
Designer Responsibility
To draw together the previous two subsections of related work,
we use the notion of design character from Nelson and Stolter-
man [38] to emphasize the core commitments and philosophy
of a designer, and the ways in which these commitments guide
their design action. This focus on the designer herself is a
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shift from codified modes of ethical reasoning, identifying
instead the highly personal and situated ethical concerns that
impact a designer’s process. Two additional layers of design
complexity activate a designer’s character: 1) the designer’s
responsibility towards the design futures that their work cre-
ates (i.e., “designer as guarantor”; [24, 38]); and 2) the tacit
and explicit inscription of values into the artifacts that the
designer produces [53, 54]. The intersection of these two
layers of design complexity helps to describe the designer’s
responsibility—linking the beliefs of an individual designer
towards the impacts of the outcomes in their practice and the
actual outcomes of their design activity.
Prior research has primarily addressed the study of social
responsibilities of developing designers through specific ex-
amples of artifacts they create, such as design concepts in
classroom settings (e.g., [7, 23,55]) or design protocols (e.g.,
[11, 36]. In addition to these ethics-focused studies, HCI
scholars such as Dombrowski [14] and S. Bardzell [2] have
identified an agenda for incorporating principles from social
justice and feminist theory into the work of researchers and
practitioners. All of these perspectives, taken together, demon-
strate the need to further describe the ethical awareness of UX
practitioners, including how they surface and address their
ethical responsibilities in design practice, informed by value
awareness and a sense of designer responsibility.
We conducted an interview study, collecting data through semi-
structured interviews with UX practitioners using a maximum
variation sampling approach [40]. To build this maximum
level of variation, we sought to identify practitioners that repre-
sented a range of industry types, years of experience, differing
educational backgrounds and degree levels, current role(s) in
their organization, and related experiences as a professional
practitioner. We focused on practitioners in North America,
and recognize this as an important limitation of our work.
We recruited and interviewed eleven participants satisfying
these criteria, and analyzed the resulting data to describe the
dimensions of UX practice that had ethical implications “on
the ground” through the experiences shared. In this paper, we
seek to answer the following research questions:
What dimensions of ethical design complexity are discussed
by the UX practitioners?
How do practitioners acknowledge and address this com-
plexity in their everyday practice?
We interviewed eleven UX practitioners who were recruited
via a snowball sampling strategy through our professional
networks, social media, and members from design teams we
had engaged for previous research studies. Table 1 details
the demographic characteristics of the eleven participants.
The participants were selected to form a varied sample in
terms of gender identity, industry type, locations, role in the
company, educational background, and professional experi-
ence. We used pseudonyms for the participants to ensure the
confidentiality of their identities and the organizations that
they represent. While we were not able to recruit partici-
pants for all industry types, our stratified sample includes:
Agency/Consultancy, Enterprise (B2B), and Retail (B2C) or-
ganizations. Similarly, we were able to capture intentionally
differing UX practitioner roles, including design managers,
product managers, UX researchers, and UX designers. The
resulting interview sample included participants with industry
experience ranging from 2 to 21 years, and the participants
held a combination of Bachelors degrees (n=2), Masters de-
grees (n=7), and Doctoral degrees (n=2).
Data Collection
We conducted a 60–90 minute semi-structured interview with
each participant through Skype, a phone call, or in-person.
The focus of the interviews was to capture a relatively broad
portrait of their experience in industry, with the researcher
actively shaping the conversation to expand upon the role that
ethics and values played in their daily design practice on the
participants’ own terms. Each participant consented to the
interview, and the study was approved by our institutional
review board.
We followed a critical interview approach [8] to construct
the interview protocol, focusing on the asking “why” ques-
tions, rather than direct questions that pre-categorized each
interviewee’s practices. In particular, we provided the par-
ticipants with no a priori framing or definition of ethics and
values, allowing each participant to define for themselves what
these terms meant in relation to their practice. The protocol
contained questions seeking to identify their everyday work
practices and lived experiences, including how their design
practices had evolved over time, their industry experiences,
the constraints and the challenges they faced in their current
and previous roles, how they overcome/overcame these is-
sues, and their opinions regarding design practice in industry.
Examples of lead-off questions that prompted these ethical
issues included: ‘Can you describe an experience when the
decisions made by a stakeholder made you feel uncomfort-
able?’ and ‘What do you think is your social responsibility
as a designer?’All of these questions were asked and probed
from the researcher perspective through the lens of ethics and
values, although these terms were not generally used in the
questions being asked. It was anticipated that the adoption
of this lens would offer insights regarding the practitioner’s
situated meanings of terms using examples from their own
experiences or existing products.
Data Analysis
All interview data was captured through audio recordings,
with the consent of the participants. Each recording was later
transcribed using an online automated transcription tool. Low-
inference notes were taken during the interview to combine
with the transcripts for researcher reference during the anal-
ysis process. The first round of engagement with the data
included cleaning the transcript, which required attentively
cross-checking the audio and transcription to identify and cor-
rect any words, as well as speakers, paragraph breaks and any
instances that were inaudible or incorrectly transcribed by the
transcription tool.
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(Years of Exp.) Education Industry Type Role
Reece (6) MS in Interdisciplinary ESE, PhD Agency or Consultancy Product Manager and Designer
Oliver (11) MS in Interaction Design Agency or Consultancy Design Manager
Lucy (9) BS in Computational Media Enterprise (B2B) Designer
Amy (13) PhD in Ed. Psych. and Stats Enterprise (B2B) Researcher
Jason (6) MFA in Computer Graphics Design Enterprise (B2B) Designer
Sharma (21) BCA in UX and IOT Enterprise (B2B) Designer
Andy (13) M.Des in Industrial Design Enterprise (B2B) Design Manager
Daniel (5) MS in HCI and UX Agency or Consultancy Designer
Keera (2) B.Des in UX Design Enterprise (B2B2C) Designer
Ruth (11) MS in Human Factors Enterprise (B2B2C) Product Manager
Cathy (12) BFA in Comm. Design Retail (B2C) Designer
Table 1. Participant demographics. (B2B = Business-to-Business; B2C=Business-to-Consumer)
The second round of engaging with the data included the
formation of preliminary codes [42]. As a research team,
we went through multiple rounds of coding and preliminary
theme formation to describe common patterns across multi-
ple participant interview transcripts. We used a bottom-up
thematic analysis [4] approach to answer our open ended re-
search questions, coding the data in two rounds. The team of
researchers included four students who had academic training
in qualitative research, led by a PI with expertise in critical
qualitative research. The student researchers were sensitized
to the process of thematic coding and analysis through as-
signments from previous related research projects, including a
previous study that had partial overlap with this dataset.
Initially, three researchers individually coded two different
cases of interviews with a range in relation to industry type
or participant expertise. These cases allowed us to identify a
wide range of potential codes, which were then synthesized
across researchers to describe candidate themes [42]. The
major themes that emerged in our conversation, and from the
data, related to the participant’s responsibilities in their organi-
zation, the design process they followed, various dimensions
of their experiences with stakeholders, their personal design
philosophies, and thought experiments about various design ar-
tifacts and their impacts on the society. We have not based our
themes on any existing ethical frameworks, but have instead
represented our themes through quotes grounded in the lived
experiences of the design practitioners. Our final codebook of
these themes are presented in Table 2.
In second round of coding, we applied these emergent themes
to all interview transcripts. This was carried out by four re-
searchers, then exchanged with another researcher for member-
checking and confirming the application of the themes. The
peer debriefing and multiple discussions throughout this pro-
cess ensured rigor and consistency in our coding. The results
from this process of thematic coding are presented in the fol-
lowing section.
In order to convey the ways in which practitioners acknowl-
edge and address the different aspects of ethical design com-
plexity they encountered in their everyday practice, we will dis-
cuss each of the five dimensions that shape this ethical aware-
ness that we have identified through our analysis. Through
these five dimensions, practitioners touched upon various as-
pects of design practice—individual, organization and applied
ethics [26]—to illustrate their experiences regarding engage-
ment with ethics. Due to the interpretive nature of our analysis
approach, some quotes were coded under multiple dimensions,
but we have sought to describe each dimension as a coherent
set of data. All quotes are linked to pseudonyms from Table 1.
Positionality of UX in the Enterprise
One of the most common aspects of ethical design complexity
shared by our participants addresses the perceived and actual
roles that UX plays in the development of strategy and in sup-
port of decision making. Through this theme, “Positionality
of UX in the Enterprise,” we present practitioners’ reflections
of current and/or previous UX roles within their organization
and the impact of this positionality on ethical decision mak-
ing, in addition to aspirations of what that role might be in an
idealized setting.
In reflecting upon the responsibilities and perceived level of
value placed on the contribution of UX towards strategy in
their current and previous organizations, practitioners dis-
cussed misalignment in their own aspirations for what their
team should do or should have done in practice, with the
actuality of practice based upon alternate aspirations of the
organization in question. One such reason for these discon-
nects between UX aspirations within an organization and what
everyday practice actually consisted of includes ethical vio-
lations and concerns in design practice. These violations or
concerns usually occurred due to the hierarchy of disciplines
within such organizations (i.e., what each discipline was al-
lowed to control), the organizing metaphor of each company
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Dimension Description
Positionality of UX in
the Enterprise
Description of the role that UX plays in organizational strategy, or aspirations of what that role
should or might be.
Conflicts and Balanc-
ing in Decision Making
Identification of entities that prevent an individual or organization from making the design decisions
they believe to be correct, including instances of negotiation of perceived difference among multiple
stakeholders, artifacts, or actors.
Identified Design Activ-
ities/Practices Prioritization or identification of design process(es) based on beliefs regarding design activity.
Self and Stakeholder
Attitudes or activities that encourage personal or stakeholder growth in relation to UX, design, or
ethical practices.
Futuring Identifying potential future scenarios, outcomes, or thought experiments.
Table 2. Emergent Themes coded in the data
(e.g., agency, embedded design teams), and the prioritization
given to other activities and areas of function as a result.
In the case of Andy, design was viewed within their organi-
zation as lower in hierarchical importance in comparison to
disciplines such as engineering: “The unfortunate reality is
that in terms of for decision making hierarchy, design is still
at the end, if not at the bottom of the ladder. Due to this
positioning of UX in the hierarchy of decision making, Andy
explained how this impacted and restricted their focus on the
users’ needs in the design process. Andy briefly speculated
that his role might be quite different in a company where
design was placed at the top of the organization hierarchy,
identifying that there might be relative differences in his UX
practice as a result. He referred to such speculative companies
as “design driven organizations—like let’s say, if you want to
call it Airbnb, a great design driven organization, but expe-
rience driven organization where design, Apple for example,
is a design driven organization. They focus on the users. A
lot of their products are focused on the experience.After a
brief period of hopeful hypothesizing as to the culture within
such organizations, Andy engaged with their present reality
with regard to the culture dictating their organizational UX
setting: “[in] this [company], business and engineering are
much more stronger functions than design. So design has to
compromise. Most of the time in organizations with business
and engineering functions dictate what gets built and how it
gets built.
While not alluding to organizational factors in same way, Lucy
also lamented the UX compromises she made in a previous
role: “I think the bad thing [. . . ] and what also frustrated me
about working at an agency was you didn’t have full control
of your design.However, after transitioning to her existing
design position within an enterprise setting, Lucy spoke with
fondness at the absence of such issues in this current role:
“I think what’s good here is what I was also looking for in
my next position, which I found here was, um, you had more
control.In keeping with the results of differing levels of UX
control in the final decisions made in a project, Jason alluded
to the possible inadequacies of solutions which came about
as a result of UX compromise: “If you are in an environment
that allows [. . . ] that you bring your expertise and they value
that, so then they do, we keep the best recommendation for
that situation, right?”
Constraints and issues of control were observed to be a nat-
ural aspect of UX practice in all corporate settings occupied
by our participants. Though a solution might be ideal and
suitable from a UX perspective given the constraints these de-
signers identified, other organizational areas may deem such
a solution technically infeasible, or financially impractical
in comparison to alternative solutions and the costs of other
projects. As put by Andy: “How do you position UX, how do
you influence decisions at the higher level because business
organization will have their own goals, engineering will have
their own goals and sometimes what we propose as an ideal
user experience may not be a in line or in agreement with what
business schools or engineering goals are. So we may propose
something which the engineering team does not have the band-
width to build in the project.Andy then took this lamenting
of the continual compromises made by UX to discuss their
own role in mitigating the level to which they did indeed end
up compromising with the generated design solutions which
are not in best interest of user values and support shareholder
values more in such situations: “So how do we, how do we
then negotiate and basically come to a place where we do the
best for the user, while also considering what are the practical
constraints from engineering or business sides? So striking
that balance becomes more critical and that’s where probably
my role as a manager becomes even more important.
Finally, Reece reflected on the responsibilities in his own role
as Product Manager & Designer: “I am being held account-
able to the way the interface stacks up to a budget someone
might have, or a long term vision or goal that the company has,
perhaps pointing towards the conflicts in user-centered value
and business strategy that come with his position. Across all
three of these examples, we observe the barriers that result
when enacting one’s design philosophy due to the diffuse and
sometimes weak perceptions of UX as a discipline, organi-
zational factors that weaken the strength of human-centered
design as means of argumentation, or the inability to control
how UX guidance is taken up in the development of the final
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Conflicts and Balancing in Decision Making
‘Conflicts and balancing in decision making’ refers to entities
that a practitioner engages with in their everyday practice, on
the individual or organizational level, which create barriers
to acting upon design decisions they believe to be correct or
appropriate. The outcomes of these conflicts required prac-
titioners to negotiate perceived differences between multiple
stakeholders, artifacts, or actors in order to reach consensus
on a decision among multiple perspectives and move forward.
Multiple entities were identified throughout the interviews
as factors that provided resistance to decisions that the UX
practitioners felt to be appropriate. Practitioners frequently
described pushback from individuals and groups working both
externally to the practitioner’s organization, and within the
organization itself. First, we will describe sources of conflict,
and then we will identify instances of explicit balancing that
took place to mitigate these conflicts.
Looking for common causes of conflict and balancing in deci-
sion making in their own role and organization, Cathy identi-
fied the “performance marketing team” as continually push-
ing back against some design decisions, due to the fact that
“they see any potential decrease in sales as a crisis. In this
case, initial efforts to “push back” eventually ended in the
project progressing with the wishes of the performance mar-
keting team dominating; the practitioner now stated that they
had reached “the point where you’re like, it’s not worth my
energy anymore. Discussions regarding sources of conflict
for practitioners when working with clients external to their
own organization created similar levels of palpable frustration.
Reece described the challenge in working with some external
clientele, particularly where the disconnects in values between
the two parties are so vast: “they might hire us just to validate
their own ideas and if we come with something alternative to
their ideas then we must be wrong, and they’re going to do
what they want anyway. In a different setting, Oliver hinted
toward a distressing outcome that resulted from balancing
client needs and design realities, stating: “why the hell are
we even brainstorming? We don’t even believe in, in what’s
It would appear, however, that the client or shareholder is not
the only direct barrier to the practitioner in proceeding in a
manner that they feel is correct. With commercial pressures
within a practitioner’s own agency, who like in Lucy’s case
“are also under pressure to, um, maintain your relationship with
that client”, any potential motivation used by the practitioner
or their team to sway the client into agreeing them might be
suppressed due to “that pressure to agree with, know what
[the client] say[s].
Finally, Daniel reflected on the challenge that faced practi-
tioners in their attempts to work in an ethically-sound manner
within commercial environments, while also getting buy-in
from key stakeholders: “you can graduate and you can come
up and you can have the best moral compass. But the thing
is, is like the end goal of capitalism is more money in your
hands.Speaking from experience, Daniel built upon this
point by speaking unfavorably of “many of the times where I
felt like I had to compromise what it is that I believed in was
just so it was about budget and money and things like that,
and not the effect of this technology. Across these instances,
practitioners had to face personal and organizational conflicts
relating to value orientation, seeking to balance these conflicts
to effectively meet the needs of clients and other stakeholders.
In the process of negotiating and balancing these conflicts, a
number of participants expressed frustration—or occasionally
a sense of achievement—when engaging in disconnects in
opinion and values among project-based decision influencers.
This sense of achievement was not only present in relation
to the aim of keeping the project on the right track from the
perspectives of commercial and design success, but also with
regards to having the project progress with the best of inten-
tions for its effected parties from ethical and user-centered
standpoints. Recollections of experience varied in the extent
to which the designers felt compelled to ensure that the con-
sensus reached and acted upon in these situations aligned with
their own values, as well as the tactics used in negotiation
between the concerned parties.
The story of Cathy in particular epitomized a commonly-held
perception of distrust or disregard towards their team’s per-
spectives that they thought was likely to be held by members
in more commercially-focused roles: “I’m not trying to lead
sales. I think sometimes they think, well they just want some-
thing new and they think that we’re not really considering
the end goal for them. Whereas I would never set out to try
to lose a sale. Seemingly preferable methods to mitigating
these issues were often built upon a premise of reducing the
amount of domain-laden language in the conversation, with
actors seeking to minimize the psychological barriers among
stakeholders and actors, instead trying to instill a team-based
mindset throughout discussions. This minimization was cer-
tainly the case for Cathy: "You have to kind of be like, we’re
all on the same team. And I think encouraging that and being
like, everyone, we’re all here for the same end goal. I think
just keeping that in mind for them has been helpful." In some
roles, designers held a degree of responsibility to execute upon
company strategy, which brought additional ethical awareness
and concern. For instance, in Reece’s case, designers viewed
their position as not solely advocating for the user, but also
actively balancing user values with business goals: “I think
my role as strategist affects my role as designer because as
I’m designing, I’m not only optimizing some graphical inter-
face, but I’m considering that interface and how it might affect
business goals. The nature of the designer’s position in this
type of organizational context necessitated creating designed
outcomes that did not solely benefit one stakeholder over the
other, or at least attempted to balance user and shareholder
needs equally.
Identified Design Activities/Practices
‘Identified design activities and practices’ addresses the identi-
fication and/or prioritization of particular design methods and
processes that a practitioner considered to be valuable in every-
day practice that led to more ethically sound solutions, based
upon their own philosophy regarding design activity. While
no two design processes—whether on the team, individual,
or project level—can be truly identical, clear commonalities
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in preferred and valued design activities based on personal
beliefs and experience were mentioned by the practitioners.
The perceived importance and prioritization of various activi-
ties in everyday design practices appeared to be shaped and
mediated by one’s own design philosophy, consistent with
prior literature [26, 49, 51].
A wide spectrum of prioritized design activities and processes
were raised for discussion throughout the interviews, with
similarity and diversity across the eleven cases. On the more
common end of the spectrum, the majority of practitioners
discussed the “key role” that user research plays in the design
process in their everyday practice, with Andy referring to it
as “a channel to help us make a decision”, articulating the
value of describing user needs in the decision making process.
The results of user research allowed practitioners to overlook
their “designer’s assumptions,and instead trust in the value
of the data at hand, potentially developing new perspectives
toward end users or contexts of use. Usability testing held a
similar degree of heightened value in the practitioners’ design
processes, with Jason declaring: “The reason we test and test
and test continuously is just to assure that whatever we are
proposing it is easy for the user. Reliance on both of these
methods revealed a sense of trust in user research as bringing
about more ethical outcomes, with an unstated assumption
that if research was conducted and acted upon, it would result
in a more desirable end product.
Perhaps the most striking differences in selection of design
practices was regarding the utilization of what labeled by
Oliver as more “scientific” methods. On one side of the
spectrum, a number of practitioners including Amy viewed
themselves as advocates for “data driven design”, preferring
to make decisions firmly grounded in what they deemed “solid”
data. In contrast, others like Oliver were of the belief that
design should be more than a scientific process: “Anybody
who says they apply the scientific method to design is an idiot;
really misinformed.. While such opinions represent extreme
ends of the spectrum in regard to the scientistic nature of
design practice, practitioners holding similar opinions gave
additional support to their reasoning for adopting such a per-
spective. For instance, Reece stated “process is so much more
than product”, before going on to explain the importance of
a mindful approach, declaring “when we cannot understand
how we arrived at a conclusion, then that becomes really
dangerous.Ultimately, guiding metaphors of design process
tended to abstract beyond the subjective approach of individual
practitioners, and these abstractions appeared to concomitantly
shape ethical outcomes. For instance, if a practitioner viewed
their work as “scientific” or “data-driven,” the resulting design
decisions may be much more easily ethically distanced from
the practitioner than if the motivation was a strong sense of
advocacy for the end user.
Self and Stakeholder Education
‘Self and stakeholder education’ refers to the identification
of attitudes or activities that are considered valuable by the
practitioner with regards to personal growth as a UX practi-
tioner. These learning practices were positioned in relation
to UX, design, or ethical practices, both for the practitioner
themselves and for other stakeholders. Day-to-day tactics for
the negotiation of organizational differences discussed were
predominantly based upon solving project and case specific
issues. However, some participants discussed what they felt
to be worthwhile activities in prompting a longer-term edu-
cation and growth towards the adoption of an increasingly
user-centered and ethically-mindful perspective, notably for
the more commercially-focused stakeholders within organi-
zation/s they had previously/currently worked within, and in
some cases, the practitioners themselves.
Practitioners differed slightly regarding their critique of or-
ganizational support for education, particularly with respect
to their perceived prioritization of profits leading to a lack of
ethical consideration towards their users. “I’m starting to feel
like it’s not the responsibility of us anymore because I think
all of us are already thinking from that perspective”, spoke
Cathy of her own organizational situation, before continuing
by highlighting the need for “more education for business
owners and people in other parts of businesses to be a respon-
sible business owner. Don’t push these agendas. You think
making more money quickly is the most important part of your
The necessity for stakeholders—and organizations in general—
to take a greater initiative in instilling a more ethically-sound
perspective and subsequent strategy was echoed by other par-
ticipants. Ruth described her holistic approach to engaging
both herself and her organization in an ethical conversation:
“It’s not just a designer process or designer influence at this
point of time, but it’s a cultural shift that has to happen in
the organization on how they treat ethics. This example fit
with the trend among interviewed practitioners that the de-
signers in their organization were doing what they could to
inspire a transition in company culture towards ethics, but that
greater interest and action would be required further up the
organizational hierarchy for lasting effects to take place.
Although conversation regarding methods used to bring about
this longer term organizational change was not common
among participants, Cathy spoke of working hard to increase
inclusivity among a male-dominated apparel company. She
mentioned a specific example that spoke to her intentions and
actions in bringing about organizational change: “I’m really
trying to push the [. . . ] let’s be more welcoming to everyone
and that will help sell more of our stuff [...] make your users
feel accepted, not just give your users a nice experience like
actually make them feel like they belong in your realm.. While
the extent of the success of influence remains unknown in this
case, the designer’s understanding of how they might medi-
ate their ethical intentions primarily in relation to underlying
rewards of commercial success are clear.
The majority of practitioners felt that the real responsibility for
further ethical education lay with their manager, while many
felt that they as UX practitioners already had enough ethical
knowledge to make informed decisions. However, Oliver who
works in a strategy and management role heavily criticized “a
lot of the design programs that are out there [. . .] that are
behind the General Assemblies like that of those are flash in
the pans. Those are all commoditized design. He used this
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criticism to partially redirect the blame for a reduced uptake of
ethical mediation in organization decision-making towards de-
sign programs that lacked the “deep philosophical theoretical
frameworks” that more traditional programs had oriented their
educational curriculum towards. Building upon this point, the
same individual advised that design practitioners—and possi-
bly those in management positions above them—“can read
the same damn books for the next hundred years and because
none of that stuff changes. And that’s, that’s, that’s the stuff
that I think is going to be really important. This dimension of
design complexity identifies the felt need of practitioners for
continuous learning, both to increase ethical awareness and
to improve their own and organizational sensitivity towards
user-centered approaches. The practitioners we interviewed
indirectly hinted towards the impact of self-education about
value-centeredness in design and how being well-informed
about ethics might further develop a designer’s sense of re-
sponsibility towards current and future effects of technology.
‘Futuring’ refers to practitioners’ identification of potential
future scenarios, outcomes, or thought experiments, whether
on an individual, organizational, or global scale. Reflecting
upon the discussions regarding ethical complexities within
their own practice throughout the interviews, a number of
practitioners took the opportunity to divulge their opinions on
what they felt—or at least wished—the future may hold within
their own organizations and everyday practice, in addition to
the technological environment they were already immersed in
within their personal and professional lives.
Ruth spoke with concern at not only the responsibility of her
own organization to practice in an ethically-sound manner, but
also the possibility of a client using a product purposefully
built for them to act in a misguided way: “We have this end
user product that we can provide to our customer who is very
wrong and they can build a chat experience using that tool,
right? So you can use and build a web form which, without the
user’s content, lets them get information and track information
and use that against the user [. . . ] There’s no control over
what the business does after we sell it to them. Looking at the
bigger picture of the worldwide digital landscape, there was
commonly shared discomfort as to the possible intentions of
larger corporations, with products more far reaching and preva-
lent in everyday life than those of the average organization.
Andy described this concern as a potential trend towards abuse
as the power of data increased: “I think all the organizations,
the Googles and Facebooks and Netflix and Uber, all these
big companies are building that data so that they’re saying
they want to serve you better content, more relevant content,
but there’s a big risk that they may abuse that information
and knowledge graph that they have built around each user to
promote their business goals over over the user’s goals. Lucy
added to this concern for the future of technology from an ex-
plicitly ethics-focused perspective, raising the potential issues
that may come with interacting with increasing levels of artifi-
cial intelligence (AI): “With more emerging technology like AI
or your own networks and more automation, it’s hard to judge
if you should trust the decisions of an automated process or an
AI or something. It’s hard to judge.. However, Lucy placed
her focus on the humans who ultimately drive the nature of
these interactions between automated technology and its users,
imploring designers of such systems to be more transparent,
for instance: “to show the results of automation or if this is the
results of like human decision. As a designer there are a lot of
subtle small use tricks you can do to distinguish if it’s machine
generated or not. While many examples focused on organi-
zational and societal levels of interaction, Oliver highlighted
the importance of ‘self-reflection’ of an individual involved in
the process of building a design, which we see as a core and
novel dimension for ethical practice through expansion of the
notion of ‘ethical imagination’ [36, 50]. This self-reflection
aims at a deeper understanding of the potential future impacts
of these technological decisions, rather than focusing only on
addressing user and shareholder goals in an immediate sense,
contrasting typical ethical frameworks which typically look
backwards and reflect solely on already existing designs [1].
Through our analysis of UX practitioners’ engagement with
the complexity of design practice, we have identified five
dimensions of design practice that shape, indicate and ex-
pose ethical awareness. These dimensions are summarized
in Table 3, alongside the aspects of ethical awareness and
action that might be impacted. These dimensions enrich our
knowledge of ethical design complexity, identifying relevant
stakeholders, sources of knowledge, and notions of designer
responsibility that may positively or negatively impact ethical
decision-making. In this section, we will first describe how the
five dimensions enrich notions of designer responsibility, in-
dicating opportunities for engagement in ethical awareness in
everyday practice. Second, we identify how these dimensions
might be meaningfully distributed in organizations through
“flows” of competence [28]. Third, we will identify how the
fluid nature of ethical awareness points towards the need to
develop one’s own ethically-centered design character, with
implications for HCI research, practice, and education.
Designer Responsibility
Designer responsibility is a synthetic concept that builds upon
the derived five dimensions. In building towards this synthe-
sis, we position designer responsibility as encompassing the
individual beliefs held in regards to their own role as a design
practitioner, and the degree and nature of their responsibility
towards potential outcomes in practice. When discussing their
own responsibilities as designers, both in the situated sense
of their organization, and in a philosophical view of the role
in general, practitioners alluded to phenomena relating to the
five dimensions identified in this paper. In this way, the notion
of design responsibility served as a connective theme that pro-
vided an ethical foundation and inward-focused directionality
in relation to the dimensions. Practitioners explicitly discussed
both ethically-nuanced responsibilities and duties enforced by
their role in the organization, with the aspects relating to ethi-
cal awareness and action being presented as commitments they
took seriously in their everyday duty to adhere to, as opposed
to the notion of them simply existing.
Practitioners appeared to occupy a range of ethical positions
with regard to designer responsibility, which we can only
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Dimension Aspects of Ethical Awareness
Positionality of UX in
the Enterprise
A designer’s interactions were oriented towards advocating for users as an outcome of their ethical
commitments. This ethical character of UX practices within the enterprise included a valuation of
certain stakeholders (e.g., users) more than others, which is often at odds with the actual power or
position of UX designers with respect to other disciplines.
Conflicts and
Balancing in
Decision Making
Ethical trade-offs were represented through a stated conflict between business goals and a designer’s
goal to provide the best user experience. In this process, designers engaged in ethically-nuanced
ways, as they sought to balance business goals and user goals in ways that were resonant with the
designer’s character. Ethical argumentation was important for a designer to identify ways to support
the end user as well as maintain a positive relationship with other stakeholders.
Identified Design
Ethically-focused design methods were selected and prioritized as a means by which designers
could facilitate a more user-centered approach to design practice. In this process, certain methods
and activities (e.g., user research) were positioned as being more capable of increasing awareness
of ethical concerns than others.
Self and
Stakeholder Education
Lifelong learning was positioned as a means by which designers could build their ethical character
over time. Designers felt that educating oneself and stakeholders about ethical complexities and
potential repercussions of the design outcomes should be a continuous process, and one that was a
shared responsibility.
Designers engage in identification of ethical responsibility by looking forward to the potential im-
pacts that the designed outcomes might have on society. By engaging in future-oriented speculation
and conversation, designers identified opportunities to perform an ethically-sound design practice
that valued future societal impact, rather than only immediate commercial gain.
Table 3. Summary of Ethical Awareness Aspects for every Design Dimension
briefly summarize here as a potential continuum of ethical
engagement. Ruth alluded to the responsibility of designers
in finding “alternatives to dark designs,advocating for “al-
most like a whistle blowing approach for designers.Oliver,
however, spoke indirectly with a sense of resentment as to this
perspective of designer’s bearing the brunt for a product to be
built in a ethically-sound manner, stating: “There’s an attitude
in design that we are the holders of morality within, like just in
the world, which I think is complete bullshit. There’s nothing
about a designer that makes you any more like moral than
other people that you work with: product managers, sales
people, marketing. In terms of responsibility to ensure ethical
outcomes in the project process, the sentiment across partic-
ipants was that though designers create the experience and
have intentions about how the product is to be used, it is not
solely up to the designer to ensure that the final product is
ethically-mindful, but rather a shared responsibility across
organizational functions.
Regardless of these tensions, practitioners felt it was their
duty to provide the best experience possible to users. Cathy
described one scenario: “I want them to leave our site whether
they’ve spent money or not. Feeling like that was a nice
experience and I’ll be back. Ruth, amongst others, referenced
her commitment to educating others to bring about a change in
organizational culture which not only educates stakeholders in
seeing the benefit of operating in a user-centered and ethically-
sound manner, but also in fellow practitioners as to how to go
about communicating the need for this to stakeholders in their
own organizations in a suitable manner. She emphasized that
this collective effort may lead to product owners “ listen[ing]
to you when you talk about how not to do dark design.
Value relationships, particularly in relation to the end user’s
interests, were often the cause of internal tension for practition-
ers. This tension formed in relation to the human-centeredness
of their design philosophy and their responsibility to support
the organization from a strategic and economic perspective.
For instance, Reece referred to the fact that his organization’s
targets for his work were less along the lines of “how do we
optimize the protection of our users”, and “more like, how
do we save our butts and not get sued. Daniel referenced
the potential for conscious and subconscious influence by the
designer upon a product’s users, stating: “when you design
something, you’re making decisions about how people interact
with the external [. . . ] all—you know—design is political for
sure.Building upon this, Daniel acknowledged his sense
of accountability in going beyond building a product that is
simply pleasant or usable, but also to consider his own influ-
ence on pushing any bias on to the user saying: “I want to
make as few decisions for them as possible. So I don’t want to
get into the paternalistic divide. This is not to say, however,
that the values enforced by an organization towards their UX
practitioners necessarily reflect or influence the underlying
character and commitment of the individual. Through these
insights and our prior research (e.g., [26, 27]), we do not as-
sume that UX designers are always ethical due to their values
or organizational tensions, but do wish to position that their
responsibility towards designed outcomes should be ethical.
Flows of Ethical Competence
Across the five dimensions of ethical awareness we identified,
all practitioners described situational factors within their cur-
rent and/or previous organizations, or when working with ex-
ternal clients, which they felt had suppressed or enabled their
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ability to act ethically in practice. Building upon the work of
Gray, Toombs, and Gross [28] that has previously described
the ways in which competence flows between organizations
and individuals, we are able to describe the ethical character
of this “flow.” In particular, we have noted the degree to which
an individual’s espoused values were forcibly compromised in
practice to more closely align to the values of the organization
or shareholder, or were influenced by each individual’s role
within an organization and the nature of the organization itself.
Those in a management or product strategy role within agency
or consultancy firms, for example, appear to have greater au-
thority in motivating or “forcing” what they believe to be the
right decision in adherence to their own values (while consider-
ing the evident business tradeoffs), whereas those in designer
and research roles spoke to more limited degrees of success in
advocating for design decisions that were resonant with their
values, educating from within. Across our participants’ expe-
riences, there appeared to be an aspirational state regarding
what their organization might do better to avoid such tensions
in their own espoused vs. in-use values in practice. Using
the concept of “ethical flow,” we are able to better describe
how ethical mediation [26] might occur and shift over time,
and how the dimensions we identified might play a shaping
role in these interactions. We contend that the ethical charac-
ter of these flows demands further investigation—particularly
in rapidly changing industry roles (e.g., UX, product man-
agement, full stack development)—and studies that describe
organizational and interpersonal interactions through the lan-
guage of flows may further identify areas where methods are
needed to support awareness of ethical concern and means of
acting upon that concern.
Performing an Ethical Design Character
Through the cases we have presented, it is clear that the nexus
of ethical complexity originates and is continually shaped by
the ethical character of the design practitioner. This ethical
character mediates a complex array of information and struc-
tures, including lived experience, professional knowledge, user
research findings, organizational realities, and technological
limitations. All of these sources of information must be ac-
knowledged and resolved as situated trade-offs in practice,
drawing on the ethical features of where the knowledge orig-
inated, its near term implications for the design team or end
users, and the potential long-term societal consequences. In
contrast to this situational ethical design complexity, existing
professional codes of ethics are rigid and decontextualized [6],
neglecting the connective professional design judgments [38]
that are necessary to link design decisions with appropriate
consequences, first principles, or personal aspirations. In this
regard, while codes of ethics can be useful as a starting point
for ethical conversation, they too are mediated as but one
source of design knowledge that must be evaluated through
the lens of a practitioner’s ethical design character.
The practitioners that we interviewed also expressed a desire
to influence their organizational culture from within, through
continual education of stakeholders on various levels of com-
pany hierarchy. This reveals the need to attend to not only
the explicit commitments and philosophy of a design prac-
titioner, but also the imperative to educate or interact with
other organizational stakeholders, facilitating both their aware-
ness of ethical concerns and the ways in which they might
productively and explicitly integrate values into their practice.
Our findings regarding the integral role of ethical dimensions
in design decision-making suggest multiple areas for future
work, as well as implications for ethically-focused methods
and HCI education. First, while existing value-centered meth-
ods supported by individuals from industry and research aid
in ethical awareness in design practice, our work provides
implications for further work to be carried out in developing
new bottom-up methods that allow for more organic inter-
actions with practitioners’ ethical design complexity. These
methods may build upon existing approaches, contextualized
through the design character of individual practitioners and
the organizational realities and flows that might inhibit or en-
courage ethical awareness and action. Second, the range of
responses evident in this interview study reveal a range of
organizational and design complexity that warrants further,
more detailed study. Additional case studies of ethical engage-
ment, alongside larger empirical studies of practitioners in a
range of organizational contexts, may aid HCI researchers in
identifying other characteristic barriers and opportunities in
relation to ethical engagement. Finally, our work also holds
substantial implications and opportunities for HCI and UX ed-
ucation, particularly for programs with a greater focus towards
design. While codes of ethics provide a useful starting point
for doing design work in a value-focused manner, additional
efforts should be made to teach tactics for mediating ethical
complexities in ways that mirror the complexities of organiza-
tional design practice. This additional training would enable
students to learn how to articulate what they believe to be right
to a diverse set of stakeholders, identify relevant areas of social
responsibility and perhaps legal liability, and further describe
interactions among their own felt design character and the
requirements of stakeholders who may not share their views.
Ultimately, this will require going beyond simply espousing a
code of ethics or learning about ethics in one isolated learning
experience, but in systematically constructing one’s own de-
sign character and sense of responsibility that resonates with
their larger social identity as a human-centered designer.
In this paper, we have used a practice-led approach to identify
and describe five dimensions of ethical complexity. Based on
the range of dimensions we have identified, we have been able
to reveal some of the tensions among practitioners and orga-
nizational stakeholders, and the ways in which these tensions
might reveal opportunities for new flows of ethical awareness
and competence in UX practice. This account of ethical de-
sign complexity in multiple organizational contexts points
towards a set of implications for HCI education, the creation
of practice-centered design methods, and the need for further
study of ethics from a practitioner perspective.
This work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation
under Grant Nos. 1657310 and 1909714.
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... However, insights into XR development practices regarding ethics and technological impact assessment are, to be best of our knowledge, not yet available, resulting in a lack of insights on which we could base such methodological suggestions. When turning towards recent studies in other software engineering domains, such as artificial intelligence [41], or software in the broader sense of communication technologies and user experience [15,22,42], we see issues surfacing not only regarding methods and tools but also on an organizational and societal level [50]. Consequently, incorporating tools to establish ethical practices in companies and teams based on design practices is valuable course content. ...
... Consequently, incorporating tools to establish ethical practices in companies and teams based on design practices is valuable course content. For example, such lectures could focus on strategies to reduce the increasing design complexity [15,22] of emerging technologies. ...
Conference Paper
Foreseeing the impact of augmented and virtual reality applications on users and society is challenging. Thus, efforts to establish an ethical mindset and include technology assessment techniques in HCI education are increasing. However, XR educational courses fostering students’ reasoning and perceived responsibility in designing ethical applications are lacking. We, therefore, developed the explorative design method Reality Composer to investigate and foster the students' assessment of the ethical impact of and responsibilities in XR application design. We conducted a workshop with 40 international HCI master students applying this method and analyzed the resulting application concepts regarding the students' ethical assessment. Our findings show that they critically discussed their concepts’ impact and identified potential countermeasures for negative social implications. However, they overestimated the users’ responsibility to securely use XR applications as well as a positive design intention. We contribute with our findings and developed method to understand students' potential and derive future course design implications.
... In section two, we focused on identifying how aware AI practitioners are of the concept of AI ethics and AI ethical principles (we asked the participants to rate their familiarity with the concept of 'ethics' in AI and report what ethical principles of AI they are aware of based on their experience), reasons for their awareness (we provided them with a list of reasons to become aware of AI ethics that were identified in our previous study [34] and asked them to provide any other reason(s) via open-ended option in the end), and their awareness of the role of formal education/ training (ranging from "Extremely well" to "Not at all") in preparing them to incorporate ethics during the process of developing AI-based systems. The significance of formal education in promoting the ethical implementation of AI has been discussed in the literature [7]. ...
... Role of formal education/training in preparing AI practitioners to incorporate AI ethics. The significance of educating people about ethics in AI has been discussed in the literature [7] which was one of the recommendations in our previous work (GTLR) [34]. Therefore, our next objective was to gather AI practitioners' perspectives on how effective formal education or training helps them in preparing themselves to ...
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Ethics in AI has become a debated topic of public and expert discourse in recent years. But what do people who build AI - AI practitioners - have to say about their understanding of AI ethics and the challenges associated with incorporating it in the AI-based systems they develop? Understanding AI practitioners' views on AI ethics is important as they are the ones closest to the AI systems and can bring about changes and improvements. We conducted a survey aimed at understanding AI practitioners' awareness of AI ethics and their challenges in incorporating ethics. Based on 100 AI practitioners' responses, our findings indicate that majority of AI practitioners had a reasonable familiarity with the concept of AI ethics, primarily due to workplace rules and policies. Privacy protection and security was the ethical principle that majority of them were aware of. Formal education/training was considered somewhat helpful in preparing practitioners to incorporate AI ethics. The challenges that AI practitioners faced in the development of ethical AI-based systems included (i) general challenges, (ii) technology-related challenges and (iii) human-related challenges. We also identified areas needing further investigation and provided recommendations to assist AI practitioners and companies in incorporating ethics into AI development.
... Supporting ethically-focused design practices has long been a goal in the HCI community, with various attention over the past three decades towards the development of a meaningful code of ethics [43,44,93], the identification of accreditation or programmatic requirements in technology education that address ethical responsibility [9,27,32], and an increasing body of methods, toolkits, and other resources that are intended to encourage ethically-focused or ethically-sensitive design practices [14,31,81]. Ethical dimensions of practice are known to be complex, contingent, and situated in relation to a wide range of factors, which include the ethical knowledge and judgments of individual practitioners [13,19,22,91]; the existence of standards, resources, and processes that support ethicsfocused inquiry [21,30,40,90]; and the mediation of organizational and practitioner forces to encourage action [13,15,22,50,71,79,94]. Historic work supporting ethical awareness has included the development of a range of methods to support ethically-focused action, including activities to design for privacy [82,96], acknowledge data security [78], highlight and correct gender representations in software [70], and implement value-sensitive practices [30,31], among numerous others. ...
... Across the three levels that we have identified, scholarly attention has previously focused primarily on the mediation of tools in relation to the organization and the practitioner (e.g., practitionerfocused mediation in [50,94] and methodologically-focused mediation in [28,30]). However, there have also been rare instances of practitioner interest documented in the research literature that may precede or frame a call to action [15,91,94]. Our framing of intentions as a specific and articulated interactional layer that allows technology practitioners to ask "how might I" questions that focus on ethical concerns appears to be a new means of support that could be further investigated alongside preferred language or concepts that practitioners might use to structure or motivate this type of engagement (e.g., "voicing a concern", building the ability to "articulate" an ethical stance, "activating ethics"). ...
Conference Paper
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Numerous methods and tools have been proposed to motivate or support ethical awareness in design practice. However, many existing resources are not easily discoverable by practitioners, and are often framed using language that is not accessible or resonant with everyday practice. In this paper, we present three complementary strands of work with the goal of increasing the ability of design and technology practitioners to locate and activate methods to support ethically-focused work practices. We first constructed a set of empirically-supported "intentions" to frame practitioners' selection of relevant ethics-focused methods based on interviews with practitioners from a range of technology and design professions. We then leveraged these intentions in the design and iterative evaluation of a website that supports practitioners in identifying opportunities for ethics-focused action. Building on these findings, we propose a set of design considerations to evaluate the practice resonance of resources in supporting ethics-focused practice, laying the groundwork for increased ecological resonance of ethics-focused methods and method selection tools.
... A non-exhaustive list of previous works hints towards the awareness among the users and their discussions in response to being exposed to 'manipulative malpractices' while using their everyday goto applications, both web and mobile [19,1,21,22,5,4]. Another set of recognized works portrays the disarray felt by practitioners with varying experience ranges with what their sense of responsibility holds concerning the leverages of their designs, for they are answerable to their workplace hierarchy with administration and marketing in the picture, alongside their sense of self due to personal ethical standpoints [6,11,14,8,12,3]. This conflicting opinionated outlook leaves the experience a hazy insight into what is responsible yet corporately feasible [15,16,7,17]. ...
... It concludes that despite rapid awareness, there exist gaps in the moral guidance regarding the same. It aims at providing the readers with a bird's eye view of the design complexities and tensions faced by a practitioner while converging their thought process into their UX practice [3]. Here, the authors have analyzed a seemingly popular subreddit with the tagline, "because nothing comes before profit, especially not the consumer." ...
With the rapid attention drawn towards the importance of trustable digital user experience and user interface (UI/ UX), there has been intensifying interest in the HCI academic research community towards interpreting the current ethical attitude in the commonly encountered designs of today. The prosaic research topics build upon practical advancements of concepts like value-sensitive design (VSD), practitioner perspective on ethics in practice, and the user/ audience opinion on what they see while working on their day-to-day tasks. However, one of the most prominent predicaments that the authors feel remain unconcluded is who is to be held accountable for the final ethical awareness among the mass public. Hence, to work around the blurring lines of culpability, the authors try to unravel the extent to which different people involved in the entire system are accountable for each reaction invoked throughout the journey, right from ideation to the end-user experience.
... There is an abundance of "theoretically driven approaches" attempting to increase ethical design (Chivukula et al., 2019) but results and propositions from academia seem underused in practice (Norman, 2010;Colusso et al., 2017;Shilton, 2018). Several recent studies aim to bridge this research-practice gap by taking a practice-based perspective (Chivukula et al., 2019;Chivukula et al., 2020;Lindberg et al., 2020; through involving practitioners in research and exploring their life-worlds and practices related to ethics. Still, knowledge concerning how advocates for ethical design would cultivate ethics in real-life practice is lacking. ...
... In others, they mediate with their knowledge, applying and improving the design outcome and informing other stakeholders about problematic designs. Within this ethical mediation, Chivukula et al. [25] identified different roles that designers may adopt when applying ethics: educator, learner, policy-follower, activist-advocate, member of my profession, responsible, deliberative/thoughtful and translator. Chivukula et al. [23] also noticed how design students leveraged different values according to how they interpreted the business intentions: donations for charity versus manipulative e-commerce. ...
Conference Paper
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HCI researchers are increasingly concerned about the prevalence of manipulative design strategies in user interfaces, commonly referred to as "dark patterns". The line between manipulation and persuasion strategies is often blurred, leading to legal and ethical concerns. This paper examines the tension between persuasive UX practices and manipulative designs. UX/UI design professionals (n=22), split into eight focus groups, conducted design activities on two fictitious scenarios. We qualitatively analysed their discussions regarding strategies for influencing user behaviours and their underlying reasoning. Our findings reveal a combination of classical UI design strategies like sticky interfaces and incentives as their most common practice to influence user behaviour. We also unveil that trust, transparency, and user autonomy act as guiding principles for the professionals in assessing their ideas. However, a thorough approach is missing; despite a general user-first attitude, they feel constrained by contextual factors. We explain how the tensions between principles and context contribute to manipulative designs online.
... The study collected data through open-ended interview questions with the e-procurement users. The study looked for e-procurement users with years of experience, current role(s) in their companies, and related experiences as suppliers for the government sector to create a level of heterogeneity [22]. Four participants were recruited and interviewed, and the resulting data were analyzed to identify the quality requirements of the e-procurement system, which represent the dimension of UX. ...
... In this paper, we extend the concern for studying ethics as it plays out in practice and on its own terms. In particular, we build on the work of Chivukula et al. (2020) and Shilton (2013), focusing on the material and organisational circumstances in which ethics unfolds, and the practices that spur ethical deliberation. In relation to this work, our study focuses specifically on how practicing designers understand ethics as part of their practice, the concepts they use to articulate this understanding, and how they deal with ethics at different times in their practice. ...
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While ethics has been part of design research for decades, few studies have explored how designers engage with ethics in practice. Based on interviews with 11 practitioners in design consultancies, this paper explores how ethics is understood and dealt with in commercial practice. Based on an analysis of the interviews, we present six themes that capture how practitioners articulate the concept of ethics, how they distinguish between personal and organisational ethics, and how this relates to serving clients with potentially conflicting agendas. Moreover, the study demonstrates that practitioners do not typically use methods or procedures for dealing with ethics, but rely on ongoing and sometimes ad hoc dialogue. Based on these results, we suggest promising avenues for future work relating to concepts for articulating how ethics is dealt with in the design process and how design activities give rise to different levels of ethical concerns.
Conference Paper
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HCI scholarship is increasingly concerned with the ethical impact of socio-technical systems. Current theoretically-driven approaches that engage with ethics generally prescribe only abstract approaches by which designers might consider values in the design process. However, there is little guidance on methods that promote value discovery, which might lead to more specific examples of relevant values in specific design contexts. In this paper, we elaborate a method for value discovery, identifying how values impact the de-signer's decision making. We demonstrate the use of this method, called Ethicography, in describing value discovery and use throughout the design process. We present analysis of design activity by user experience (UX) design students in two lab protocol conditions, describing specific human values that designers considered for each task, and visualizing the interplay of these values. We identify opportunities for further research, using the Ethicograph method to illustrate value discovery and translation into design solutions.
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HCI scholars have become increasingly interested in describing the complex nature of UX practice. In parallel, HCI and STS scholars have sought to describe the ethical and value-laden relationship between designers and design outcomes. However, little research describes the ethical engagement of UX practitioners as a form of design complexity, including the multiple mediating factors that impact ethical awareness and decision-making. In this paper, we use a practice-led approach to describe ethical complexity, presenting three varied cases of UX practitioners based on in situ observations and interviews. In each case, we describe salient factors relating to ethical mediation, including organizational practices, self-driven ethical principles, and unique characteristics of specific projects the practitioner is engaged in. Using the concept of mediation from activity theory, we provide a rich account of practitioners' ethical decision making. We propose future work on ethical awareness and design education based on the concept of ethical mediation.
Conference Paper
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As we rely upon increasingly complex sociotechnical systems to support ourselves and, by extension, the structures of society, it becomes yet more important to consider how ethics and values intertwine in design activity. Numerous methods that address issues related to ethics and value- centeredness in design activity exist, but it is unclear what role the design research and practice communities should play in shaping the future of these design approaches. Importantly, how might researchers and practitioners become more aware of the normative assumptions that underlie both their design activity and the design artifacts that result?
Conference Paper
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Many of the professional organisations within the various fields of design activity publish professional codes of ethics in one form or another. This paper opens up a discussion of the role which professional codes might play in relation to the ethicality of design activity. A framework for understanding the roles and functions which professional codes may play is constructed using concepts drawn from the literature on professional codes. The content of fourteen professional codes issued by design organisations is presented and examined. There does appear to be a broad consensus across the content of the codes examined. However, the matter of whether this consensus reflects a profession-wide convention is debatable. The paper concludes with a discussion presenting possible critiques of the nature and operation of professional codes within the context of design, and reflecting on some of the implications of this analysis for how we might reasonably think about the relationship between professional codes and bigger questions of the ethicality of design.
An important public discussion is underway on the values and ethics of digital technologies as designers work to prevent misinformation campaigns, online harassment, exclusionary tools, and biased algorithms. Values and Ethics in Human-Computer Interaction reviews 30 years of research on theories and methods for surfacing values and ethics in technology design. It maps the history of values research, beginning with critique of design from related disciplines and responses in human-computer interaction (HCI) research. The review then explores ongoing controversies in values-oriented design, including disagreements around terms, expressions and indicators of values and ethics, and whose values to consider. Next, it describes frameworks that attempt to move values-oriented design into everyday design settings. These frameworks suggest open challenges and opportunities for the next 30 years of values in HCI research.
Expert designers determine what problem needs to be solved by creating a frame that allows the identification of potential solutions. However, it is unclear how students learn to generate these frames effectively, particularly in relation to ethical decision‐making and selecting appropriate constraints. In this study, undergraduate and graduate industrial design students at a large Midwestern United States university participated in a one‐day workshop that focused on designing products for natives of sub‐Saharan Africa to sell in their home nations. Participants (n=100) worked in 21 teams to generate a range of constraints and problem statements while being scaffolded by instructions, research materials and worksheets. Teams struggled to identify specific use contexts and users, even though these elements were present in relatively complex form in provided research materials. Students appeared to build distance between their own experiences and that of users they were designing for, leading to little awareness of the ethical and normative commitments that were reified in their problem statements and solutions. Implications for the explicit development of an ethically aware design character in design education are considered.
An important public discussion is underway on the values and ethics of digital technologies as designers work to prevent misinformation campaigns, online harassment, exclusionary tools, and biased algorithms. This monograph reviews 30 years of research on theories and methods for surfacing values and ethics in technology design. It maps the history of values research, beginning with critique of design from related disciplines and responses in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research. The review then explores ongoing controversies in values-oriented design, including disagreements around terms, expressions and indicators of values and ethics, and whose values to consider. Next, the monograph describes frameworks that attempt to move values-oriented design into everyday design settings. These frameworks suggest open challenges and opportunities for the next 30 years of values in HCI research.