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Ethical Mediation in UX Practice

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HCI scholars have become increasingly interested in describ- ing 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 relat- ing 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 pro- pose future work on ethical awareness and design education based on the concept of ethical mediation.

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Ethical Mediation in UX Practice

  1. 1. COLIN M. GRAY
 SAI SHRUTHI CHIVUKULA PURDUE UNIVERSITY Ethical Mediation in UX Practice
  2. 2. "turn to practice" + 
 ethics of HCI & UX
  3. 3. Contributions We document cases that describe ethical decision making in UX practice, detailing 
 the interactions and positionality of the designer within each case We describe ethical decision-making through the lens of mediation, identifying how organizational, personal, and ethical frameworks impact design practices 1 2
  4. 4. We document cases that describe ethical decision making in UX practice, detailing the interactions and positionality of the designer within each case We describe ethical decision-making through the lens of mediation, identifying how organizational, personal, and ethical frameworks impact design practices 1 2 Contributions
  5. 5. Case Study Approach Documenting UX practice
  6. 6. STUDY DESIGN 03 CASE STUDY ANALYSIS Bottom-up coding of field-notes and interview transcripts 01 OBSERVATIONS Each participant was observed in their natural setting at their work spaces by two researchers. 02 FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS To clarify researcher notes from the observations and broadly document the perceptions of the participants.
  7. 7. DATA ANALYSIS Case Study Approach + Thematic Analysis Transcripts (from interviews) Digital Narratives (from fieldnotes) 1) individual practices
 2) organizational practices
 3) specific examples
  8. 8. PARTICIPANTS John (6 years exp.) James (11 years exp.) Martha (9 years exp.) Business Strategist & ID Agency & Consultancy (B2C) Design Lead/Manager Agency & Consultancy (B2C) User Experience Designer Network Enterprise (B2B)
  9. 9. PARTICIPANTS observation sessions2-3 mins of follow-up interview60-90 hours of observation7-10
  10. 10. THEMES/ CASES John (6 years exp.) Designing Within “Numbers” James (11 years exp.) Being Constantly “Aware” of Things Out There Martha (9 years exp.) Sticking to the 
 "Grids"
  11. 11. DATA COLLECTION John (6 years exp.) James (11 years exp.) Martha (9 years exp.) hours of observation10 sessions of observation3 minutes of interview90
  12. 12. Being Constantly "Aware" of Things Out There James's Case
  13. 13. JAMES' CASE 01Regularly refreshing knowledge to inform practice. BELIEVES IN 02Building others’ ethical character. TAKES RESPONSIBILITY IN 03Knowing the limits of taking advantage through your designs. STRIKES A BALANCE BY
  14. 14. JAMES' CASE 01Regularly refreshing knowledge to inform practice. BELIEVES IN James updates his store of knowledge outside of his design practice to strengthen and help him better evaluate his ethical behavior. This regular refreshing of knowledge gives him contextual information about the application of values from other contexts and products. This helps him to engage in self-reflection when involved in client projects/ discussions, helping him to form and articulate ethical judgments for critique or further develop design concepts.
  15. 15. 02Building others’ ethical character. TAKES RESPONSIBILITY IN JAMES' CASE James corrects and critiques the design thinking of his team of “young designers” to help them to evaluate their own judgments. He values the development of an ethical perspective that is personal in character, yet in resonance with the agency’s goals. He expresses his responsibility to develop practices at an organizational level to improve the applied ethics performed on his project teams.
  16. 16. 03Knowing the limits of taking advantage through your designs. STRIKES A BALANCE BY JAMES' CASE We want to push people to specific actions— we know they will like and want to use while they are in the demo—and then after they are familiar with and excited about the potential of the functionality, we introduce that the functionality is a premium." " “We can do better” without “taking something away from somebody” “ Value without “cost[ing] an arm and a leg to somebody.” "
  17. 17. Influence of situational factors Different roles taken on by the designer Designer at the center of ETHICAL MEDIATION ACROSS ALL THREE CASES, CROSS-CASE ANALYSIS
  18. 18. Ethical Mediators Individual Practices Organizational Practices Applied Ethics CB A Constrain Extend Inscribe Strengthen Shape Represent DESIGNER
  19. 19. Ethical Mediators Individual Practices Organizational Practices Applied Ethics CB A Constrain Extend Inscribe Strengthen Shape Represent DESIGNER
  20. 20. Ethical Mediators Individual Practices Organizational Practices Applied Ethics CB A Constrain Extend Inscribe Strengthen Shape Represent DESIGNER
  21. 21. Future Work
  22. 22. John (6 years exp.) Designing Within “Numbers” James (11 years exp.) Being Constantly “Aware” of Things Out There Martha (9 years exp.) Sticking to the 
 "Grids"
  23. 23. Methods to support ethical awareness and action
  24. 24. Methods to support ethical awareness and action Means of strengthening 
 designers’ roles within organizations
  25. 25. THANK YOU COLIN M. GRAY colingray.me | uxp2.com 
 gray42@purdue.edu This research was funded in part by National Science Foundation Grant No. #1657310

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