IA Summit: Information Architecture & Ethical Design

by Luke Wroblewski March 24, 2007

Olly Wright’s Information Architecture & Ethical Design presentation at IA Summit 2007 discussed the role of professional, user experience, and cultural ethics in the design of digital information products and services.

  • There is a race between authentic social spaces and commercial spaces. Companies run to brand and advertise where people create spaces.
  • Its possible to be dependent on people less and more on technology. This separates us from people in our neighborhoods and cities.
  • Professional ethics: sets of thought-out guidelines for how to conduct business. May be done against business rather than with business.
  • An overloaded and saturated culture ceases to have an impact on us. With technology, quantity is no long limiting so we need to focus on quality not quantity. An accelerated society leads to disposable products, environmental damage, etc.
  • We need to make “quality of life” a selling point.
  • Ethics of user experience: try to build positive experiences not frustrations.
  • Adam Greenfield’s guidelines: default to harmlessness, be self-disclosing, be conservative of face, be conservative of time, be deniable (opt out at any time)
  • These guidelines are subjective: how do we know we have all of them?
  • Paradox of Choice: choice does not make people more happy.
  • Restrict choice to small, clear, distinct options
  • Reassure users the have made the right decision, remind them of their reasons
  • Focus on behavior: how does design of what you are making influence what people do. Create design that encourages good behavior.
  • We have to understand what we can change. Its possible to look at evolutionary psychology (behavior patterns of all humanity).
  • Sex: we all have a sex drive
  • Kin selection: we all try to do nice things for people in our family
  • Desire for status: increase the ability of our DNA to make it into more of the population. Why communism does not work.
  • Altruism: desire to help people that helps build social groups.
  • Expanding circle: group of people you will be altruistic with. Rest of people will not give us payback. Do we have a moral obligation to expand this circle?
  • How do we trigger altruism (to make the circle bigger)? If we trust people, are more likely to be altruistic toward them.
  • Mathematics of trust is very well understood. Need transparency for trust to increase. Transparency implies less privacy.
  • To build trust, we need to lower levels of privacy.
  • Virtual status: less defined by material possessions and more modeled on what we say about ourselves vs. what we have.
  • Ubiquitous altruism: how to get credit for doing good. Alturism is based on networks of trust. World is made of different groups of trust. Through the Internet, social networking can expose connections between groups.
  • Enable mobile ubiquitous altruism. Surface trust via social networks Lower privacy where it builds trust, Expand the circle.