Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Designing Ethical Experiences: Social Media and the Conflicted Future

A discussion of ethical dilemmas ...

"Questions of ethics and conflict can seem far removed from the daily work of user experience (UX) designers who are trying to develop insights into people’s needs, understand their outlooks, and design with empathy for their concerns [2]. In fact, the converse is true: When conflicts between businesses and customers—or any groups of stakeholders—remain unresolved, UX practitioners frequently find themselves facing ethical dilemmas, searching for design compromises that satisfy competing camps. This dynamic is the essential pattern by which conflicts in goals and perspectives become ethical concerns for UX designers. Unchecked, it can lead to the creation of unethical experiences that are hostile to users—the very people most designers work hard to benefit—and damaging to the reputations and brand identities of the businesses responsible.

Please Restore My Privacy, Dignity, and Reputation

“Privacy and ownership of information are at the core of the social graph issues. Much like there is a conflict of interest around attention information between online retailers and users, there is a mismatch between what individuals and companies want from social networks. When any social network starts, it is hungry to leverage other networks…. But as individuals, we do not care about either young or old networks. We care about ease of use and privacy.” Alex Iskold, Read/Write Web [3]

The use of controversial membership and invitation practices by social networking site Tagged.com during the spring of 2007 exemplified the way ethical conflict affects design and highlighted how compromises in decisions that affect user experience can create unexpected ethical consequences. The brouhaha Tagged.com generated demonstrated the power of network mechanisms to serve as experience amplifiers, by affecting many interconnected people, and inspired considerable ill-will among members and non-members alike. Figure 1 shows Tagged.com.

Tagged.com is certainly not the only business venture in the crowded social networking space to experiment with questionable registration mechanisms, as the example of Quechup.com showed just a few months later. However, recounting the experiences of Tagged.com members offers good qualitative insights into ways conflicting perspectives can result in ethical challenges for UX design and [4]."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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