A Definitive Guide to the Design Ethics Revolution

cameron tonkinwise
Sep 1, 2018 · 4 min read
Brecht/Eisler/Hauptmann’s The Measures Taken, 1930 https://library.calvin.edu/hda/node/1463

Lots of guides to being an ethical designer are now appearing. To check how ethical those ethical guidelines are, read through the following to see if these situations are covered by those guides.

Some ethical dilemmas and rules-of-thumb for how to respond to them:

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SCENARIO: The Founders, C-Suite and/or Board of Directors you design for is majority ‘white’ men.

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Withhold labour and publish your reasons for doing so; redirect labour toward building alternatives owned and operated by other kinds of people

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SCENARIO: The leadership of your organisation is required to and/or incentivized to increase shareholder value.

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Withhold labour and publish your reasons for doing so; redirect labour toward building alternatives that are employee-owned and/or customer-owned cooperatives, and which have legal provisions defending decisions that deliver value back to employees, customers and local communities ahead of investors

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SCENARIO: The organisation you design for takes no responsibility for the end-of-life of the products it is producing, or of existing products (or versions of your organisation’s own products) that its innovations render redundant (and ‘products’ here includes digital products and the data they have collected).

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Withhold labour and publish your reasons for doing so; redirect labour toward maintaining the use-life of existing products or establishing enterprises with value propositions that centre around maintaining ownership of products (selling the use of or access to those products) so that those enterprises are incentivized to maximize the productive use-value of those resources over decades

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SCENARIO: The organisation you design for donates money to, buys the products and services of, or invests in, any organisation that has advocated scepticism toward existing knowledge around anthropogenic climate change, and/or continues to advocate for the building of new fossil-fuel based energy systems.

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Withhold labour and publish your reasons for doing so; redirect labour toward initiatives that make reduction of sources of anthropogenic climate change and dealing with scenarios of changing climate design constraints that override other empathetic human-centered values sensitivity

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SCENARIO: Despite this being the dying days of neoliberalism, with rising cynicism about democratic forms of governance, your organisation has actually been called before some gestural government inquiry for breaches of what weak regulations remain. Evenso, your organisation subsequently has not responded with a radical restructure of the organisation’s governance, value proposition and work culture sufficient to make it unrecognizable compared with the organisation prior to the sanction.

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Withhold labour, but before doing so, collect as much evidence as you possibly can on all other aspects of the organisation’s operations that also flout even just the spirit of existing regulations so that you can redirect your labour to ‘blowing the whistle’ to any remnants of rigorous investigative journalism you can find.

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SCENARIO: Your organisation uses the following terms in public statements or internal memos: hack, disrupt, sprint, unleash, resilience, broken, NPS, DAU.

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Unleash a disruptive hack on this broken organisation then sprint away.

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SCENARIO: Your organisation is a Slow, Local, Open and Connected Cooperative that prioritizes Extended Producer Responsibility in the context of the risks of an anthropogenically Changing Climate, governed, operated and serving mostly people other than those who have driven and inequitably benefited from twentieth century globalized corporate capitalism.

  • SUGGESTED RESPONSE: Unfortunately, in addition to all this, you need to show solidarity to those trapped in the existing system, offering them alternatives to take up and actively supporting their efforts to critique the existing system from within until they can take up those alternatives.

cameron tonkinwise

Written by

(post)sustainable service systems, (post)critical design thinking, contemporary (post)classical music, bemoaner of US (post)politics - http://t.co/F7elOTDg