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Upon opening the black box of participatory design and finding it filled with ethics

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Author: Steen, M.G.D.
Source:Proceedings of Nordes 2011 (Nordic Design Research Conference), Helsinki, 29-31 May 2011, 162-170
Identifier: 430140
Keywords: Informatics · Human · HOI - Human Behaviour & Organisational Innovations · BSS - Behavioural and Societal Sciences


In this essay, I bring together Participatory Design's (PD) tradition of critical reflection on one's own practices, and Science and Technology Studies' focus on specific activities ('opening the black box'), in order to explore the ethics of PD. Three different forms of ethics—ethics-of-theother, pragmatist ethics and virtue ethics—are discussed and several examples from practice are provided to argue that PD is 'filled with ethics': PD participants always find themselves in ethical situations and engage with ethics—even if they are unaware of these ethics or if these ethics remain implicit. It is proposed that reflexivity provides ways for PD practitioners to cope more explicitly and mindfully with these ethics.