Conference Summary on Ethics Matters: Rethinking Digital Design Tue, 2,23,2021



The ethics matters 2021 was an online conference organized by ethics lab for innovation, based in Zurich Switzerland. The ethics matters theme “Rethinking Digital Design” is a response to the complex mix of digital design challenges such as data protection and privacy, diversity in design, inclusive design, ethics for digital innovation and behavioural economics.


The major goal of the conference was on how to design in an ethical way, how to create a more ethical UX, UI design world. Leah Strohm from ethics lab for innovation serves as panellist throughout the event.


The panellist highlighted some digital design problems that put data protection and privacy at even a greater risk, danger of data that is collected on us, data that we might deem is too sensitive to be collected or even abused or used in a certain context.  Leah stated that these data protection and privacy crisis can be related to some of the bigger data scandals that have happened over the last couples of years. The Cambridge analitica scandal, we all. Saw how data of users and even non users of Facebook were used to basically undermine the democracy of the United State and even other countries. And so this topic of data protection and privacy has been approached by regulators actually all over the world. The EU have come up with data protection laws, Switzerland and other countries.


According to Leah, another problem of digital design are they pattern also known as dark patterns (Dark Patterns can be understood as features made to trick users into doing something that is not in their best interest) lead to addiction or manipulating users to give data that they don’t intend, spread of conspiracy theories and also have a large influence on our political and societal lives. These addiction and manipulation lead to harm especially to young people on social media platforms such as Instagram, harm such as physical, emotional and social.


Tick tock is an example of dark pattern, tick tock actually hides the time stamp on on the app on our cell phone when we use it, so we have as users no idea how much time we’ve been spending on a platform, and physical harm can also include things such as distraction, sleep deprivation, the exposure of data and personally identifiable data, emotional harm is a phenomenon such as negative self image, anxiety, depression, that can happen when we, she added that   “the third category is refers to as the social harm. And here on one hand we have this idea of exclusion. So how can we design in a way that does not exclude certain groups of users of people, and exempt you can see here is one of a webshop where actually the colors are only displayed as colors, but not as text. So for users that might not, that might be colorblind, that is super hard to navigate. And we can also think of other mental or physical disabilities that might exclude people from using certain digital interfaces and so the idea here is really to get to, when we want to assess digital products for their ethical. “