Moral dilemmas &
design choices

Moral dilemmas - roughly defined as conflicts between moral requirements - are key to revealing who we are and what we value. Such values and dilemmas help us decide what to do in day-to-day activities, and thereby, guide many important life choices. The 'Greater Good Magazine' offers some compelling examples:

Your colleague is forever taking credit for your and other people’s work. Is it okay to exact a little revenge and for once take credit for her labors?

Your friend is on her way out the door for a significant date and asks whether you like her blouse. Do you tell her the truth: It’s hideous?

Is it all right to laugh at a sexist joke?

Design activities are no exception: Just like daily life, these activities are also full of ethical questions and moral dilemmas. But we don't really know what happens when designers encounter such questions and dilemmas.

Would you design products / services that you may find unethical - such as weapons, surveillance systems, or zoos?

You are asked to design a product for a group of people whom you have no direct experience with. The limited project budget does not allow for preliminary research. Would you go with 'trusted' stereotypes, push for a higher budget, or reject the project?

You and your boss disagree on whether a domestic kitchen appliance should be designed and advertised mainly for women. Is it all right to point out sexist user profiling?

In this ongoing project, I develop new methods for integrating moral engagement in designing, which can help creatively handle moral challenges in design activities. For this, I am collecting examples of 'design processes & outcomes' that may help better understand how designers deal with such moral dilemmas. Do you have stories you want to share with me? Do get in touch.

Design with Dilemmas
Değer Özkaramanlı
University of Twente


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