Abstract

The growing recognition of ethics’ relevance to design fuelled the development of ethics- and value-centred design approaches. Despite their potential to address ethics in design proactively, they are criticized for failing to clarify their goals and explicate their theoretical basis. Since any ethical theory recruited in design must take seriously the fact of pluralism, only principle-based normative theories – as contrasted with value-based theories – seem fit. We explore what such a principle-based approach might look like in the context of inclusive design, where the issue of pluralism gives rise to an apparent paradox between the aim of designing for the widest possible audience and that of taking difference seriously. We show how this paradox can be addressed by applying John Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. In addition, we demonstrate that, without being explicated, elements of this theory are at work in existing inclusive design techniques, be it not always consistently. In doing so, we seek to contribute to a general framework for addressing the challenges related to ethics in design.

Keywords:

ethics; inclusive design; justice; pluralism

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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Jun 25th, 12:00 AM

Ethics in Design: pluralism and the case for justice in inclusive design

The growing recognition of ethics’ relevance to design fuelled the development of ethics- and value-centred design approaches. Despite their potential to address ethics in design proactively, they are criticized for failing to clarify their goals and explicate their theoretical basis. Since any ethical theory recruited in design must take seriously the fact of pluralism, only principle-based normative theories – as contrasted with value-based theories – seem fit. We explore what such a principle-based approach might look like in the context of inclusive design, where the issue of pluralism gives rise to an apparent paradox between the aim of designing for the widest possible audience and that of taking difference seriously. We show how this paradox can be addressed by applying John Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. In addition, we demonstrate that, without being explicated, elements of this theory are at work in existing inclusive design techniques, be it not always consistently. In doing so, we seek to contribute to a general framework for addressing the challenges related to ethics in design.

 

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