Responsibly Persuaded: An Exploration of the Ethics of Persuasive Technologies

Joseph E Price, Purdue University


The pervasiveness of technology comes with an increased risk for negative outcomes. Responsibility must fall upon designers to anticipate problems and guarantee positive outcomes. The concept of design character is the basis from which they assume responsibility. The goal of this study was twofold. First, I sought to understand how designers persuade users or stakeholders, and through what means. Second, I sought to critically evaluate aspect of persuasive design through the lens of ethics and values. This study provides an understanding of the criteria and philosophies of ethics relied upon to evaluate persuasive technology. To address both research goals, a total of 6 user experience designers were interviewed using a semi-structured interview approach. These interviews were centered around evaluating one of two persuasive technologies. A thematic analysis approach was used to familiarize and understand the data collected from these interviews. Results show that participants relied upon criteria inherent to the user, device, context, and communication. In addition, results show how three primary framings of ethics, deontological, consequential, and pragmatic, are relied upon by participants.




Gray, Purdue University.

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