Forum Numerica - Deceptive Design and the Growing Threat of “Dark Patterns” in Technology Practices


The strategic goals of organizations increasingly consider the role of user experience, impacting both the design of user interfaces as well as the relationships of humans and society to technology. But while knowledge of user needs and human psychology is generally framed as a means of generating empathy or reducing the divide between humans and technology, this knowledge also has the potential to be used for nefarious purposes.
In this talk, I share findings from over five years of my work on dark patterns that addresses the growing threat of deceptive design practices on technology systems. I use the concept of “dark patterns” as a point of connection to identify emerging synergies among design, computer science, ethics, law, and policy. I start with a collection of examples of dark patterns and “asshole design” properties, demonstrating the harmful use of manipulative patterns that are ubiquitous - and increasingly under legal scrutiny.
I then describe the potential impact of regulations and enhanced organizational practices in responding to these threats.
I use this work to build a case for ethical engagement in the education and practice of designers and technologists, pointing towards the need for scholars and educators to address both near-term issues such as manipulation, and longer-term issues that relate to social impact, responsibility, and the potential for regulation.

About the speaker

Colin M. Gray is an Associate Professor at Purdue University in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology and Associate Professor (by courtesy) in Learning Design & Technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. They are program lead for an undergraduate major and graduate concentration in UX Design. They hold appointments as Guest Professor at Beijing Normal University and Visiting Researcher at Newcastle University.

Colin holds a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University Bloomington, a MEd in Educational Technology from University of South Carolina, and a MA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art & Design. They have worked as an art director, contract designer, and trainer, and their involvement in design work informs their research on design activity and how design capability is learned. Colin’s research focuses on the ways in which the pedagogy and practice of designers informs the development of design ability, particularly in relation to ethics, design knowledge, and learning experience. Their work crosses multiple disciplines, including human-computer interaction, instructional design and technology, design theory and education, and engineering and technology education.
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