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Leveraging Design Schemas to Inform the Creation of Ethics-Focused Design Methods

Core Concepts
Design schemas can be leveraged as tools to support the creation of new design methods that address ethical complexity in technology practice.
This pictorial explores how design researchers can use different types of schemas to inform the creation of new design methods that address ethical concerns in technology practice. The authors present two main types of schemas they developed: A.E.I.O.YOU Schema: A structured, topic-based visual schema that represents a landscape of research on ethical complexity in HCI practice. This schema includes elements such as Artifacts, Ecological Factors, Interactions, Others, and the individual practitioner (YOU). Descriptive Schemas: Iteratively developed semantic differential schemas that describe a range of possible design methods along dimensions such as individual vs. group engagement, evaluative vs. evocative functions, and designed for vs. designed with practitioners. The authors describe how these schemas played four key roles in their research process: 1) Scoping and shaping the research space, 2) Providing heuristics and a designerly language to describe potential methods, 3) Serving as ideation tools to imagine new method combinations, and 4) Supporting the evaluation and reflection on the designed methods. The authors present three specific design methods they created using these schemas, including "Tracing the Complexity", "Dilemma Postcards", and "Method Heuristics". These methods engage practitioners in different ways to reveal and address ethical complexity in their work. The pictorial concludes by highlighting the value of using schemas as a designerly practice to support the creation of new ethics-focused design methods.
"Schemas are 'cognitive models, or mental models, that humans create for themselves to help make sense of complex real-world experiences' [12]." "Design methods are 'tool[s] that allow designers to support thinking, reflecting and acting upon design activities' [6], while also leveraging an emerging definition of ethics-focused methods, where the 'function of the method revealed through this embedded knowledge allows designers to convert ethics-focused discovery into design outcomes' [3]."
"Schema are 'knowledge structures, cognitive structures, and or strategies' [12] that allow us to represent, discuss, expand, and imagine design opportunities and processes." "The primary contribution of the pictorial is not the methods themselves, but rather how we iteratively and reflexively created schema that helped us explore and operationalize the space of ethical complexity in the design of methods."

Key Insights Distilled From

by Shruthi Sai ... at 05-03-2024
Using Schema to Inform Method Design Practices

Deeper Inquiries

How could design practitioners leverage these types of schemas to inform the creation of new methods tailored to their specific ethical concerns and design contexts?

Design practitioners can leverage schemas to inform the creation of new methods tailored to their ethical concerns and design contexts by using them as visual tools to shape and identify the research space, build a vocabulary to understand potential methods, support structured ideation, and serve as early evaluation tools. Schemas can help practitioners scope the landscape of ethical complexity, providing a structured framework to identify opportunities for creating new methods. By using schemas as heuristics, practitioners can develop a designerly language to describe and differentiate among different methods, enabling them to tackle various perspectives based on the schema's guidance. Additionally, schemas can serve as ideation tools, allowing practitioners to map, filter, and combine different axes to support the creation of a design frame, fostering playful interaction with different method combinations. Lastly, schemas can act as evaluation tools, helping practitioners continuously reflect on the differences among method variations and ensure that designed methods align with the project scope.

What are potential limitations or drawbacks of using schemas as the primary approach to designing new ethics-focused methods?

While schemas offer valuable support in designing new ethics-focused methods, there are potential limitations and drawbacks to consider. One limitation is the risk of oversimplification or reductionism, where complex ethical considerations may be distilled into rigid schema structures, potentially overlooking nuances and context-specific factors. Schemas may also impose constraints on creativity and exploration, limiting the generation of innovative and unconventional methods. Additionally, reliance on schemas as the primary approach may lead to a narrow focus on predefined categories or axes, potentially excluding novel ideas that do not fit within the schema framework. Furthermore, there is a risk of schema bias, where preconceived notions embedded in the schema influence method design, potentially leading to overlooking alternative perspectives or ethical dimensions.

How might these schema-informed method design practices be extended to address ethical considerations in other domains beyond technology design, such as policy, education, or healthcare?

Schema-informed method design practices can be extended to address ethical considerations in domains beyond technology design by adapting the schema framework to the specific context and ethical challenges of each domain. For policy, schemas could be tailored to represent the complex interplay of political, social, and economic factors influencing ethical decision-making. In education, schemas could focus on the ethical responsibilities of educators, students, and institutions, guiding the development of methods to promote ethical awareness and action in educational settings. In healthcare, schemas could capture the intricate ethical dilemmas faced by healthcare professionals, patients, and policymakers, facilitating the creation of methods to enhance ethical decision-making and patient care. By customizing schemas to the unique ethical landscapes of different domains, practitioners can effectively apply schema-informed method design practices to address ethical considerations across diverse fields.