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Anti-Heros: An Ethics-focused Method for Responsible Designer Intentions

Research Open House 2024

A hand holds up four cards. The cards say, Anti-Hero; Life Coach; Cynic; and the text on the fourth is obscured.

Shikha Mehta and Sai Shruthi Chivukula

School of Information

Technology and design practice is a value-laden and ethical manifestation of decisions taken by the actors balancing and mediating personal and disciplinary responsibilities, ecological values, and social responsibilities. In this research, we contribute to the need for ethics-focused supports informed by everyday technology and design practice. Inspired from prior work on dark patterns, asshole designer properties, and “dark” design roles involved in balancing stakeholder and user values, we designed a method called Anti-Heros. 

Anti-Heros, a card deck with an equivalent “hero” on the other side, is a method to expose the un/intentional manipulative and persuasive roles designers take during generating designs. This method leverages on revealing the manipulative intentions of technologists in the realm of a range of shareholder values which support monetary benefits and user values which support human needs and agency. A range of ethics-focused methods available for practitioner’s support have often focused on providing “good” practices to identify ethical outcomes, and we identified the need to also showcase and make certain “anti-” ways of thinking resulting in unethical technology solutions.

As a part of this research, evaluation studies to play-test the card deck with Pratt students is in progress which will allow iteration of the cards. For Pratt’s Research Open House, I would like to use the platform to get more feedback on the card deck, dissemination of card sets (as a takeaway at our booth), and showcase practical outcomes of a range of research I conduct at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Design, and Ethics and Values. 

Anticipated Material during Pratt’s Research Open House: Poster on the Anti-Heros, introduction to other research projects I am working on, and 10-20 sets of Card-decks as give-away.

A diagram that shows all of the cards in the Anti-Hero deck.