Exploring the ethics of human-centred design

Friday 27/04/2012 12:30 - 13:30
Location: Brunel University, Howell Building, Room H313
Speaker: Marc Steen, senior scientist at TNO, an independent research organisation in The Netherlands.

This seminar will explore the ethics of human-centred design (HCD), where HCD is meant to refer to innovation processes that include user involvement and co-design (ISO 13407). Based on critical reflection in several HCD projects, and drawing from three schools of ethics, the idea is explored that the process of HCD has intrinsic ethical qualities:

Ethics-of-alterity (Levinas, Derrida) helps to see HCD as a fragile encounter between other and self;

Pragmatist ethics (Dewey) helps to construe HCD as a process of joint inquiry and imagination; and

Virtue ethics (Aristotle) helps to understand the virtues of cooperation, curiosity, creativity and care.

In addition, reflexivity is proposed as a way for practitioners to cope more mindfully with the ethical qualities, so that HCD projects can more effectively promote participation and empowerment, and help people to flourish. Moreover, one idea for future research is proposed: To study the relationships between our ways of organizing HCD, processes of participation and empowerment, and the effects on actually improving people’s well-being.

Marc Steen works as a senior scientist in human-centred design, co-design, open innovation and innovation management at TNO, a not-for profit organization for research and innovation in The Netherlands (www.tno.nl). He earned MSc, MTD and PhD degrees in Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology. Before joining TNO, he worked at Philips and KPN. Marc works in international projects TA2 (www.ta2-project.eu) and WeCare (www.wecare-project.eu) and for national and international clients. He is particularly interested in questions concerning creativity and cooperation, participation and empowerment, and ethics and reflexivity.