Informed Experiences, Designing Consent
By Michael Anthony DeAnda
Designs, whether implicitly or explicitly, cite core values that influence their development, marketing, and use. All too often, technology and interactive media are designed around profit, efficiency, objectivity, and other similar values that contribute to normalizing certain bodies, cultures, identities, and communities over others.
Informed Experiences, Designing Consent was an event conceptualized and organized to bring together scholars, researchers, practitioners, students, and audiences to think through the intersections of consent and design of interactive media and technology. I conceived the idea from my own experience as a scholar-practitioner of games as a means of carving out a space for participants to center consent in theory and practice. With help from Elisabeth Hildt and Kelly Laas at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at Illinois Institute of Technology and Leilasadat “Leila” Mirghaderi a graduate student in Technology and Humanities at Illinois Institute of Technology, we brought this idea to fruition.
On April 6, 2019 several participants of various backgrounds--researchers, practitioners, educators, and students--gathered at Illinois Tech’s Downtown Campus to interrogate the intersections of consent and design through what I call a “Learn, Make, Reflect Model.” This model utilizes three components to combine theory and embodied practice in learning as a community:
● Learn: a selected panel speaks on a given topic. These presentations provide frameworks and considerations from varied perspectives.
● Make: prototyping breakout sessions that engage the given topic. From the frameworks proposed in presentations, all attendees collaborate on hands-on practices of designing and prototyping something drawing from the frameworks and offerings of the panel.
● Reflect: after the breakout sessions, all attendees return to discuss their maker experiences. This offers moments for generative forms of knowledge production in which all attendees contribute from their perspectives.
The two interdisciplinary panels explored consent through studies that situated the importance of understanding consent in technologies we use every day, designing technologies, games, and data collection. Christine Miller, Ruth Schmidt and John Cain kicked off the first panel by reflecting on user agreements to provide a framework for designing informed decisions. Daniel Lipson’s focus on Alternate Reality Games presented a case for “critical consent” in games that operates through players “playing back.” Through her study of chat bots, Camille Vezy provoked deeper considerations between UX and consent and problematized practices of obtaining consent from users. Peter McDonald argued that studying consent in games necessitates the study of passivity, that is how the game also acts upon the players, as a way of making palpable basic violences, such as hunger, to which vulnerable communities cannot consent but instead have enacted upon them. Monika Sziron then considered the ethical debates of robots as a moment to think through how we ascribe moral status, how we grant or revoke rights to informed consent, and how we in turn are shaped by these intersections when we design. Wrapping up the first panel, Kate Hollenbach then reflected on her digital artwork that randomly collected video from her smartphone and presented it within a digital art installation, through this project, she highlighted the tensions between privacy, UX, and data collection.