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Title: Exploring the ethics of human-centred design
Authors: Steen, M
Human Centred Design Institute (HCDI) Research Seminar Series
Keywords: Ethics;Reflexivity;Well-being;Human‐centred design;Philosophy
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Brunel University
Abstract: 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.
Description: This seminar was delivered on 27th April 2012 by Dr Marc Steen, 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 ( 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 ( and WeCare ( and for national and international clients. He is particularly interested in questions concerning creativity and cooperation, participation and empowerment, and ethics and reflexivity. The presentation was hosted at Brunel University as part of the Human Centred Design Institute (HCDI) Research Seminar Series. HCDI is a University Research Centre (URC) that brings together expertise in Human-centred Design which combines methodologies and technologies from design, engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence and philosophy. Human-centred Design leads to machines, systems and products which are physically, cognitively and emotionally intuitive to their users. The Human Centre Design seminar series are events designed to encourage communication and teamwork with colleagues across the university and experts leaders in human-centred related topics.
Appears in Collections:Public Lectures and Seminars

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