Saturday, October 30, 2004

Ubicomp experience guidelines

All watched over by machines of loving grace: Some ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings
by Adam Greenfield

"Principle 1. Default to harmlessness.
Ubiquitous systems must default to a mode that ensures their users’ (physical, psychic and financial) safety.
Principle 2. Be self-disclosing.
Ubiquitous systems must contain provisions for immediate and transparent querying of their ownership, use, capabilities, etc., such that human beings encountering them are empowered to make informed decisions regarding exposure to same.
Principle 3. Be conservative of face.
Ubiquitous systems are always already social systems, and must contain provisions such that wherever possible they not unnecessarily embarrass, humiliate, or shame their users.
Principle 4. Be conservative of time.
Ubiquitous systems must not introduce undue complications into ordinary operations.
Principle 5. Be deniable.
Ubiquitous systems must offer users the ability to opt out, always and at any point.

There is much more detail in the original piece, and I have concerns about some of Adam's assumptions about what constitutes ubiquitous systems - including who researches, designs, develops and uses them - that I will discuss later, but for now these ethical guidelines seem a good place to start.

The one thing I would like to ask Adam at this point is if he believes that his intended audience of information architects, usability specialists and user-experience designers actually have the power and the means to make this happen?

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