Time Estimate: 15–60 minutes
Goal: Consider the ethics of persuasive design by imagining evil manipulation.
Imagine a persuasion technique for your product that would be evil—while promising to make the user’s life better, it secretly manipulates them into making their life worse.
Step 1: Visualize world sleaze
Time Estimate: 10–40 minutes
Sometimes the best of intentions can go wrong. These are also called “unintended consequences” of a certain design, product, or other project that was meant to do good. Imagining these scenarios can help us avoid them.
Look through your persuasive design brainstorm, or generate new ideas, to see how your persuasions could go horribly wrong. You might also get inspiration from the website Evil By Design. Instead of guiding people to better decisions, you can rob them of choice. Or, instead of helping people help themselves, you trick them into doing things they wouldn’t have chosen. Don’t hold back, appall yourself! Really try to ruin people’s lives through your product manipulating them.
Step 2: Document your evil scenario
Time Estimate: 5–40 minutes
Pick the most evil of the scenarios you considered. Write a short (100 – 300 word) story or essay, or draw a storyboard, about the horribleness that could happen through this persuasion.
Checklist for Self-Assessment
To score your success on this exercise, see if you…
- Listed a good intention.
- Listed a persuasive design technique.
- Described an evil outcome, life ruined!
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