Encountering ethics through design: a workshop with nonhuman participants

Anuradha Reddy, Iohanna Nicenboim, James Pierce, Elisa Giaccardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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What if we began to speculate that intelligent things have an ethical agenda? Could we then imagine ways to move past the moral divide ‘human vs. nonhuman’ in those contexts, where things act on our behalf? Would this help us better address matters of agency and responsibility in the design and use of intelligent systems? In this article, we argue that if we fail to address intelligent things as objects that deserve moral consideration by their relations within a broad social context, we will lack a grip on the distinct ethical rules governing our interaction with intelligent things, and how to design for it. We report insights from a workshop, where we take seriously the perspectives offered by intelligent things, by allowing unforeseen ethical situations to emerge in an improvisatory manner. By giving intelligent things an active role in interaction, our participants seemed to be activated by the artifacts, provoked to act and respond to things beyond the artifact itself—its direct functionality and user experience. The workshop helped to consider autonomous behavior not as a simplistic exercise of anthropomorphization, but within the more significant ecosystems of relations, practices and values of which intelligent things are a part.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalAI and Society
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Experimental ethics
  • More-than-human design
  • Research through design
  • Speculative design
  • Thing ethnography


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