Teaching Ethics For Design For Sustainable Behaviour: A pilot study

Debra Lilley, Vicky Lofthouse
2010, Vol. 15, No. 2,

Abstract


Design for sustainable behaviour is an emerging activityunder the banner of sustainable design which aims toreduce the environmental and social impacts of productsby moderating users’ interaction with them. The intendedoutcome of design for sustainable behaviour is to reducenegative environmental and societal impacts. However,designers’ ability to passively or actively influence userbehaviour and the resulting tension between choice andcontrol raises some interesting ethical issues. Whilstseveral viable strategies for designing sustainablebehaviour have been developed, the criterion for selectingappropriate strategies has yet to be defined and there isnot, as yet, a clear consensus as to what is an acceptablelevel of intervention, or how to rate the severity ofconsequences enacted by different behaviours. Exploration of the ethical dimensions of influencingbehaviour through design is limited and as such fewIndustrial Design programmes implicitly teach the ethics ofdesign for sustainable behaviour as part of the curriculum.The study reported on in this paper sought to address thisgap through the development and delivery of aneducational pilot study to test new teaching materialsconcerning ethics in design. Having outlined the keyprocesses which led to material selection and theidentification of appropriate techniques, a ‘best-in-class’student case study is presented to illustrate the outcomesof one student project emerging from the pilot study. Thepaper concludes by reflecting on the appropriateness ofthe teaching and learning methods, the suitability of thecontent based on the evaluation which was carried out;and considers the challenges for lecturers in deliveringcontent of this nature.

Keywords


sustainability, design, technology, behaviour, ethics

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