Do fair design patterns exist?

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2024-02-12 21:30:10

Last week I participated in a Lorentz workshop on Fair patterns for online interfaces, organised by Hanna Schraffenberger, Raphael Gellert, Colin Gray, Arianna Rossi and Cristiana Santos. The workshop was super interesting, and I would like to thank the organisers for the great work they did in preparing such a stellar event. (BTW: the Lorentz Center offers a great location and a great deal of support to organise your own workshop at no cost. They are always happy to receive workshop proposals!).

At the workshop dinner, Arianna asked me what I learned, and I provocatively quipped: “fair design patterns do not exist”. Of course the truth is much more nuanced, which I will try to unpack a bit in this blog post, to perhaps start a more in depth discussion and study.

The study of fair design patterns follows the exploding body of research on so called dark patterns: features of interface design crafted to trick users into doing things they may not want to do, but which benefit the business in question. Think of pre-checked opt-in check boxes, highlighted defaults to accept all cookies, or hard to find interface elements that allow a user to change their privacy settings. I only really got immersed in that research field when organising the 2019 Interdisiciplinary Summerschool on Privacy covering dark patterns as its theme.

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