2023-2024: Ethics of Design

To design is to create, fashion, execute, or construct something according to a plan. Designers craft products, systems, programs, policies, technologies, strategies, and experiences. They analyze problems from a holistic perspective in order to make sense of underlying systems that create them and use ingenuity and design methodologies to address them. Design processes can use art and science to express a particular vision and optimize certain outcomes.

Effective design can be invisible to those that consume it even as it shapes our lives in powerful ways. This makes design a particularly compelling topic for ethical interrogation. In the Mudd Center's Ethics of Design program, we will ask how design thinking might address modern ethical dilemmas that we collectively face. How should design solutions be informed or constrained by their potential environmental, cultural and social costs? What methodologies can allow designers to meaningfully assess the ethical contexts and implications of their work? In a technological world in which our intentional and unintentional design choices can have outsized effects, it is the right moment to contemplate ethical design.

Access Ethics of Design event livestreams.  

Speakers and Events

Danielle Wood

Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Aeronautics and Astronautics; Director of the Space Enabled Research Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Public Lecture Title: Design for Sustainability on Earth and in Space
Thursday, September 21, 2023, 5:00 pm, Stackhouse Theater

Access to the recording of the event will be available for the W&L community.

Engineer Danielle Wood asks "How can a satellite be an instrument of justice?" Her Space Enabled Research Lab considers how we can repurpose satellites, which we already use for cell phone and Internet service, to change the world for the better. Collaborating with local and national governments, non-profits, and entrepreneurial firms, Danielle and her team identify opportunities for space technology to improve public services and solve global problems.

George Aye

Co-Founder and Director of Innovation, Greater Good Studio

Public Lecture Title: That Quiet Little Voice: When Design and Ethics Collide
Monday, October 9, 2023, 5:00 pm, Stackhouse Theater

Access the livestream and recording of this event.

At the Greater Good Studio, George Aye's human-centered design projects are driven by the notion that design can advance equity for all. They address multiple social issues including autism, criminal justice, education, public health and health care. His work has interrogated practices baked into the discipline of design that may put designers at risk of straying from their values or doing more harm than good.

Workshop with George Aye

Co-Founder and Director of Innovation, Greater Good Studio

The Gut Check Workshop: Developing a Rubric for Choosing New Projects
Tuesday, October 10, 2023, 9:45 am, Leyburn Library 128
Seats are limited and pre-registration is required

W&L students, staff, and faculty are invited to participate in this workshop, which will explore a method for choosing work that is consistent with our values. Through facilitated discussions, interactive exercises, and consideration of examples from the Greater Good Studio, participants will be invited to think about past and future choices about their work.

Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby

Cullen Professor of Medical Ethics and Associate Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine

Public Lecture Title: Designing Influence: Ethics of Choice Architecture in Medical Decision Making
Thursday, October 26, 2023, 5:00 pm, Northen Auditorium

Access the livestream and recording of this event.

Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby's work explores ethical questions raised by research on human judgment and decision-making. For example, is it morally permissible to use our knowledge of cognition, including its frailties and biases, to influence people's decisions and behaviors? If so, under what circumstances? Is this manipulation, and if so, can it be morally permissible or even desirable?

The Human Library® @ W&L: Unjudge Someone

Presented by The Mudd Center for Ethics and the University Library

The Human Library® is designed to build a positive framework for us to challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. It is a place where real people, Human Books, are on loan to Readers who check them out. Difficult questions are expected, appreciated, and answered. By acknowledging and challenging the judgments that we all carry towards one another, the Human Library® creates a safe space for curiosity through personal conversation. It is an invitation to unjudge someone.

Sara Hendren

Artist, Design Researcher, Writer, and Associate Professor of Art + Design and Architecture, Northeastern University

Public Lecture Title: Prosthetic Futures: Ethics in Disability and Design
Thursday, November 9, 2023, 5:00 pm, Stackhouse Theater

Sara Hendren is a humanist who works in technology. At Olin College of Engineering she taught design for disability and reframes the human body and technology through collaborative public art, social design, and writing projects. Her adaptation + ability group uses a capabilities approach to develop adaptive technologies, because "some bodies do some things, and others do others."

W&L's Before I Die Wall

Project opens Thursday, January 11, 2024, Leyburn Library Main Floor
Exhibition Space
All are invited to participate

Artist's Talk and Reception with Candy Chang
Monday, February 19, 2024, 3:00 pm at the Before I Die Wall

Inspired by the work of Candy Chang, W&L will join hundreds of communities across the globe in using our public space to share thoughts about what matters most. Grab a piece of chalk and join the conversation in the Leyburn Library Main Floor Exhibition Space this Winter Term.

Workshop with Steve Wei

Director, Choreographer, Performer, and Instructor of Stage Combat

Consent for Performance: Ethical Touch in Collaboration
Tuesday, January 30, 2024, 5:00 pm, W&L Dance Studio, 109 South Jefferson Street
Seats are limited and pre-registration is required

Steve Wei (they/he) are devoted to an artistic culture promoting the ethical production of dramatic violence. W&L students, faculty, and staff who join this workshop will learn about the challenges of choreographing physical interactions on stage and experience the embodiment of ethical partnered movement through practical communication, practice, and exploration. Come prepared to move!

Elgin Cleckley

Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design, University of Virginia
Director of Design Justice, UVA Equity Center

Public Lecture Title: _mpathic design: Perspectives on Creating Inclusive Spaces
Thursday, February 1, 2024, 5:00 pm, Stackhouse Theater
Presented by the Mudd Center for Ethics and the DeLaney Center

Access to the recording of the event will be available for the W&L community.

Elgin Cleckley is the principal of _mpathic design, a multi-award-winning pedagogy, initiative, and professional practice. In this talk, he will discuss how it developed, how its process was formed, and how it has supported spatial inclusion and equity goals within academic, community, and professional spheres. He will highlight _mpathic design's new book, which features 10 nationally recognized contributors working in architecture, spatial justice, planning, urban and environmental design, and community engagement.

Candy Chang

Urban Space Artist

Public Lecture Title: Designing Space for Uncertainty
Monday, February 19, 2024, 5:00 pm, Stackhouse Theater

Access to the recording of the event will be available for the W&L community. 

Candy Chang is a world-renowed artist and urban designer who activates public spaces to serve as mechanisms for reflection and connection among community members. Through a series of large-scale participatory projects that combine installation art with social activism, Chang has encouraged people to engage with public spaces to let their voices be heard.

Ethical Reasoning in Action @ W&L: 2023-24 Faculty Learning Community

In this 2023-24 Faculty Learning Community, participants will learn and apply the Ethical Reasoning in Action (ERiA) strategy developed at James Madison University (JMU). Drawing from research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics, the ERiA curriculum is designed to foster students' ability to recognize and analyze moral aspects of a situation and make ethically-informed decisions about it.