30 June 2006

Article: Ethics of persuasive technology

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putting people first
by experientia

Persuasive technology
An interesting article from Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab:

“When a doctor tells you your blood pressure is too high, you may modify your lifestyle to compensate: less salt, more exercise, fewer freedom fries. In a sense, the doctor has committed a persuasive act. We are unlikely to question the ethics of her having done so. But what if the doctor were out of the picture? Suppose a device at your bedside not only informed you of your blood pressure each morning, but shifted colors to convey the likelihood of your suffering a heart attack. Would such a persuasive technology be as ethical as a doctor giving you advice in her office? What if it were co-marketed with a treadmill?”

“The objective of this article is to describe and test a framework for analyzing the ethics of technologies that change people’s attitudes and behaviors. We focus on computerized persuasive technologies – the field known as ‘captology’ – though similar considerations apply to non-computerized technologies, and even to technologies that change attitudes and behaviors by accident.”

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