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Saturday, June 10 • 1:30pm - 3:00pm
*Terms of Service Fantasy Reader* public participatory performance/workshop

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Terms of Service Fantasy Reader is an ad hoc collective participatory performance interrogating the relationship between the regulation and negotiation of digital selfhood in contemporary interface culture. This practice is done through locating and enacting instances of ambiguity, misleading or for any reason striking language in the regulating language between app and user as subtle dark patterns, the practice of unethical user experience design implemented in order to enforce a desired user behavior based on concepts from behavioral economy. Participatory performance in this space acts as a site of interrogation for addressing extractive principles in user experience design applying the practice based performance method of sociodrama (Moreno, 1965). As a collective vocalization of soft (de)codification, the public ad hoc readings of chosen Terms of Service sections feed over time into a growing web archive of collective end user voices, which can be experienced throughout the HASTAC exhibition.
Terms of Service agreements are legal documents that define the grounds upon which someone can engage with a certain service, but they are conceptually demanding, long and often hermetic to read. In fact, the Pew Research center found in a 2017 study that 91% of people don't read TOS agreements. At the same time, they are one of the main battlegrounds for user rights. These legal difficult-to-read documents get "signed" on a daily basis, when downloading and installing an app, with their default settings often unquestioned. With options to either accept all the conditions and participate in a world of affordances of platform selfhood, or decline and be left out of social circles, these formats effectively facilitate a consensus based on a lack of choice. Terms of Service Fantasy Reader is a devoted space to allow the "luxury" of time to collectively explore our unspoken relationships to technology. It provides a framework for perceiving these underlying documents as scripts that both define and reinforce the invisible borders of the user's options for self expression and consequently, definitions of the self, creativity, and freedom.
The collective performance/workshop will serve to:
  • develop a common understanding among participants around how the development and implementation of TOS agreements relate to dark pattern design
  • generate and voice user responses and develop alternative models for TOS agreements
  • explore sociodrama as a social justice oriented form of user experience action based research
We will do that through:
  • collective locating and reading out specific sections within Terms of Service agreements that have an explicit connection to discriminatory practices
  • classifying these examples within dark pattern taxonomy
  • developiing collective responses to existing forms of TOS agreements, voicing reactions and reimagining them in forms that support a more just and consensual experience
The workshop will feature existing starting TOS fragment examples that participants can choose from as well as introduce new examples from an active app on their personal device (phone, tablet, laptop) to explore on location. As this workshop works with public contributions through voice and sound data, participants will define their desired level of contribution, with options to anonymize/attribute accordingly. Participants will receive additional resources and results from the workshop to reflect the taxonomy landscape of redefined boundaries of data and attention consent.

Moreno, J. L. (1965). Therapeutic vehicles and the concept of surplus reality. Group Psychotherapy, 18, 211–216.

Costanza-Chock, S (2020). Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need. Cambridge: MIT.

Wittkower, D. E. (2016, 13-14 May 2016). Principles of anti-discriminatory design. 2016 IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science and Technology (ETHICS)


Darija Medić

University of Colorado Boulder

Saturday June 10, 2023 1:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
PS 204 (Design Center)