In this study, I analyze professional designers' experiences of exercising agency and enacting ethics in design practice. This research is based on a focus group and a series of individual interviews with design and technology practitioners at technology companies and design consultancies. First, based on grounded theory analysis, I present a thematic analysis of ethical issues in professional design practice and the mitigating strategies used by designers. Second, based on actor-network theory (ANT), I present three vignettes to describe the human and nonhuman networks of professional designers and how they increase agency and ethics in design. The contributions of this work include an application of actor-network theory to professional design practice, an empirical account of the human and nonhuman networks of professional design practice, and descriptions of how agency and ethical responsibility are distributed and shared across humans and nonhumans.
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Thesis advisor: Wakkary, Ron
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