In a recent Fediverse discussion about Dark Patterns in Games I was pointed to the non-inclusive terminology use of “dark” in Dark Patterns by fellow fedizen El Joa. Now “Dark Patterns” is terminology that is very often used on the internet. I thought of an alternative and suggested we could use Deception Patterns instead.
This morning I encountered more uses of ‘dark pattern’, this time as hashtags, so I decided to write a proposal to the authors of IETF’s “Terminology, Power and Oppressive Language” Internet-Draft, Mallory Knodel and Niels ten Oever, to consider adding ‘Deception Patterns’ in a future version of the document.
Below you can see the gist of the email I wrote:
First of all I want to thank you for publishing the IETF Internet Draft “Terminology, Power and Oppressive Language” ( https://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-knodel-terminology-00.html ). It is a resource that I spread very often, and I gladly use the suggested terminology myself.
Secondly I want to mention that - in light of recent uptick of attention to using inclusive language in society - I hope that soon an updated version will be published. I find that reference to an official recommendation works best in having others embrace the alternatives, and make them the new normal.
It is delightful to see that code forges such as Gitea ( https://gitea.io ) were early adopters of using ‘main’ as the default branch, instead of ‘master’, and others - such as Github - intend to follow. Another example of improvement is the switch of many Ad-Blocker projects to ‘blocklist / allowlist’ terminology.
Now for the reason of this mail: Dark Patterns ( https://darkpatterns.org )
Though the referenced website refers to them as “tricks used in websites and apps”, with the growing tech awareness their connotation aligns more to “the evil and deceitful ways that surveillance capitalism enterprises use to hijack your attention and get you hooked to their products and services”. In other words a clear ‘Dark / black equals Deceit / Evil’ relationship.
Clearly this terminology is up for a change as well.
I hereby propose to use the alternative of Deception Patterns instead.
Why deception? Well, the behavioral scientists and UX designers who craft them have the clear objective to mislead the user base in following behavior patterns they did not intent to follow. And throwing all kinds of human psychology tricks into the mix to do so.
So there you have it. Yet one more small step towards inclusivity in language use
I hope you will consider this in future versions of the IETF draft.
If you have other examples of non-inclusive language in technology design, then I encourage you to create a topic in the #society:inclusion category to make us all aware, and we can discuss alternatives.
(Credits: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels)