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Tactics of Soft Resistance in User Experience Professionals’ Values Work

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User experience (UX) professionals’ attempts to address social values as a part of their work practice can overlap with tactics to contest, resist, or change the companies they work for. This paper studies tactics that take place in this overlap, where UX professionals try to re-shape the values embodied and promoted by their companies, in addition to the values embodied and promoted in the technical systems and products that their companies produce. Through interviews with UX professionals working at large U.S.-based technology companies and observations at UX meetup events, this paper identifies tactics used towards three goals: (1) creating space for UX expertise to address values; (2) making values visible and relevant to other organizational stakeholders; and (3) changing organizational processes and orientations towards values. This paper analyzes these as tactics of resistance: UX professionals seek to subvert or change existing practices and organizational structures towards more values-conscious ends. Yet, these tactics of resistance often rely on the dominant discourses and logics of the technology industry. The paper characterizes these as partial or “soft” tactics, but also argues that they nevertheless hold possibilities for enacting values-oriented changes.

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