Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Afrofeminist Ethics Concerns in the Design and Use of Avatars

  Favour Borokini (2022 cohort)   www.favourborokini.com

This research investigates afrofeminist ethical concerns in the design and use of avatars, 3D visual representations of users in digital spaces today. Construing avatars as technological artefacts with designer and user-embedded values, it aims to explore the processes by which these values are embedded and reflected in their creation and use. 

Ethical challenges connected to identity presentation and the platforms, designers and users that enable them, confront avatars today and are worth investigating from an afrofeminist viewpoint.  Defined by Sylvia Tamale as a version of feminism that “distinctly seeks to create its own theories and discourses that are linked to the diversity of African realities... to reclaim the rich histories of Black women”, afrofeminism is crucial to uncovering perceived understandings and impacts of avatars and to create liberatory artefacts. 

This research aims to develop a framework or tool to aid the ethical design and use of avatars. Using participatory mixed methods, including speculative design, the research aims at engaging multiple stakeholders, drawing from the relevant literature to design avatars for better responsible and inclusive futures.

Research Questions

  1. How do African women perceive avatars and their affordances?

  2. How are designer values embedded in the design and use of avatars?

  3. What would an afrofeminist-informed legal and ethical framework look like?

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1).