Complicating Technology: Interdisciplinary Method, the Burden of Comprehension, and the Ethical Space of the Technical Communicator
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Johnson, Robert R.
Technical Communication Quarterly
There is much for technical communicators to learn from the burgeoning field of technology studies. Technical communicators, however, have an obligation to exercise patience as they enter this arena of study. Using interdisciplinary theory, this article argues that technical communication must assume the 'burden of comprehension': the responsibility of understanding the ideologies, contexts, values, and histories of those disciplines from which we borrow before we begin using their methods and research findings. Three disciplines of technology study--history, sociology, and philosophy--are examined to investigate how these disciplines approach technology. The article concludes with speculation on how technical communicators, by virtue of their entrance into this interdisciplinary arena, might refashion both their practical roles and the scope of their ethical responsibilities.