The ethical questions that technical communicators face frequently present themselves obliquely, arising because the communicators depend heavily upon the special knowledge of other people who provide necessary information. The special knowledge that communicators lack and others possess may come from highly technical education, privileged access to information sources, or socially constructed access to information. Proponents of need-to-know policies may argue that limiting communicators' knowledge absolves them of responsibility for the information's veracity and effects; however, more ethically rigorous considerations of the issue consider communicators' authorial roles, their right to know, and their responsibility to their audiences.
The ongoing antitrust battle between the U.S. Department of Justice and Microsoft Corporation presents technical communicators with two ethical questions: 1) Is it right, good, or fair for Microsoft to give away its Internet Explorer browser? 2) If Microsoft gains monopoly control over the PC browser market, will this be good for us? This article examines these questions using traditional rights-based ethical theory (Kant), utilitarianism, and John Rawls principles of justice, concluding that it is neither good nor fair for a company having a near-monopoly over a market to sell products below fair market value, nor is it good that one company stands to gain monopoly control over the PC browser market. When the discussion turned to Netscape, one Intel executive, who asked not to be identified, recalled Martiz [Paul Martiz, Microsoft Group Vice President, Platforms & Application] saying: "We are going to cut off their air supply. Everything they re selling, we re going to give away for free" . "We re giving away a pretty good browser as part of the operating system. How long can they survive selling it?"--Statement by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft President and CEO . "Our business model works even if all Internet software is free," says Mr. Gates. "We are still selling operating systems." <em>Netscape</em>, in contrast, is dependent upon its Internet software for profits, he points out.--Statements by Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman . Only a monopolist could study a competitor and destroy its business by giving away products--Statement by Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems Chairman .
Cloning? Abortion? Social responsibility? Honesty? Legality? Loyalty? Trust? Privacy? You name it. 'The Case of Project Good-Bye, Dolly' immerses workshop participants in a maelstrom of value conflicts that swirl from bioethics to personal values. The presenters identify ten core values that un&rlie technical communication and show how these values can be used to support objective analysis and resolve ethical conflicts. Participants then explore ethical dilemmas 'hands-on' through small-group discussion and subsequent role-playing vignettes. This session is sure to spark lively debate.
Ethics as a topic in technical communication has grown in interest in the past quarter century as the field itself has matured. We now understand technical communication as involved in communicating not only technical information but also values, ethics, and tacit assumptions represented in goals. It also is involved in accommodating the values and ethics of its many audiences. This understanding is linked to an awareness of the social nature of all discourse and the root interconnectedness of rhetoric and ethics. This article presents an introduction and annotated bibliography of articles from technical writing and communication journals over this period, arranged in categories of professional, academic, and systematic approaches. Ethics is broadly conceived to include not only particular theories but also systems of values and principles.
Ethics within Technical Communication, as found in the literature, is discussed to determine whether a meaningful code of ethics exists or can exist within STC. Authorities are cited to support a tentative conclusion to this question.
The ever-increasing complexity and pace of production only adds weight to the argument that the technical communicator of today must be technically competent, ethically bound, critically conscious and situated with enough institutional power to halt the wheels of production when necessary, putting the common good over institutional gain. The 21st century technical communicator must be elevated from mere scribe to negotiator.
Psychologists and ethics researchers say we can take simple steps to align our Want and Should Selves over the three phases of decision making and help keep the Imp of the Perverse in check.
Ethical conflicts often defy black-and-white solutions. But gray can be slippery. This workshop demonstrates how to use value analysis to clarify ethical conflicts in technical communication. The presenters identify 10 core values that underlie technical communication and show how these values can be used to support objective analysis and resolve ethical conflicts. Participants explore ethical dilemmas 'hands-on' through small-group discussions and role-playing vignettes on selected conflict scenarios. This session follows up the 'Grayscale' workshop conducted at the 43rd STC conference-with all new scenarios!
Increasingly, technical communicators are confronting ethical issues in the workplace. Conflicts arise that appear to defy black-and-white solutions. To render every verdict as 'gray,' however, begs the question. Clear direction in the face of thorny ethical dilemmas requires objective value analysis, to logically reduce such dilemmas to clearly defined value conflicts. Once these conflicts are understood, the proper ethical path can more readily be discerned. This paper addresses the need for specific, real-world ethical guidelines for technical communicators. It also explores the possibility of developing a value analysis model to establish such guidelines. A typical model is applied to four representative ethical conflicts.
Many articles from recent decades begin with the assumption that technical communicators do not have much power to make ethical decisions about their work. We need to start with a basic understanding of the relationships that technical communicators build with that audience in their work and identify ways in which those relationships might have ethical implications.