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.
As computers and digital devices increasingly insert themselves into our lives, they do so on an ever increasing social level. Designers need to understand the context of use and include the whole of a user's experience into the solution when creating a computer interface.
This study analyzed individual perceptions of various situations involving actions likely to be considered unethical by most people. It explored perceptions of the acceptability of parallel technology-based and non-technology-based vignettes, self-rated behavior regarding the survey scenarios and consistency between self-rated behavior and the level of acceptance of the vignettes. The responses from 453 participants were analyzed by age, gender, ethnicity and amount of weekly access to computers at home.The participants were more accepting of the technology-based survey items and were also more likely to engage in those behaviors than the non-technology items; however, the participant responses indicated a low level of acceptance for the scenarios and only a minimal likelihood that they would participate in them. Additional findings across the comparison groups are reported and discussed.