Ethics in Technical Communication: A Critique and Synthesis

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Ethics in Technical Communication provides students and practitioners with a clear introduction to ethics-from Aristotle through the present-and suggests how these accounts can help technical communicators think through the kinds of dilemmas that inevitably arise in their working lives. Markel critiques current scholarship linking ethics and technical communication, then presents a flexible model for ethical decision-making that draws on the values of rights, justice, utility, and care. He then applies the model in examining the technical communicator's obligations in five critical areas: truthtelling, liability, multicultural communication, intellectual property, and codes of conduct. Markel first defines key terms, justifies the examination of ethics and technical communication, surveys the scholarly literature on the subject, and describes some of the basic assumptions underlying a serious study of ethics. Next, he presents concise overviews of Kantian rights and utilitarianism, the transitional ethical theories of the early 20th century, and several strands of contemporary ethical theory, including virtue ethics, the ethic of care, and postmodern ethics. He then explores his own approach, which calls for a fluid, non-hierarchical analysis conducted in an open-, non-coercive environment, as described in contemporary accounts of discourse ethics. This approach is used in the second part of the book, which focuses on truthtelling, liability, multiculturalism, intellectual property, and codes of conduct. In each of these chapters, Markel defines the problem, summarizes and critiques the scholarly literature, presents an approach to thinking about the problem sensitively and realistically, and concludes with a case and a response to it.