As with any profession, let alone any aspect in life, ethics play a fundamental role in what, how, and why something goes down. I think ethics can be found everywhere, but is probably even more complex and problematic when it is found in the workplace, dependent on contextual situations. In terms of professionalism, the extent to which ethics plays this role differs across the industrial spectrum. Admittedly, the pessimistic side of me would say that in most cases within today’s society, human integrity and ethical crux seems to dissipate or become irrelevant, particularly when within the corporate working sphere or when the big bucks are involved. Metaphorically, page 215 could point out the stop sign at a junction or intersection that technical communicators perhaps encounter on a regular– “the high stakes of accommodating [both] the client and the users.” In other words, do they go for the “financial stability” of clientele or loyalty to the users, thus “protecting them from harm” (215). One word that could be strongly connected to the term ethics or ethical is respect – that is respectability of those primarily involved in the task at hand, namely the users, audience, clients, stakeholders, and coworkers.
The following pages offer a lot of room for discussion, exploration, and discovery – there seems to be a number of ‘how’s’ implicated; how to engage in ethical negotiations, how to arrive at a contingent commitment to action, how to engage effectively with others in an open search for the best option (216) among others (how to do this, how do that). These ‘how to’ inferences are just a window into the ‘behind the scenes’ of what a technical communicator has to deal with and deal with in such a manner that helps meet expectations and overall goals given that they are the “fully-fledge author who contributes to meaning making” (217), which in part can allude to experience, knowledge, and heuristic within the field. I also thought how Scott evokes this concept of power dynamics and power relations/structure in this chapter – quite interesting if you think about these bigtime companies and corporations and how they employ technical communicator to sell or enhance their product or business. So in a way, the technical communicator is one avenue in which they can induce their power relations within the commercial and economical world (seeing as one of technical communicators job is to write for that specific company and to write well in a way represent and facilitate that company’s objective).
Most notably, as Markel (2001) perceives, “deciding the most ethical course of action…is more difficult than [actually] implementing it” (219). In this sense, one has to make that innate decision (through thought-process, social/cultural influence? meta-analysis and reflection, as well as heuristic) as what is the best possible course of action to take, whilst keeping in mind the consequences of said decision made. Perhaps then, as we’ve read in previous chapters, it is a positive thing that within the professional field of technical communication that they work as team and not simply trying to think and work independently (although this is required in some cases). I like this idea of a collaborative effort in making important ethical and legal decisions – I think being in isolation in this type of contextual situation would be very difficult and may cause significant problems, both for the technical communicator and for the company they work for.
On a side note, in regards to the term phronesis (which is relatively new to me), I found this cool post composed by a professor at University of Alberta in Canada. In many ways, it helps shed light on the application of phronesis in not only institutional contexts but also in everyday life (and in our case, we can think about how we can use the phronesis-building approach in ethical and legal decision making as technical communicators as mentioned on page 223). Put simply, he gives quite a nice synopsis of what it is and how we can use it:
“Phronesis … You could say that it’s something like common sense, but it is really more than that. What phronesis means is practical wisdom. And phronesis is the ability to both figure out what to do in any given moment while also knowing what is worth doing. So the idea is that it’s a practical wisdom – that you are wise about your intentions, wise about your ends, and at the same time you have a very clear understanding of the means that you need to actually get there.”
Check out the full text to which he talks about this term in connection to education: