In my readings, I could not help but find discomfort in the fact that the subject of ethics within technical communication is regarded as something that is situational. In chapter 9 specifically, Scott refers to ethics as “a process” that is context-dependent (234-235). The example within the text is even more of a reason to be alarmed, as it prescribes the idea of negotiation as a solution to ethical problems within the workplace. During class last week, my group raised a question to the class that (contrary to what the text tells us) was quite simple to answer. Considering the BioTech/MegaPharm ethical dilemma presented in the text, the class quickly came to the conclusion that because these companies were dealing with medicines and flu vaccinations that directly affected the well-being of their users, it is the duty of the technical communicators involved to protect the users more-so than it is their duty to be loyal to the client. One person even made a comment supporting the notion that certain companies (those that deal with medications, vaccines, health/fitness products, etc.) should be required to give facts on all documentations, advertisements, etc.
Now skipping ahead (for just a moment)…
In Chapter 14 and on page 340, Henze gives an example of what the word genre encompasses. The scenario of the student introduction gives a clear image to what a genre is supposed to be. The genre of both the introduction and the student giving it seems to form from 1) a culture surrounding the classroom and 2) certain expectancies of the two. In his words, genres “help technical communicators diagnose a document users needs and produce documents that respond to those needs in situationally appropriate ways” (337). If this is truly the case when it comes to genre, then why exactly is the process for dealing with ethical dilemma within certain circumstances vary? Why must technical communicators accept that their morals may potentially be challenged? Why is it not already a standard within tech comm (or any other field for that matter) that all companies which create and/or market health-related products must be honest in their endeavors and strategies?
I feel as this: if these questions were to be seriously considered, a new genre within tech comm could possibly emerge that not only would assist technical communicators with producing documents that accurately respond to the intentions of its creators but would also help them avoid a number of dilemmas and negotiations.
Capitalism, in all of its glory, inarguably affects the ways in which certain products are advertised, marketed, and documented (which clearly was the case in the chapter 9 reading); however, the whole idea of there being a need to instruct technical communicators on techniques of compromise would cease (not completely, but some) if a genre of ‘health-related’ documentations were to be created. Stricter laws would need to be put in place to deter companies from promoting products that are incorrectly advertised, but the result of this would be that 1) certain forms, documents, and ads would not have the ability to mislead users/consumers and 2) technical communicators would not face as much ethical dilemma because they would (equally) protect the users and remain loyal to the clients.
Granted, I understand that solutions to problems are not always so clear. I also understand that a culture of a company/organization sometimes has a difficult time evolving. If the goal, though, revolves around the satisfaction of the user AND the improvement of overall userability why aren’t these measures being put in place? Ethical matters should never be context-dependent when someones well-being is in the equation; this is one thing that should not be debatable. So, I guess my question (at this point) is ‘how can technical communicators help create and implement genres that avoid ethical dilemma?’