Personal Ethics/ Social Justice

This week’s readings threw St. Amant’s visit to class in sharp relief as Hass and Eble (forthcoming) argue that technical communicators are co-responsible for the material conditions that proliferate from global industrialization in an information economy and should adopt a social justice orientation toward improving those conditions. Whereas St. Amant discussed the “reality” of global technical communication contexts with an objective, neutral stance, throwing out figures of GDP and percentage of people who spoke English or other official languages, Eble and Hass argue that as user advocates, technical communicators should intervene in these conditions, working to promote equity and social justice by pulling on critical theories of race, gender, economics, etc.

One line that really stood out to me in their introduction was Rudd’s line that “we have the potential to both “function as agents of knoweldge-making, action, and change” for some and function as agents of oppression—albeit unwittingly—for Others” (2). It underscores the aleatory nature of our well-meaning actions in the world and how an act, practiced with intention, can have quite unexpected outcomes. This was demonstrated in Frost’s (forthcoming) chapter as she designs and implements a risk communication course from an apparent feminist positionally. While her attempt to use open source technologies to create community and foster public intellectualism was grounded in an epistemology that values knowledge circulation outside academe, some students were not comfortable with the lack of privacy and the push to be public, “risks” that she worked to navigate and mitigate with students in the course.

Frost’s double-bind here forces the question of who and what is privileged by what theoretical stance, by what constellations of bodies, and by which political and epistemological regimes, and underscores the notion that Hass and Eble forward that all practice— teaching, writing, making— is political. As Frost notes, we come to the classroom or the computer or the work place with particular bodies and histories who have been constructed from both our experiences and our cultural milieux, and these super structures and lived experiences shape the choices we make.


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