Good and Bad in Technical Communications

Agboka states “technical communications may be used for good or bad purposes” (169). This calls to mind the recent Volkswagen controversy. No, it wasn’t the technical communicators that set out to defraud the public; however, they were aware of the situation. Someone had to write the memos that were used in the discovery of the error and the instructions regarding how to work the systems to show false output. Was it right? No. Was it understandable? Yes. The communicators worked for the company who directed them…who paid their salaries which supported their families. They were complicit in their actions; however, were they wrong to stay loyal to the company? That’s not my judgment to make. I’d like to say it would bother me and I’d step forward; however, it wasn’t my mortgage and way of life on the table.

Let’s flip over to spatial justice for a moment. Hurley says it “emphasizes the concrete sites and locations from which social justice work can begin” (139). Spaces aren’t just physical. They are mental, figurative, and positional. Going back to the Volkswagen situation, let’s merge the two thoughts. Social justice says everyone is equal to the same economic, political, and social rights and opportunities. In the positional space of the technical communicators at the company, was social justice applied? They were dependent on the generosity of Volkswagen’s continued employment. In my opinion, it could very well be a situation of economic abuse that kept them silent rather than loyalty. They may have feared not being able to find gainful employment if they didn’t do as they were bid. On the flip side, their actions could also mean they didn’t mind deceiving the public. Only their conscious can answer that accusation. But, though it’s a rambled issue, my point is that their space in the structure of the communications surrounding the emissions controversy confirms Agboka’s point. Technical communications have no intrinsic moral value. It all revolves around how communicators are tasked and used.

 

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