Posted in Discussion Questions

Technical Communication and Ethics

This article discuses the topic of ethics within the framework of technical communication and shapes the discussion around a fictional story of a small company by the name of BioInfo. The story bookends the article and provides a foundation in which to analyze the thoughts of the author as well as a closing in which to reflect on. I want to emphasize here the importance in reading this story and following along with it as you begin to break down the concepts of this article.

Also make sure to read through the lists of questions on pages 225-229 and identify any you specifically want to discuss further in class. These questions provide a nice break within the reading and working through a few of them may help enhance your comprehension of the article.

I cannot reiterate enough the importance of the fictional story in understanding this article. Be sure to identify every instance throughout the document in which ethics comes into question. Seek out the various definitions of ethics and shape how you define ethics as it relates to technical communication and professional writing. Identify the role of a technical communicator in ethics and how it involves more than just the single technical communicator, specifically look at the concept of internetworked. The discussion of the overlap between ethics and law is also important to follow along with as we begin to define ethics.

In shaping how we define ethics, I want you to consider a violation of ethics within your own life. I’m not asking you to share it in class, but taking this violation and attempting to view it with the perspective of technical communication could potentially shed new light on the topic.


  1. As we begin to shape exactly what it means to be a professional writer and a technical communicator, I think it is necessary to understand what constitutes as text involved in these positions. Text can refer to more than just writing, so my question to you is whether or not professional writing can utilize other concepts and forms of communication in its work, and if so how do these varying texts relate to ethics?
  2. On page 217 of the document, Vincent Ruggiero is quoted as having suggested that “respect for persons is a crucial value in most ethical systems, the core value behind numerous more specific obligations to others”.  I want to know if respect as a value relating to ethical systems can go beyond that for people. Perhaps animals?
  3. Is there one specific ethical standard for every individual to refer to, or is this something that is shaped by an individual experiencing the ethical standard? How does all of this potentially relate to the subject of rhetoric?
  4. On page 220 of the document, James Porter is quoted as having explained that “Ethics is not a set of answers, but a mode of questioning and manner of positioning”. I, however, would like to challenge this belief. Why are ethics not a set of answers?
  5. I want to attempt to expand this conversation beyond what is discussed in the article. What are the consequences of having ethics, specifically in the context of breaking them? How are these ethics defined and created, are they based on opinions, religions, cultures, nomos?

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