II. Short Writing #4: The Ethics of Communication

In this module, we’re going to start off by thinking about ethics in technical communication. First of all, what are “ethics”? And how are ethical values manifest in the decisions we make and the things we write? You might want to write down how you would personally define the term “ethics” on a scrap of paper and then reflect on your own personal definition as you read and watch the assignment that follows…

  1. Read this short article from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
  2. Watch Sebastian Deterding’s TED talk on “What Your Designs Say About You;”
  3. Reflect on the object or concept that was the subject of your last project on technical definitions. Deterding encourages us to think about the inherent ethics in the objects and ideas that we use and take for granted every day. He asserts that everything encompasses or reflects ethical layers, consisting of intentions, effects, values, virtues and persuasion, that are manifest by our use of them.
  4. Add to your extended definition of the object or concept by creating a new section–Implied Ethics. You will analyze the subject of your extended definition from a design perspective using any three of Deterding’s five criteria-intentions, effects, values, virtues and persuasion. For example, what were the intentions of the design? Do not limit your analysis to explicit intentions but dig deeper, thinking about implicit or underlying intentions. Deterding uses the example of bolted down chairs in a lecture hall. The explicit intention of that design is to sit, right? But the implicit intention is for students to be passive, to remain in one position and to have the exact same physical structure for every class. There are ethical implications wrapped up in such implicit intentions and that is what we are trying to get at here.
  5. Check out this example of the Implied Ethics of a Memo. This is just one way of going about this assignment. Yours may look different, and that’s okay.

Format and Length:
Post your Implied Ethics to the Forums. You do not have to literally revise your Project #3! Add an image to your post so your readers can see what you’re discussing. For this assignment, it’s okay to use an image off the internet. Aim for about 350 words as a minimum.

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