The Case for Care: Applying Dynamic Care Thinking to Ethical Concerns in TPC

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While ethics is a crucial topic in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) conversations happening in technical and professional communication (TPC) scholarship, the discussions on ethics in TPC have largely focused on issues of social justice. However, simply expecting a sense of justice deprived of a specific, operationalized ethical framework and moral values is difficult (if not impossible) to imagine by those expected to act. This research explores whether and/or how a care-based ethical model can be developed to effectively guide professional communication processes and outputs for practitioners. It submits to the conversation of traditional ethics of care ethical theory an expanded scope of ethical care, called dynamic care, that addresses specifically ethics of care application in TPC. Using action research, 10 working sessions with seven study participants were coded and analyzed for conversational ethical themes. The dynamic care ethical model developed in the working sessions demonstrates how different phases of project development require ethical reflection and audience care. Step one establishes an audience cohort based on principles of care, while steps two and three prompt reflection questions for the practitioner to answer related to the project itself. This dissertation reports on the study’s results to propose how, when, and where an ethical framework of care could become a helpful rhetorical tool for professional communication development, and in what ways it can improve the communications from both an ethical and technical perspective.

ethics of care, professional communication