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Our view of ethics in professional and technical communication has evolved, paralleling developments throughout society. Earlier views on ethics and values have grown into a broad perspective of complex gradations with people at many levels affecting eventual practical outcomes. This newer perspective includes not only persons but social forces and organizations. The organizational culture of NASA, for example, was specifically identified by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) as one of the causes of faulty communication leading to a terribly tragic event. The Challenger investigations of 20 years earlier, on the other hand, focused primarily on physical events, secondarily on professional judgments, and only little on the social and cultural context of the disaster. We learn by failures but also by self-examination. As we see how ethics and values impact technical events, we understand that technological progress is ultimately a human endeavor in which reflection and judgment is as important as measurement and observation.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2007