Reading Log–Article 13

  1. Mark Ward, Ethics of Exigency

The Ward article also dealt with the issue of ethics during the Holocaust, this time in the field of design rather than technical writing. This needs to change as word-processing formats are more closely intertwined with information design, Ward argues. The author argues against the categorizing Katz offers in his article, saying that analysts should consider how these cultural symbols came to have such meaning to begin with. He then spends a large portion of the article examining a Nazi youth poster in which the “ethics of exigence” can be examined through the hidden propaganda. The propaganda can be seen in the poster’s carefully crafted rhetoric and design choices. Examining the Nuremburg rhetoric in relation to Kant and Markel, the writer concludes that the posters were not a devastating challenge to post-modern relativism in technical communication, as they had previously argued. He also makes a proposal for a synthesis of foundational and nonfoundational approaches to ethics.

Ward’s article was a great companion piece to the Katz article in this particular set, and helped me as a reader to think more carefully about how Nazi came to have those hidden connotations in the first place. The poster, I thought, made a great artifact to support his argument on design. So much about the effectiveness of information comes from the way in which we present, rather than the content of our words, the ideas we want to persuade an audience towards. The fact that something as devastating as the Holocaust was able to be carried out on the grand scale that it was really speaks as to the power of the rhetorical propaganda at that time, that it was strong enough that an entire civilization would turn against their neighbors and think themselves ethical for doing so. I appreciated the Ward piece for its thoughtful examination of the Nazi rhetoric, as it helped me to have a better understanding of history.

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