The November 2018 issue of Technical Communication focuses on the timely subject of “Technical Communication and Election Technologies.” This special issue is guest edited by Godwin Agboka of University of Houston–Downtown and Isidore Dorpenyo of George Mason University. The issue includes five articles that will change the way you think about the impact of technology on policies and practices related to elections.
“Racial Gerrymandering and Geographic Information Software: Subverting the 2011 Texas District Map with Election Technologies” by Fernando Sánchez examines how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software could be manipulated to hinder fair elections and dilute political power. You will enjoy reading this article if you are looking for insights about the professional obligations of technical communicators to serve the public with clarity and accuracy.
“Technologies of Disenfranchisement: Literacy Tests and Black Voters in the U.S. from 1890 to 1965” by Natasha N. Jones and Miriam F. Williams offers historical perspective on the technological disruption of elections as it explains the adoption of literacy tests in the United States as a vehicle for the denial of voting rights to African Americans. Issues addressed in this provocative article include the ways that texts and technologies could be designed to marginalize and oppress people and how technical communicators might seize opportunities for socially responsible intervention.
“Designing Outrage, Programming Discord: A Critical Interface Analysis of Facebook as a Campaign Technology” by Jennifer Sano-Franchini demonstrates that the design of this widely adopted social media platform encourages rapid exchange of opinions and judgments and discourages deliberation, thus contributing to political polarization. The article thus leads to important questions: How might technical communicators design social media technologies for conscientious interactions? For productive political discussions? For civic and civil participation?
“Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Ballots: Technical Communication and Trust in Electoral Systems” by Jim Nugent considers how new voting technologies could change the public perception of transparent and trustworthy elections. If you are interested in how technical communicators might influence the design of democracy through the exercise of rhetoric, make sure to read this article.
“Ethos in Electoral Technology Company Web Spaces” by Matthew Bridgewater investigates the rhetorical techniques adopted by private corporations to build their reputation for integrity with the public and the implications of their efforts for civic discourse about elections. This article uncovers the intersections of business, democracy, and technology and encourages technical communicators to navigate with cautious eyes and critical voices.
Introducing the five articles of this special issue is a perceptive essay by Godwin Agboka and Isidore Dorpenyo, “Election Technologies, Technical Communication, and Civic Engagement,” which includes a brief review of existing research on the topic.
Also in this issue are 21 book reviews as well as summaries of 31 articles from related journals in the field. Don’t miss the striking cover illustration on the subject of election technologies by Rachel Graham Lussos of George Mason University.
This issue of STC’s quarterly research journal is likely to generate lively conversation among technical communicators across the world.