Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Mary Ann Brady

Committee Member 1

Robert R Johnson

Committee Member 2

Marika A Seigel

Committee Member 3

Godwin Y Agboka


In this project, I seek to “unblackbox” technology; by which I mean, I seek to, in the words of Latour, “open up” or “debug” the biometric technology used by Ghana for its 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections. Through the process of “unblackboxing,” I demonstrate the value of technical communicators to technology studies by analyzing technical documents that accompanied the biometric verification device which was adopted and used by Ghana to conduct its 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections. I argue in this dissertation that technical documentation does not merely accommodate users to technologies, but also it provides avenues to articulate broader issues like localization, ideology, subjectivity, and the social justice implications of the various technologies we adopt and use. We are also positioned to understand how a society reacts to issues that are historically, politically, culturally rooted in their context.

I maintain that documentation writing is one of the defining activities of technical communication. Thus, it is important to continue to build upon and expand the analyses of these types of documents to critically assess the role they can play in discussions about technology especially in international contexts. By performing a rhetorical-cultural analysis of various technical documents that accompanied the biometric device used in Ghana, I hope to aid technical communicators to reconsider received knowledge about the purposes and uses of technical documentation, such as instructional manuals. More importantly, by embarking on this project, I am able to:

  • interrogate the “international” in international technical communication;
  • discuss documentation design in international context;
  • expand research on the importance of technical documentation to technology studies in a non-Western context (Ghana);
  • demonstrate how rhetorical and cultural theories can be combined to study technology in international contexts.