Johnson-Eilola’s and Selber’s introductory chapter of our textbook somewhat helped nail a few things on the head for me as a new learner and explorer of the technical and professional communication field. Perhaps the most fundamental of these things was the much-used term and concept of heuristic given it’s emphasis and focus throughout the text. To try to get a better understanding of this particular word (its meaning and application within reality), I googled the definition of it which provided a more clear outlook – “enabling a person to discover and learning something for themselves,” or perhaps more plainly, “using experience to learn and improve” (Marium-Webster Dictionary Online). This helped put it into perspective for me; during last weeks class we had quite an interesting conversation regarding different people’s experiences within different cultural and social contexts and this then in a way helped foster this concept of heuristics in that our own personal influences, ideas, identities, beliefs, and experiences can shape the way we learn and communicate things. In this sense, it could be said that this is what makes this particular field of study so uniquely different, dynamic, and deeply investigative. With this n mind, the first page of the chapter highlights the emergence or perhaps more appropriately the very existence of technical communication in ancient Roman culture which I thought was quite interesting as it shows just how, like many professions or genres of writing I guess, have developed and augmented throughout the decades. For example, this could allude to the invention of the printing press in the Renaissance ages around the mid-fifteenth century. I know this isn’t a history class but I thought this paragraph on the invention of it is pretty cool as we can relate it to a certain degree to what we read for this week. I have underlined a few key sentences that I think can help us understand what our text was talking about making information available to our intended audience, and how imperative it is for technical communicators to put themselves in the users shoes (or at least thats what I got from it!):
“The immediate effect of the printing press was to multiply the output and cut the costs of books. It thus made information available to a much larger segment of the population who were, of course, eager for information of any variety. Libraries could now store greater quantities of information at much lower cost. Printing also facilitated the dissemination and preservation of knowledge in standardized form — this was most important in the advance of science, technology and scholarship. The printing press certainly initiated an “information revolution” on par with the Internet today. Printing could and did spread new ideas quickly and with greater impact” (history guide.org, 2012).
Arguably though, given today’s advancements in technological and professional communication, it is perhaps a lot more complex than that noted above but I think it’s always useful to see the historical context of something in order to try to fully understand and become aware of its implications and use in modern society. On another note, speaking of change and development, the first chapter also emphasized on the important idea of adaptability, which, on a personal level, I think is needed for most, if not all, professions today! It calls to mind Bear Grylls, the British dude who goes out into the wilderness and has to find different resources and ways to survive, has to adapt to his environment and surroundings in order to stay alive (over Christmas break he did an adventure with President Obama – if you haven’t seen it, please do!) Maybe I’m taking this a step too far and realize Bear Grylls has nothing to do with Technical Communication but I think in small ways, the concept of adaptability applies rather similarly here; technical communicators (from what I gathered from the readings) have to be aware of their surroundings, make analytical decisions, facilitate self-reflective thinking, and perhaps most importantly, know the needs of their audiences in order to fulfill the ultimate goal (providing information and providing it well through communication). Likewise, Bear has to know his environment with which he finds himself in, make critical decisions (which direction is safest to go, how to eat), analyze the situation at hand, as well as use a certain degree of metacognition to help evaluate his next move and the consequences, all of which contribute to and build upon the ultimate goal of survival. It could also be said that both journeys (yes, one is more extreme than the other but both hold important values!) to the end objective are ongoing processes which we saw through the fictional example of Elena.
Chapters 2 and 4 definitely helped me realize just how interwoven and complex the job and field of technical communication is, and I think many people overlook it (as I admittedly have done in the past). Simply put, as Hart-Davidson simply puts it, this relatively young yet flourishing field of profession is “more than just writing” (50). In other words, there is a lot more than meets the eye and to be able to successfully complete the job effectively (keeping in mind intended-audience, users needs and wants, social and cultural context, medium of technology, communication outlet, the organizations or company’s requirements and goals among others) takes time, effort, commitment, and certainly passion for the field. Evidently, it has made me think more about my career goals and possible professional paths and the many different directions writing can take you.