Theory (to me) has never only represented philosophical thinking. When it comes to science, technically a hypothesis in an experiment is theoretical, especially since trials (forms of practice) are conducted following initial research and inquiry. [I often write these responses as I read. I wrote the previous sentences before I got to the bottom of page 127. Proud moment! 🙂 ] The Max scenario located in the introduction of Chapter 5 notes that it is a lack of theory and practice on Max’s part that keeps him from communicating with customers more effectively. On page 130, Porter asks if “we should keep things as clear and as simple as possible,” but what exactly does clear and simple entail? That which is identifiable as clear and simple to some may not be for others. For example, on page 126 Porter suggests that Max’s problem lies in the fact that Max puts more emphasis and focus into his document than he does his audience. This very well may be the case, but this idea (in itself) can be problematic. The audience of the document that Max keeps making adjustments to IS the entire reason as to why he continuously works on it. [This was mentioned on page 140 – again, I wrote this before I read it too.] I would like to argue that the lack of theorizing on Max’s part has nothing to do with the method of communication he has chosen but more-so with user comprehension of the language the document holds. Max’s efforts into making the document more ‘clear and simple’ could be ineffective because he is being too technical in language. Perhaps he should break his information down another way in order for the audience to get better understanding (and this is where question forums and other suggestions may come into play). Whatever Max chooses to do, these are the ways of thinking and theorizing that he should apply to his job as a technical communicator. [I just realized that in the midst of writing this I, too, am doing what the chapter has been speaking of thus far. Talk about having a ‘meta’ moment!]
Also, I found it interesting that Porter mentions the practice of applying theory as what seems to almost be pedagogical. He didn’t say this directly, but on page 130 he mentions that “if you are working collaboratively on a team to design…for your company, you need a theory of collaboration and teamwork that guides how you work with others.” For some reason, this reminded me of the different pedagogies I studied in ENGL 6625 last semester. No, what Porter is talking about may not necessarily be education or writing related, but what he IS saying is that there should be planning and methodological practice behind whatever you do. Obviously, if your position requires you to collaborate on the regular with your coworkers/colleagues, they are going to have to be able to brainstorm and theorize just as you do. Whether it is the sharing of ideas, diverting/managing potential conflict amongst your very own work group, deciding how a document should be constructed/put together, etc. application of theory (in the sense of comprehension, analyzation, and the production of alternative practices, methods, and conclusion) has proven itself highly useful to the field of tech comm.
As for Chapters 7 and 8 (Longo & Fountain; Mehlenbacher), I found it interesting how both scenarios/examples given within the text display a need to be a thoroughly knowledgeable person as a technical writer/communicator. In Chapter 7, Rita needed to fully understand the history of the protocols in order to make modifications as needed. It is the exact same for Janine, except now (and even more so in the future as well as further down the road in tech comm) the task is probably not as stressful. This is mainly because 1) the information Janine needs is accessible through a number of different resources (past documents, the Internet, her peers/work group, etc.) and 2) the work that comes along with her research can easily be split up. Both chapters demonstrate that the job as a technical communicator has changed from a somewhat isolated occupation to one that requires group effort. I speculate that one reason behind this is the growth of the field and the realization that in order for documents to be more effective they should be handled by a number of people. This is also where the extensive amount of research, writing, theorizing, and collaborating that tech comm requires comes into play. As the field expands, the need for more knowledgeable people in different areas of study and profession will be needed.