Intersectionality in Writing & Writing Pedagogies

Please check out my blog post that considers this question: How can we engage learners in inquiry into and reflection of multiple aspects of their intersectionality (Cox 411) while avoiding the flattening of the dynamic and fluid nature of identities?  🙂

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Week 8 response – Social justice and space in tech comm

From a personal standpoint, perhaps my favourite readings for this week was Agboka’s Indigenous Contexts New Questions. I really enjoyed reading this particular piece not only because I could actually understand and follow along (i.e. relatively simplistic language used), but maybe most importantly because of the very heart of the article through it’s exemplification of social injustice in what may seem like a simple piece of text to the naked eye. Before reading this, I had little to no awareness on this particular incident and think it’s a prime example of how this fundamental concept of “centrality of humanity” (167) was in fact abused and exploited. In this sense, my understanding of how technical communication works, both directly and indirectly, effectively and ineffectively, as well as where it works in terms of different fields or sectors in society (i.e. not just in medical field or technology domain but, as Agboka points out, also in the energy sector). I found that a number of our readings thus far say a lot (theory, I know!) but don’t actually give a real example or put into context. Conversely, conversely the author says this is what I think/theorize and why, and ok here’s an authentic example of what or how I mean by this, how it be applied both in the classroom and in real-world, while also breaking down that very example (memo) to illustrate the rhetorical implications of technical communication. As follows, our Teaching Composition class last semester touched upon several teaching pedagogies that align with the service-learning approach Agboka refers to and evidently supports to a great end (188) as they “can reach out and make connections between the human rights concepts they learn in the course and specific “real” world experiences” therefore essentially “look[ing] beyond the traditional institution” (188); I hope one day to be able to put this into practice to my students.

One fundamental note that I think this article further increments is “how corporate structures may often be used in ways that abuse human rights” (168), which arguably is essentially driven by economic desires/factors/objectives. So, I guess, in part, that’s the world we live in today – money is power, right?! Sadly, yes. And this power filters through in various ways, both implicitly and explicitly, in various sectors of society be that in politics, in our institutions (universities, different social groups,), even in our local communities there is that underlying ghost of power dynamics seeping through on a daily basis. Ok, maybe I’m rambling! But, case in point, the power dynamics and the intent for action was so strategically corrupted (seen rhetorically in the memo) insofar as to terminate the people and local communities who were simply trying to shine a light on the wrongfulness of these actions. In essence, by attempting to stand up for themselves through non-violent strategies and instigating their fundamental “right to life itself” (174), the Ogoni people were subsequently met with brutal force and annihilation, all because this one oil company wanted to continue their energy resource explorations in order to enhance their economical endeavors. As Agboka attests herself, yes, this is a rather extreme example of such social injustice seen covertly yet undeniably intentional in a piece of technical communication, however, looking through a more positive and educational lens, such an example can then be brought into the technical communication classroom to purposefully illuminate students’ (who are future innovators and creators of society) habits of mind (189) and effectively provide opportunity for analyzation and realization where social justice and ethical issues are concerned given that, historically, communications were the “paths of transportation by means of which people at the centers of power could exercise control over those in the peripheries” (Slack et al., 28). Conclusively then, as Jameson suggests, when we view technical documents, artifacts, and texts as “apolitical and nonideological…we misunderstand them and [therefore] limit our ability to transform them for civic good” (Critical Power Tools, 12) by way of “free[ing] such [power] structures from monolithic and hegemonic control and ownership that silence the may positionalities and identities that intersect in workplace” (Cox, 405) and elsewhere.

Pertaining to Hurley’s chapter, Agboka affords the certain idea of space (virtual, physical, intellectual, emotional?) in her concluding paragraphs, affirming that “our classroom is a space that is home to students with diverse perspectives, experiences, socializations, who, in turn, will impact global contexts because of the nature of their work” (186). Correspondingly, Slack, Miller, and Doak also highlight in their chapter that the ability to move messages “across space by means of such communications was a necessary condition for political, economic, and religious domination” (28) – key word being ‘space.’ In this way, her insightful piece focusing on the cultivation of critical spatial perspective on spatial in technical communication pedagogy (Hurley) offers alot of mindfulness, speculation, questioning, and above all, conversation. I’m not so sure I understand one hundred percent what she is implying here but I do think I can grasp the basic foreground. Seeing as I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it all (hopefully some class discussion scan help clarify and make things a wee bit more clear on this end), here are some important quotes I highlighted while reading through the article. I know this is rather simplistic and basic-level like given the complexity of the institutional (and more so beyond – page 133) implications Hurley suggests here, but sometimes it can help to try to break it down by way of good old bullet points.

  • “the transition to a new region, new town, new university, new position, made clear to me that I was/am in the spatial turn: space, place, location, embodiment – all of these things mattered” (131).
  • Spatialization need not be restricted to geographic space as a fixed, static location. Because space is produced by and productive of social relations, spatial practices are always cultural, rhetorical, and necessarily political.” (132).
  • “only when we reimagine space as an always open collection of multidimensional trajectories and relations – rather than as a flat surface to be filled, or traversed and conquered – can there be a future that s unscripted and open for politics which can make a difference: (132).
  • “all social practices…traffic in numerous spaces and places which, in turn, are productive of cultural, ideological, and rhetorical meanings.” (133).

These are just a few that caught my eye in the beginning pages, but before going on, I thought it may be useful to look more closely at some of the terminology Hurley uses here (admittedly mainly because I just didn’t really understand what they meant!). She refers to the term ‘spatial’ quite frequently throughout the article and I was pondering on what the difference was between space and spatial. The former is, according to good old Google, “a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied,” and the latter, spatial, is “of or relating to space and the relationship of objects within it” (Marriam-Webster.com). On page 135, Hurley quotes Nedra Reynolds when she articulates that “writing itself is spatial,” alike to how we talked about at the beginning of the semester how writing itself is a technology. In this sense, as she notes on the following page, “where communicative practices happen is just as important as how and why they happen.” (134).

 

 

 

 

 

Wee note on tech comm and cultural aspects

I was going to briefly mention this in class yesterday but our conversations got so interesting, I felt it best to just post up here and see what you guys thought.

Recently, MTV UK posted on their Twitter account and website about this now popularized hairstyle of, as they call them, “boxer braids.” Of course, because Kim Kardashian is seen with this particular hairstyle, all of a sudden it is “having a total moment right now.” The article then goes on to give a step by step guide on how to be like Mrs Kim West, accompanied by a short visual demonstration through YouTube. Yes, it satisfies those who read it and want to know how to do this hairstyle, thus in this sense it serves as a piece of technical information for those within the UK sphere. However, looking to the US, in terms of technical communication and the things we discussed in class last week, I thought this good be a good example of MTV UK not being aware of their global audience and, perhaps most importantly, not doing their research on the cultural and social implications of posting such a text to the world through a virtual space.

In response to this, the African American online community and media outlets, namely therroot.com and essence.com, expressed their frustration on the lack of cultural consideration and how, to a certain extent, this is a form of “black appropriation”and argue that their people have been rocking this hairstyle for centuries. Now, I am fully aware that I am not African American and nor can I even begin to understand the anger and frustration, especially at such heated times as these at present, when a certain culture that’s not yours tries to undermine or even ignore the history of another. Maybe I’m overthinking it; maybe this is not even relevant to our discussions or to tech comm, and maybe I’m just being too critical of MTV UK’s approach to it all, but when I read it and saw the responses to it, I couldn’t help but think if the writer of this article at MTV UK would have done a better job at doing some background research, been more audience aware (not just people int he UK reading this, particular since it’s through social media), and last but not least, taken better care of how the piece is written (language, tone) then perhaps these negative responses and therefore increasing frustrations would never have been inferred.

Here’s the link to both the MTV UK article and then the subsequent responses to it:

http://www.mtv.co.uk/kim-kardashian/news/how-to-do-boxer-braids-tutorial

http://www.theroot.com/blogs/the_grapevine/2016/02/mtv_uk_renames_cornrows_boxer_braids_because_appropriation.html

http://www.essence.com/2016/02/20/rolls-eyes-according-mtv-uk-cornrows-are-now-called-boxer-braids

Have a good weekend beautiful people!

 

The value of a liberal arts education?

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/business/a-rising-call-to-promote-stem-education-and-cut-liberal-arts-funding.html?_r=0

 

Photo

A lab manager in the Dynamical Systems Laboratory at New York University’s engineering school. Engineering is a STEM field, along with science, technology and mathematics. CreditNicole Craine for The New York Times 

When the Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, suggested last month that students majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education, he joined a growing number of elected officials who want to nudge students away from the humanities and toward more job-friendly subjects like electrical engineering.

Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy.

When it comes to dividing the pot of money devoted to higher education, at least 15 states offer some type of bonus or premium for certain high-demand degrees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors, there just will,” Mr. Bevin, a Republican, said after announcing his spending plan. “All the people in the world who want to study French literature can do so; they’re just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayers like engineers will be, for example.”

Photo

An engineering student in a lab at N.Y.U. A particular focus on jobs and earnings is gaining momentum at four-year colleges. CreditNicole Craine for The New York Times 

Or, as Gov. Patrick McCrory of North Carolina once put it, higher-education funding should not be “based on butts in seats, but on how many of those butts can get jobs.

What has incensed many educators is not so much the emphasis on work force development but the disdain for the humanities, particularly among Republicans. Several Republicans have portrayed a liberal arts education as an expendable, sometimes frivolous luxury that taxpayers should not be expected to pay for. The Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, for example, has called for more welders and fewer philosophersGov. Rick Scott of Florida criticized anthropologists, and Mr. McCrory belittled gender studies.

Democrats have, for the most part, avoided denouncing the humanities, but they have argued that education and training should be better aligned with the job market.

The Obama administration, for example, proposed, much to the horror of many in academia, rating the country’s 7,000 colleges and universities not only on measures like completion rates and student loan debt, but also on earnings after graduation. Dozens of states have already moved to performance-based goals that more closely tie a portion of their higher education funding to particular outcomes like degrees earned or courses completed.

But the particular focus on jobs and earnings — originally limited to vocational programs and community colleges — is gaining momentum.

“There’s a deeper question of what public money should be used for,” said Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University professor who runs the Center on Education and the Workforce.

Education tends to be justified in terms of personal exploration and fulfillment, as well as creating informed citizens who make a functioning democracy possible. The humanities have traditionally been seen as crucial to both endeavors.

“The problem is that education is now the principal determinant of earnings, and we pay no attention to it at all. That’s gone too far,” Mr. Carnevale said. “There’s a lot of buyers’ regret out there.”

Mr. Carnevale argues that there should be much more information available to students about employment and wage prospects before they choose a major so that they can make informed choices. “We don’t want to take away Shakespeare. We’re just talking about helping people make good decisions,” he said. “You can’t be a lifelong learner if you’re not a lifelong earner.”

A graduate with a higher-earning degree could make up to $4 million more in lifetime earnings than other college graduates, Mr. Carnevale said. Most of the top earners in the liberal arts end up matching only the bottom earners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known as the STEM fields — and some will earn less than high school graduates who have vocational skills, like welders and mechanics.

A recent salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit membership organization that connects campus career officers with business recruiters, found once again that new STEM graduates were expected to command the highest overall average salaries in 2016. New engineers, for example, are expected to earn nearly $65,000 a year.

Earnings by Degree

Those who graduate with degrees in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — are expected to command the highest salaries.

Projected average salary by discipline

2016 bachelor’s graduates

Engineering

$64,900

Computer science

61,300

Math and sciences

55,100

Business

52,200

Agriculture and

natural resources

48,700

Health care

48,700

Communications

47,000

Social sciences

46,600

Humanities

46,100

Education

34,900

The average salary for new graduates who majored in humanities — including French literature — is projected to increase slightly from last year to $46,065, up from $45,042. Although data is more limited, these graduates seem to attract the most interest from employers in finance, insurance and real estate, the survey found. The average for social science majors is $46,585.

But informing students better is one thing. Penalizing certain majors in the form of reduced funding is another.

In his address to the Kentucky General Assembly, Mr. Bevin said, “The net result of putting public tax dollars into education is to ensure that we actually are graduating people that can go into the work force.”

Not surprisingly, humanities professors were among the most vocal critics of Mr. Bevin’s remarks. In an op-ed article last month in The Lexington Herald-Leader, Jeffrey N. Peters, who teaches French literature at the University of Kentucky, noted that Mr. Bevin graduated from the liberal arts university Washington and Lee with a bachelor’s degree in Japanese and East Asian Studies after studying abroad in Japan.

“I would like to thank Bevin for drawing on that formative experience to remind Kentuckians during his Tuesday budget presentation that the study of world languages, literatures and cultures is a valuable pursuit that has led countless college students to successful careers in education, business, international relations, the arts and — as his own story demonstrates — public service,” Mr. Peters wrote.

Mr. Bevin’s office offered few details about precisely how the funding formula would work. But in general, the trend of reducing funding the humanities and providing added incentives for STEM majors at public institutions would mean that a liberal arts education would be increasingly limited to those who could afford to attend expensive private institutions.

Other critics expressed concerns about allowing government officials to pick work force winners and losers.

“We are not good at predicting what jobs are going to be required in five years and 10 years down the road,” said Debra Humphreys, a senior vice president at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She worries that underfunding the humanities will not only undermine educational quality but be bad economic policy. “You run a huge risk when you say you are going to divert money from this major to that major.”

Research by the association shows that employers are not as focused on individual majors as they are on the kind of broad-based analytic, communications and problem-solving skills that a humanities education specializes in, Ms. Humphreys said.

The question of whether to reward colleges for turning out STEM graduates or for higher job placement rates has generated a lot of debate in Tennessee, where all of the state’s higher education funding is tied to various performance measures, said Russ Deaton, the interim executive director of Tennessee’s Higher Education Commission.

“I’m not sure I trust myself to decide which degree programs or which fields deserve that premium and what that premium should be,” Mr. Deaton said.

“A lot of the feedback we get from employers is not only about the necessity of technical skills, but the soft skills as well — the ability to think creatively, to work in groups, things that you traditionally get in the liberal arts,” he said. “It’s not as simple as STEM is valued and worthy of incentives and everything else is not.”

YES, Haas & Eble. So excited!

Like some other folks have mentioned, I was super excited to read this introduction and Erin’s chapter. The cultural and the social justice turns, on which Eble and Haas have predicated this collection are, for me, really energizing. So many of the arguments that they’re making are super important. First, the way that they position their work and its contribution to the conversation is noteworthy. They suggest that their collection contributes to a growing conversation by, “demonstrating that all technical communication contexts are multi- and inter-cultural and influenced by institutions and systems of power—and distributed agency therein—and that social justice approaches to technical communication better position us in any context to better advocate for technological and scientific change in equitable ways within these contexts.” (7) What an important gap for them to step into!

I’m  really impressed with, not just that articulation of the position of tehe text, but also  the range of goals that the collection aspires to. I like that they have goals on both the industry and academic sides of the field, as they describe here: “In addition to better representing diverse workplaces, practices,and practitioners, we hope that this collection will also inspire otherprogrammatic initiatives (e.g.,recruiting and supporting increased representation of, participation from, and mentoring of historically underrepresented and underserved populations, forming social justice committees and special interest groups, etc.)” (9) I think that the emphasis on teaching technical communication is important especially because of the pragmatic nature of our field. The students in our classrooms are not necessarily going to continue in our footsteps and work in the (often theoretically driven) world of academia. Instead, they will walk out into the world and do work that has  materially impacts the lives of diverse groups of people. It is important for programs to take up this task, so that their students will enter the workforce ready to engage with cultural and social justice issues.

One point that the introduction makes that stood out especially clearly to me because it articulates a point that I was trying to make about power last week when Dr. St. Amant visited class. I wanted to discuss the fact that the political and hegemonic nature of globalization makes U.S. centered technical communication always already operating within an imbalance of power. Haas and Eble say this much more clearly than I was able to when they assert that, “[U.S. based technical communication] is a position…of privilege, and we argue that we should no longer feel comfortable in this position”(12). YES! I’m excited because this is an encouraging sign that this collection might give me language to articulate the pull I feel for the kind of work that I want to do.

I think I started to feel that pull in Erin’s class last semester. I really helped me to shift my perspective of technical and professional communication to see it through a much more humanist lens–although I didn’t have that language at the time (gee..look at how I’ve grown). So, it was especially rewarding to read her chapter along with this introduction because her apparent feminist theory really resonated with me (again) because it centers–and make apparent–a cultural stance and experience within spaces that is usually cast as neutral and objective.

I’m eager to continue to read to see if the collection lives up to the promises in the introduction. If so, it will earn a permanent spot on my bookshelf!

Risk Communication!

Let me start by saying I am super excited about this book/manuscript since I have just really begun developing a deep interest in the subject of risk and crisis rhetoric and communication…considering previous work I have done and enjoyed, the reasons I became a student after a decade long hiatus from institutional education, and my absolute love for/obsession with post-apocalyptic and apocalyptic narrative, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I landed here. Reading the intro and first chapter this week also makes me wish I had read this at the beginning of the course instead of waiting until it was assigned, and even more so that I had begun asking around about how crisis falls into risk communication in rhetoric and tech/prof com. So, about the readings: Read More

Haas & Eble

The introduction has me very interested in what is to come in the manuscript. I have always known that there was a social justice aspect tied into technical communications, but now I am excited to learn the how. I think it most certainly means I need to conduct additional research on what is a social justice frame, and how is it applied outside of technical communications. One quote in particular that stood out to me that let me know I was on the right path in my research focus was “These critical shifts demonstrate that the field of technical communication is deeply committed to revisiting and revising our relationships with communication, technology, science, and culture in responsible and reflexive ways that have had great impact on our practices and users.” It tells those who were not aware that technical communicators are much more than just the people who write instructions. But I think this quote also highlights how in the past, technology has been used to oppress certain groups, which I never thought of. I also ran over Miriam’s colorblind approach to technical communication, which I can’t help but wonder how is it even possible to do so? When I was initially introduced to technical communication, I never thought culture would shape the ideas and concepts present. However, knowing that this text was created with a social justice approach, I now feel that technical communications is much more universal than what I was initially introduced to.

Also, this may be a bit off. I like that they acknowledge a possible shortcoming of their text. I think that says the authors are aware of the work they are doing, and what the goal of that work is.

 

Week 7 Reading

In the introduction, Hass and Eble argue that Globalization influences the technological, scientific and cultural spheres of technical communication. I understood this part as the fact that Globalization means that communication is broaden to include more diverse audiences, and a technical communicator will have to be more careful considering their audience, and particularly the divers backgrounds. However, at the point where Hass and Eble discuss the thought that science and technology are not really objective and neutral, but subjective and ideological means that serve certain ideological agendas, I had to stop to think how technology and science would serve an agenda of oppression for instance. The later discussion of social justice helped me shape an answer for my question as I started to understand that technology and science can be used in biased representation that does not achieve social justice for a cultural group for instance. The Frost chapter and the discussion of the documentation available on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill shows this bias and unjust representation of the disaster, with a focus more on economy than health, which I find controlled by the society itself. That is, in a capitalist society where economy and money is an essence of life, it is ordinary (from a capitalist perspective) to find more emphasis on money than anything else.

Herein, lies the importance of social, feminist, critical and other theories in the construction of the curricular and pedagogical approaches of technical communication. Evoking students to take these stands in their consideration of a context of technical communication can help them apply a more socially just practices. In designing her pedagogy, Frost helped students take a stance, and construct their own identities. At the point where she discusses how two of the students made it clear that they were not feminists, I found her pedagogy was empowering as they could explicitly express their own ideology, not putting themselves in the feminist position as the pedagogy was based on apparent feminism. I was wondering whether the student’s culture affected the student’s decision to not discuss in the public website. If so, I would argue that the flexibility of Frost’s pedagogy in this case was a form of using technology with a culturally informed agenda that served to provide a social justice for that particular student.

Overall, I found the reading for this week interesting, but still wish to grasp a little more about it in the class discussion. So far, I got to understand that technical and professional communication is a too broad discipline that I would never be able to confine in one definition.

Hardy – Week 7 Response

Haas and Eble start us off by introducing the complex relationship between technical communication and globalization, and they argue that these complexities are necessary for technical communicators to interrogate (3). Further, social justice frameworks can help us examine distributions of power—and imbalances in that distribution—from the technical communication courses. Combining the pedagogical with the theoretical, Haas and Eble’s forthcoming edited collection embodies the interplay between various camps, such as cultural studies, social justice rhetorics, and technical/professional/scientific communication, and the relationships between local and global contexts “on the macro-, meso-, micro, and even—literally—the cellular levels” (9, 13).  Just from reading the introduction, I can tell this collection is an ambitious project; it might just even be groundbreaking. There are many disciplinary boundaries challenged, or even threatened, by this kind of collection. Furthermore, I can see from the table of contents that contributors have the potential to disrupt existing notions of TPC and extend its application to other contexts that have not been explored previously. Reading the introduction energized me. I wanted to shout Yes! Yes! Absolutely! as I read because there is a great sense of urgency communicated here, and the authors grab out at the reader and say Hey, you — listen, this is important work and here’s why you should care. So many scholarly works are humdrum retreads of old material and offer little more than a fleeting insight. But this work has vigor and a lot of driving power behind it, and given its editors, this project is in excellent hands. I hope that this collection has great success and is well received across the discipline.