Theorizing the Field

Because my personal research interest is mostly associated with pedagogical theory I was absolutely ready to engage in chapter 5. The question(s) I had specifically for this this course relates to how theory is applied in the field of technical/professional communication and how/what techniques are useful when putting these theories to practice. I do believe that the field of technical communication relies heavily on theory whether it is noticeable or not, but I don’t believe Porter articulates the process of the field I was looking for. First, I noticed how the Porter uses Kenneth Burke’s notion of terministic screens and how these lenses influence our perception of reality and in this case it is most useful for theory in the field of technical communication.

To elaborate on Burke’s concept I believe it directly relates to the heuristic for technical communication. For example, Porter explains that writers of the field explore tech comm. through four different perspectives.

  • Writing as product
  • Writing as self
  • Writing as process
  • Writing as action

While trying to relate these perspectives to theory, I took a step back and thought of where I seen this before. Therefore, I used my 6625 course to use pedagogical theory in relation to technical communication. Correct me if I’m wrong, but theoretically the field uses a genre based theory for workplace practices. I used chapter 8 as a guide for my approach to understand theory and practice in technical/professional communication. In chapter 8 Mehlenbacher explains the notion of an ill-structured environment and the different environments that tech comm. writers may be located. When we take this into account, we have to understand that these writers will have different influences and expectations for the work they produce. Both Porter and Mehlenbacher states that writers must consider the structure of the literature, the structure of the community, and understanding the rhetorical situation and task.

So when trying to unpack all of this mess (that I made) I came to a conclusion that technical communication is genre based and this allows writers to have multiple systems for their writings. Because multiple genres of writings play a large part in technical communication, this could construct a new identity for an organization and writer (137). This will change the process of a writer for particular organizations. For example, one might consider their audience or the judgment of an audience about their writing, or just as basic as words on a page. I just think these are some things we should consider when trying to theorize the field of technical communication. The field has to understand that adapting to change is probably the only thing that seems consistent, so focusing one particular method of practice will sooner or later limit the work being done.


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