Work Habits, Theories, and Histories

I want to combine my responses to readings from this week and last week (playing catch up, ya’ll). The principle idea that stuck out to me from last week’s reading was the work habits of technical communicators. This part of chapter was really refreshing for me because it helped me to find a natural, comfortable connection to professional communication, which is something I’ve been struggling to do. Up to now, it has felt like i keep trying to pull professional communication into a broader rhetorical conversation to connect it to my interests in cultural rhetorics and pedagogy. Chapter two’s outline of work habits in technical communication showed me that I already have these work habits and that they grow out of a rhetorical framework. I already work as an information designer, user advocate, and a steward of writing activity and I didn’t even know it. My affinity for rhetoric has produced these work habits, which for me, show up in my teaching. When I prepare my course materials and even my lesson plans, I am thinking not just about the content that I want my students to grapple with, but also I want to be conscious of how my own teaching strategies shape their access to and understanding of those concepts.

Moving into this week’s reading assignments, the theory and history chapters are adding depth and dimension to the way that I connect technical and professional communication to my research interests. Although the discussion of theory is really broad and general it reminds me that it is rhetorical theory that frames technical communication–at least from an academic perspective. I would also argue that the best examples of technical communication in industry take rhetoric into account. It just helps me to frame technical and professional communication rhetorically. And since I’m so committed to practical application of theory, technical and professional communication is one of the strongest examples of that. The history chapter takes that a step further by introducing questions that demand rhetorical answers. What has always been done? Who has done it? How? What do the people in this place expect? What does the history in this workplace or with this task offer us? How does it limit us? I’m realizing that these are important questions that can be heuristics, but they can also impose unnecessary limitations. So, here’s where I can pull all these strings together: I want to be able to apply work habits and rhetorical theory in ways that take history into account, but then also I want to use them as strategies to break out of history as a constraint.

So, my plan is to take this insight into my definitional project. I want to look at what kind of research interests exist in professional and technical communication, consider how these interests are shaped by the history of the field, and look for occasions when researchers are applying technical communication work habits or theory outside of subjects or workplaces that are historically related to the field.

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