According to Blakeslee and Savage, writing is the only constant in technical communication (364). Their heuristic in this chapter offers some useful questions to consider with regard to the quality and quantity of textual production as part of the day-to-day tasks technical communicators face, which requires knowledge of genre conventions, rhetorical skill, and writing as a solitary and/or collaborative process (369). These observations, as I have said in previous posts, seem obvious to me, perhaps becomes of my training in writing studies. But to boil down what I think Blakeslee and Savage want the reader to take away is this: “everything is driven by the needs of audiences” (376). Regardless of the particular task at hand, technical communicators are developing content for use, and the users are of course the most important party technical communicators must consider. I would argue the users are significantly more important than the client for which the technical communicator writes or develops. This came up in class during our Gallery Walk — I believe it was Constance’s group. Certainly the client is paying for the technical communicator’s time and efforts, but ultimately, satisfying the users of the document is in a way satisfying the client. To put it another way, creating a document that is accessible and easy to follow will ensure fewer problems for the client to contend with.
Blakeslee and Savage further observe that technical communicators must “learn quickly and independently” (372). Although documents may be developed with the efforts of many, each communicator must find ways of managing his/her time, and they must be prepared to continue their education from the moment they begin work; they must be willing to learn constantly (381). Every writing task is unique with its own sets of demands, outcomes, and deadlines, which does not solely apply to technical communicators, but I think the authors are trying to emphasize something specific to technical communicators. Developing an instruction manual, for example, is not just one task; there are many micro-tasks that must be completed to arrive at that macro-task, which is a finished instruction manual. One has to manage tackling each micro-task, which requires learning to manage time at the micro and macro levels. Since the sample of twenty-four participants in Blakeslee and Savage’s study responded that at least a quarter of their time was dedicated to writing (373), I think it’s equally important to think about the temporal aspects of completing small writing tasks effectively and with regard for the greater project, especially if one values quality over every other aspect of his/her work.
Let’s take a walk across borders with Dr. Saint-Amant. His discussion about world-view reminds me vaguely of Burke’s terministic screens and figured worlds — what lens shapes the way we determine appropriateness and importance is a given context? Further, how might our behavior compromise our credibility outside of our domestic sphere? I think about these issues quite often because I do quite a bit of work with folks from all over the world. For instance, an executive board meeting for the European Writing Centers Association (EWCA) via Skype is comprised of people from Poland, Turkey, Greece, Germany, France, and the U.S. Although our lingua franca is English, I am very self-conscious about how I participate in the conversation and the documents I create for the association. Those documents, I might add, are for a global audience, and I fear what might be “rhetorically problematic” for my audience (483). Again, audience is stressed in this chapter by Saint-Amant, which he claims is crucial to sustaining our credibility for a global audience (484). I confess that I have very little cross-cultural training other than what I have learned from these types of interactions, but I have learned that politeness, courtesy, and respect are universal qualities to which audiences respond; however, the problematic part lies in how these qualities are enacted or communicated. I have had few cross-cultural communication problems in my experience, but perhaps more extensive cultural knowledge would help me considerably. Because of my work with the EWCA is for such a broad multi-cultural audience, I am unsure where to begin, but, as Saint-Amant states (echoing Blakeslee and Savage to a degree), there are many things a technical communicator must know about or learn in advance, including rhetorical knowledge and conventions of various genres (486). Although I bring a breadth of rhetorical knowledge with me, I am always learning new things and creating new knowledge to put to use.