Is attention to intercultural rhetoric just lip service in tech comm?

I think the combination of chapters that we read for today can support a really important discussion about technical communication in a 21st century context. More and more, our work environments are global and therefore the writing and collaboration that we do involves people who live in a variety of cultural contexts. Taken separately chapters 15, 18, and 19 all offer us really valuable and practical considerations for technical communication in a 21st century global economy and workforce. But having been assigned to read them together and doing so through the lens of my own interests in power in language and discourse, I began to ask questions about how technical communication, which as a genre has not (before now) produced authorship, as Slack, Miller and Doak remind us, is particularly well positioned to exploit power differentials in the context of intercultural collaborative writing projects.

 

I need to be more specific here. First, I’ll admit that I’m writing speculatively, as I’ve never worked as a technical communicator within an international context. But it seems to me that what globalization has really meant for the rest of the world is that Western cultures impose their values on other parts of the world, rather than a true adoption of the idea that we are all citizens of a global society that includes many, equally valuable cultural identities. So, if in a technical communication situation, my culture (and therefore my values, and my language, etc.) already dominates business, technology, and financial interactions, then that limits the extent to which I have to be sensitive to the cultural expectations of rhetoric and credibility that St. Amant advises me to. Even if I do, on some level, value the cultural perspectives of the other people that I’m working for or with, I’m certainly not approaching the interaction on equal footing in terms of power, am I? The broader context of globalization, has already shaped the writing circumstance in a certain way before I, a member of that same dominant culture enter the situation. It seems that my only motivation in considering culture is to adjust my rhetorical perspective just enough to make my writing project credible enough to monetize it. Beyond that, what is my motivation? I guess this isn’t a problem so much for a business context, but perhaps it’s an ethical one that is worthy of consideration.

 

I think the issue of authorship in the Slack, Miller and Doak piece exacerbates the ethics of this even further. If, as they contend, “authorship is a manner of valorizing certain discourse over/against others” and technical communicators are not authors, then there is no one who takes responsibility for the negotiation of power dynamics in a scenario like the one I described above. All the people and their agency disappears without an author, right? I’m not sure that I’ve got what I’m thinking completely figured out, but its something I want to think more about.

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