Project Engagement and Collaboration in Technical Communications

Blakeslee and Savage, in Chapter 15, quantify “writing” within the framework of a Technical Communicator. “While writing is always examined in relation to other skills and practices in technical communication scholarship, a few studies have focused on writing more exclusively” (365). They further break down what constitutes writing, how much time is invested in the actual creation of original documents as well as revision of existing ones, and the prospect of collaboration at all stages from concept to oversight. What stood out to me is how the level of engagement of the communicator ties into the equation on both a personal and professional level. Several of the writers surveyed indicated they juggled several projects at the same time, were often involved in conversations and other communications with others in the project (subject experts, supervisors, even audience members). The fluidity of this process and the six fundamental categories they discuss indicate a need for flexibility and adaptation on the part of the communicator to accomplish the expectations placed on them. Each project has an end goal and responsibilities placed on the author.

This concept of adaptability and teamwork is reinforced in Chapter 18 regarding collaboration. “Collaborators working at a distance who report high levels of mutual involvement—more turn taking, more talking than emoting, more referencing work products—often have higher success (Healey et al. 2008)” (462). The chapter examines how problems can arise and be conquered as well as the importance of leadership in collaborative projects. Leadership, however, is an umbrella label rather than a point person. “Task requirements and group membership should influence decision making, rather than a one-size-fits-all process” (465). A successful collaborative approach involves everyone doing their fair share, pulling their weight, and contributing to their strengths.

In Chapter 19, those concepts are taking a step further. How do you adapt a successful collaboration into a global product? St. Amant’s answer is credibility. But how? “Creating such a credibility is often a matter of rhetoric” (479). Various cultures approach communication differently. Understanding and working with those cultural biases is imperative and that is done through manipulation of the cultural rhetoric of the various situations. It can be as simple as revamping a menu or graphic or as complex as a total revision of the material. Material is examined by a cultural expert who can identify the faulty elements and how to revise them to maximize the effectiveness of the documents in question. While this can be time consuming, expensive, and tedious, the focus on audience is worth it from a usability standpoint. As the global market is expanding, more and more technical communicators will be required to put out material that can be used beyond the limitations of their individual cultures whether that’s central Japan or Central America.

As communicators, I felt that this week’s readings were a reinforcement of the importance of working together, accepting outside input, and being willing to work toward an end goal.

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