Week 7 – Cultural Stud and Social Just

This is perhaps my most favourite topic area within the technical and professional communication canon, not least because I can relate or infiltrate it into my particular research interests. From a personal standpoint, following some very useful feedback from my definitional project, to some degree I was able to think critically and analytically of how these two major subject matters indeed matter to me and the research I am most interested in. Reading through what Savage, Hass, and Eble had to say and the way in which they said it in regards to cultural studies and, more specifically, social justice in the field of technical communication helped spark that light bulb to cultivate a sense of understanding and awareness.

Before hitting on Haas and Eble’s introduction however, I think it’s worth noting a few powerful and thought-provoking words from Savage. On page four, he suggests quite intangibly that indeed, “social justice works to transform the social and cultural structures that have permitted injustice to exist, that have in fact made injustice invisible, or worse, have denied its existence.” Maybe this statement in itself can be implied to a kind of meta sense – it took me several attempts to understand (as much as I could!) what exactly it is implying or meaning. To try to link it to technical and professional communication, when we think of social justice, for the most part the key words or social elements like rallies, protests, civil rights, equality, discrimination, prejudice among others come into play; a boiling pot of somewhat positive and negative connotations, yet collectively they are things that involve social action or some kind of physical or mental enactment. In this sense then, as the authors of this week points out in this brief deposition, writing is in essence a social action when placed in the appropriate context for the appropriate reasons. Writing is and has the inherent ability to be a social action with, looking through a positive lens, the intention of justing the injustices that are prevalent within society today.

Further, Savage comments on how the practicality of technical communication field can, more often than not, “involve showing how, teaching, campaigning, studying, witnessing, and materially transforming the conditions that perpetuate injustice” (4) seeing as this particular objective or type of work (social justice) must be initiated by “by assembling a community of thinkers and actors who agree on the need for change.” Interestingly, as time has progressed, technologies have become more advanced, and twenty-first century society has seen more diversity and adversity, social justice and cultural studies embedded within the field/study of technical communication seems rather necessary compared to that of its predecessor days in WW11 period where these complex issues of “ethics and values…were not addressed (Scott et. al., 9). In other words, with thanks to the process and progress (good and bad) of society at present, the matters and application of cultural studies and social justice implicitly wrapped in the field of technical communication are becoming more and more valid in as much as Scott et., al, suggest, “social process…did more to help the move beyond purely utilitarian concerns with techne to include considerations of social praxis” (10). Accordingly, I think Savage does a great job at enveloping everything together in his concluding paragraph by simply saying this certain kind of work evidently realized in technical and professional communication “both exposes and undoes the complex and often not readily perceived ways in which technologies perpetuate and reinforce social, economic, and environmental injustices” (5).

Haas and Eble highlight in their introduction the concept of globalization – an idea that has become increasingly activated and applied in corporate, commercial and professional worlds within past thirty years perhaps. Why? Because of this certain “sense of connectedness in terms of networks and networked people, communities, economies, products, and media outlets, as well as new digital spaces in and geographical places at which to work” (2). How? By taking into the cultural context of the field itself (as Dr. Kirk St. Amant highlighted it really depends on what nation or culture it is in that we can address and thus re-dress whatever prevailing issues there are. Put simply, as Haas and Eble quite nicely suggest, “solving problems in technical communication toward better understanding how injustice is not just a problem in technical communication but also one that we can solve with technical communication” (16). Such problems can, more often than not, deeply involve the systems of power given that, according to Hass and Eble, social justice approaches to technical and professional communication “explicitly seek to redistribute and reassemble—or otherwise redress—power imbalances that systematically and systemically disenfranchise some stakeholders while privileging others” (3). Similarly, Dr. Kirk St. Amant highlighted during his visit to our class last week when someone asked how does the issue of power factor into this field. He replied that, in short, power dynamics drives everything in that it is premeditated what language will be, should be, and ultimately is communicated. Realistically, he also said that we within the field of technical communication can try our best to accommodate the underlying subtleties of power, however we cannot flatten it. Moreover, I thought Dr. St Amant’s mentioning o the five factors of purchasing power was very interesting (can’t remember them all right now so maybe we could talk about or go over them in a collaborative effort in class?!)

Correspondingly, Haas and Eble affirm that technologies and sciences are unequally prescribed, controlled, and delegated… [and] have been used to empower and oppress.” They continue to underline the significance in exploring, engaging, and subsequently employing different methods and strategies to induce change within writing as “how and why systems of power and rhetorics from those in power have historically shaped how we regard specific cultures and communities in relation to their technical expertise, or lack thereof” (10). Conclusively, the paragraph below really caught my attention and thus I think it is worth noting to help understand the reasons as to why social justice and cultural are imperative subject matters especially in today’s society:

“As such, we no longer see ourselves as objective transmitters of neutral technological and scientific information. Technical communicators construct knowledge informed by multiple subjectivities we can never fully shed. These critical shifts demonstrate that the field of technical communication is deeply committed to revisiting and revising our relationships with communication, technology, science, and culture in responsible and reflexive ways that have had great impact on our practices and users.”

Just a few questions that perhaps I on an individual basis or maybe we as a class can look into that can help clear a few uncertainties of last and this weeks readings;

  • Inter vs intra (culture)
  • What are considered technologies or what categorizes them as such? (technologies and sciences?)
  • Differences, if any, between globalization and internationalization (Chp. 19 of Solving Probs, page 483)





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