Week 8 response – Social justice and space in tech comm

From a personal standpoint, perhaps my favourite readings for this week was Agboka’s Indigenous Contexts New Questions. I really enjoyed reading this particular piece not only because I could actually understand and follow along (i.e. relatively simplistic language used), but maybe most importantly because of the very heart of the article through it’s exemplification of social injustice in what may seem like a simple piece of text to the naked eye. Before reading this, I had little to no awareness on this particular incident and think it’s a prime example of how this fundamental concept of “centrality of humanity” (167) was in fact abused and exploited. In this sense, my understanding of how technical communication works, both directly and indirectly, effectively and ineffectively, as well as where it works in terms of different fields or sectors in society (i.e. not just in medical field or technology domain but, as Agboka points out, also in the energy sector). I found that a number of our readings thus far say a lot (theory, I know!) but don’t actually give a real example or put into context. Conversely, conversely the author says this is what I think/theorize and why, and ok here’s an authentic example of what or how I mean by this, how it be applied both in the classroom and in real-world, while also breaking down that very example (memo) to illustrate the rhetorical implications of technical communication. As follows, our Teaching Composition class last semester touched upon several teaching pedagogies that align with the service-learning approach Agboka refers to and evidently supports to a great end (188) as they “can reach out and make connections between the human rights concepts they learn in the course and specific “real” world experiences” therefore essentially “look[ing] beyond the traditional institution” (188); I hope one day to be able to put this into practice to my students.

One fundamental note that I think this article further increments is “how corporate structures may often be used in ways that abuse human rights” (168), which arguably is essentially driven by economic desires/factors/objectives. So, I guess, in part, that’s the world we live in today – money is power, right?! Sadly, yes. And this power filters through in various ways, both implicitly and explicitly, in various sectors of society be that in politics, in our institutions (universities, different social groups,), even in our local communities there is that underlying ghost of power dynamics seeping through on a daily basis. Ok, maybe I’m rambling! But, case in point, the power dynamics and the intent for action was so strategically corrupted (seen rhetorically in the memo) insofar as to terminate the people and local communities who were simply trying to shine a light on the wrongfulness of these actions. In essence, by attempting to stand up for themselves through non-violent strategies and instigating their fundamental “right to life itself” (174), the Ogoni people were subsequently met with brutal force and annihilation, all because this one oil company wanted to continue their energy resource explorations in order to enhance their economical endeavors. As Agboka attests herself, yes, this is a rather extreme example of such social injustice seen covertly yet undeniably intentional in a piece of technical communication, however, looking through a more positive and educational lens, such an example can then be brought into the technical communication classroom to purposefully illuminate students’ (who are future innovators and creators of society) habits of mind (189) and effectively provide opportunity for analyzation and realization where social justice and ethical issues are concerned given that, historically, communications were the “paths of transportation by means of which people at the centers of power could exercise control over those in the peripheries” (Slack et al., 28). Conclusively then, as Jameson suggests, when we view technical documents, artifacts, and texts as “apolitical and nonideological…we misunderstand them and [therefore] limit our ability to transform them for civic good” (Critical Power Tools, 12) by way of “free[ing] such [power] structures from monolithic and hegemonic control and ownership that silence the may positionalities and identities that intersect in workplace” (Cox, 405) and elsewhere.

Pertaining to Hurley’s chapter, Agboka affords the certain idea of space (virtual, physical, intellectual, emotional?) in her concluding paragraphs, affirming that “our classroom is a space that is home to students with diverse perspectives, experiences, socializations, who, in turn, will impact global contexts because of the nature of their work” (186). Correspondingly, Slack, Miller, and Doak also highlight in their chapter that the ability to move messages “across space by means of such communications was a necessary condition for political, economic, and religious domination” (28) – key word being ‘space.’ In this way, her insightful piece focusing on the cultivation of critical spatial perspective on spatial in technical communication pedagogy (Hurley) offers alot of mindfulness, speculation, questioning, and above all, conversation. I’m not so sure I understand one hundred percent what she is implying here but I do think I can grasp the basic foreground. Seeing as I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it all (hopefully some class discussion scan help clarify and make things a wee bit more clear on this end), here are some important quotes I highlighted while reading through the article. I know this is rather simplistic and basic-level like given the complexity of the institutional (and more so beyond – page 133) implications Hurley suggests here, but sometimes it can help to try to break it down by way of good old bullet points.

  • “the transition to a new region, new town, new university, new position, made clear to me that I was/am in the spatial turn: space, place, location, embodiment – all of these things mattered” (131).
  • Spatialization need not be restricted to geographic space as a fixed, static location. Because space is produced by and productive of social relations, spatial practices are always cultural, rhetorical, and necessarily political.” (132).
  • “only when we reimagine space as an always open collection of multidimensional trajectories and relations – rather than as a flat surface to be filled, or traversed and conquered – can there be a future that s unscripted and open for politics which can make a difference: (132).
  • “all social practices…traffic in numerous spaces and places which, in turn, are productive of cultural, ideological, and rhetorical meanings.” (133).

These are just a few that caught my eye in the beginning pages, but before going on, I thought it may be useful to look more closely at some of the terminology Hurley uses here (admittedly mainly because I just didn’t really understand what they meant!). She refers to the term ‘spatial’ quite frequently throughout the article and I was pondering on what the difference was between space and spatial. The former is, according to good old Google, “a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied,” and the latter, spatial, is “of or relating to space and the relationship of objects within it” (Marriam-Webster.com). On page 135, Hurley quotes Nedra Reynolds when she articulates that “writing itself is spatial,” alike to how we talked about at the beginning of the semester how writing itself is a technology. In this sense, as she notes on the following page, “where communicative practices happen is just as important as how and why they happen.” (134).

 

 

 

 

 

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