Week 10 response – Environment, Social Justice, and Tech Comm

Rather unexpectedly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Donnie Johnson Sackey had to offer to the table in the environmental justice for and within technical communication article. Never before would I relate environmental issues or nature with technical communication or such a tangible and material thing as writing – but as Sackey affirms, it is indeed all connected (217). From a personal standpoint, I have found that with every, if not most, of the texts and articles we have read in this class thus far has brought about en eye and mind-opening experience; my eyes and mind have (I think and hope!) become more attentive and at times analytical as to what’s really going on in the world, particularly in regards to the power dynamics and social justice embedded throughout the sphere of communication.

On a slight side note, I was very close to writing ‘embedded in the universal space and place of communication,’ but I really wasn’t sure if that was the correct way of using those terms in context as I’m still a wee bit confused insofar as their meaning and placement in technical and professional communication – something to look more into to try to gain better understanding.

Page 204 serves an interesting starting point of conversation I think in the question of the primary responsibility of US-based educators (and arguably, since we’ve been discussing this sense of globalization, educators in all countries, cultures, and places) to “question and respond to organizational values and practices that we [the educators] may find troubling? Or is it [simply] our job to prepare students to be effective writers” within corporate settings. Perhaps this could boil down to the epistemological approach and pedagogy of that educator – whether they choose to base their teaching on challenging the norm, engagement students in real life situations thus in hopes of cultivate their sense of critique and analysis, and implementing the idea of moral and social ethics. Or comparatively, if they choose to follow suit with the overall objective of creating applicable and efficient communicators to ultimately “meet the needs of employing organizations” (204). In this way, I like how Sackey simply commented that technical and professional communication should in fact be “committed to social justice” (204) as it’s very real and if we can expose fellow students, scholars, writers, etc., to said injustice and power relations, maybe the quality of life for those marginalized communities and social groups can and will be thus improved.

After reading Sackey’s piece and to perhaps exemplify his point being made, a recent news article I read not too long ago was called to mind. For the past five years, my family and I have been residing in Bermuda which, as you can imagine, has an incredibly rich yet undoubtedly fragile environment given the very small land mass (stretching some 22 miles in length and about a mere mile across) and proximity of nature. My time living, experiencing, and growing in Bermuda has exposed me to how’s and why’s different communities and neighbourhoods communicate with one another and the social issues that incur. Not to ramble on but to try to give it to you in short, the news article describes the voices of a group of Bermudian residents within a certain perimeter who are concerned about the use of a harmful chemical used to kill weeds which is consequently causing a threat to the bee population as well as a “health threat” on the island. Below is the link from Bernews.com and also an article by Ross Conrad, an author on beekeeping who visited Bermuda to witness the problem, who gives further insight into the environmental issue implied here (and admittedly helped me understand what was going on abit better).



The reason I mention this is because I think it can strongly relate to what Sackey examines on page 215; he speaks upon this notion of a “collective human environmental experience” in which “political ecology raises the voices of marginalized others” and by way of political minorities “pursu[ing] social change” (213). Forgive me if I have this all wrong and/or if makes zero sense as these theoretical concepts and approaches are very new to me but I think there is an interrelation somewhere here.

On another side note, maybe we could discuss as a class the terms of dualism and essentialism. I’ve seen and heard of them from time to time but would like to better understand how they are applied to technical and professional communication theoretical and contextual frameworks. Good old Google gave me some helpful definitions but as I’ve learned in this class, active listening and engaging can always help clarify on a few things that may seem unclear.

One more thing I think is worth noting is that it made me quite sad to think that we have come to this “reduction of nature …as an object of study and exploration [that] is rarely about human welfare and more about commercial profit” (209). Or in fact, the whole of page 209 makes me sad and want to do something about it such racial oppression.” A palpable reality of such injustice can be found in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan erupting as early as 2009 to present today where the debate is still persisting (CNN, 2016). In this exemplification, as Sackey rightfully suggests, nature became “a machine that produces for humanity” (209). So, as future technical communicators and educators of communication, we have the ability to change this, albeit in small ways but nonetheless can make a significant impact on those with little to no power within the dominating system.

Since I have managed to blather perhaps a wee bit too much on Sackey, just a few key points I think can be said here when looking at Smyser-Fauble’s piece. In it, the author sheds light on the ambiguity of language entailed in the ADA’s legislation; in effect this could intersect with the “crisis of language” (213) that Sackey refers to. This lack of language “necessary for moving forward” (213) then constitutes this certain lack of understanding or action when addressing the “reasonable accommodations” (Smyser-Fauble, 98) for those individuals with a disability.

Further, Smyser-Fauble also calls upon those familiar terms we have seen more often than not during the course of this class – usability and accessibility. Although here, it goes deeper into the intersectionalities of technology and disability and stresses even more so how technical communicators need to be “more ware of how disability studies… [and the] incorporation [of it] can help…identify how current [physical] usability practices may actually perpetuate forms of exclusion” (101).

Lastly, I also liked how this article brought that term of “normative’” and “non-normative” (115) placed in rhetoric setting –as we said in class before break –  eff you and your social expectations, limitations, confinements, and standardizations! Let’s break some barriers; let’s talk, explore, and communicate the good and bad stuff that’s going on in our world and if needs be, work collaboratively to find a solution.


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