Week 11 response

This week’s readings offer an interesting and pragmatic view of communication; how it is in effect much more than just writing and the ways in which the field itself has provided those particular spaces, places, and moments of articulation – not just of transmission or translation if we are to look it historically (Slack, Miller, and Doak).

As a relatively new student of technical and professional communication, this realization has more often than not encouraged or even enforced me to critically, analytically, and theoretically think ‘outside the box’ in that, as each chapter speculates in it’s own wee way, writing is more than just writing words on a page/computer screen etc., communication is more than just the sending or encoding of a message to a given audience, a text is more than just a collective group of words/phrases, and a receiver of that message is more than a just a person or group of people who reads/sees those words as Slack, Miller, and Doak suggests it is a “negotiation in which sender and receiver both contribute – from their different locations in the circuit of communication – to the construction of meaning” (32). The latter poses an interesting site for thought and theory; how do we essentially “make sense of our experiences” (Hall, qtd in Scott, Longo and Wills 3), or how does our culture and human happenings shape our lives (good and/or bad). This fundamentality of mean-making through communication is one which I can see relation to our Discourse Analysis course – we have talked about the ways in which language and discourse gives meaning to life or to us personally and in some cases, how language can effectively shut out a particular group of people in society, thus intersecting with the power dynamics in technical communication. In this way, I enjoy this cultural and humanistic approach to such fields and appreciate how, notably in recent years, technical professional communication proposes that space for discussion and discovery.

On a personal side note, I think taking a closer look at what Foucault has to say about cultural studies in tech. comm. may be quite cool to use as a theoretical framework for our upcoming final projects. Not quite sure yet how or in what ways I could use it, but something calls to mind in respect to his contributions to cultural studies’ “dual emphasis on discourse and materiality as well as its impulse to intervene in hegemonic practices” (4).

Page 21 gave a nice outline of the three principal ways how meaning is made through technical communication: transmission, translation, and most recently, articulation. More specifically then, turning to Slack, Miller and Doak’s chapter, there are a number of interesting points brought up and in turn conjure up a number of relatable questions. For example, in it, in regard to the authorship of a technical communicator, they note that “rather than authors producing certain discourse, certain discourse are understood to produce authors” (25). So what are these certain discourses? Do technical communicators have authorship over certain discourses than others? Is there authorship at times threatened or jeopardized in a sense? In this regard, I think the concluding sentence on page 27 does a nice job at condensing the purpose and possibilities of technical communication through the lens of articulation in that it can “purvey, mediate, and articulate meaning… [as well as] facilitate, sustain, generate, and disrupt relations of power” in order to fully “empower the discourse as authorial.” (27). Palpably though, Markel observes that “the writer must be invisible” (30), so an interesting question could be then is the power of articulation and making meaning in the text itself as Markel suggests that the success of the writer is only seen if the desired response from the intended audience is achieved. However, a certain level of complexity falls into as Slack et al, comment on this idea of the technical writer having a somewhat “negative power” (31). Speaking of dealings of power, our class talk with Donnie last week was called to mind after reading page 32, as Hall suggests of these “different moments” of power dynamics within technical communication. I may be wrong in thinking this so I apologize but when Donnie was talking about how he placed that certain level of power and voice into the residents when he was creating such research and documents made me think of this notion of communication being a practice in a “complex structure of relations” (32). Had he simply ignored the opinions and input of the community involved, his job as a communicator may not have have reached it full potential of such texts may not have reached the desired objectives and responses of those participating audiences. In other words, he mentioned that he asked several people within that particular community of whom he was trying to ultimately help to assist in the translation of communication, for example “how can I word this question differently” or “how can I add more to it.” By asking such questions thus places equal power in both the communicator and the receiver.

On the back of this, historically, I think it’s quite intriguing to think of the differences between a writer and a communicator by way of the progress and enhancement the field of technical communication has seen over recent years, or maybe how people/society perceives or expects from each. If anything, from a personal standpoint, I have learned that there is so much a communicator entails (a transmitter, translator, articulator), embodies, and employs, depending on the contextual situation (space and place?!), thus my understanding of what technical and professional communication is and can be has become more enriched.




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