Jim Henry’s Writing Workplace Cultures – Technically Speaking left me somewhat confused yet enlightened at the same time. One key thing that really caught my attention was the idea of “writerly sensibilities” in relation to language and our interpretation of reality as they “shape discourse and as discourses shape them” (203). This term is quite unfamiliar to me and maybe this is because of such limitation of the institutional culture experienced in academic structure that Henry notes on page 202. To try to get a better handle on what was going on here, I looked up (good old Google) first what the definition of sensibility was as I think the ‘writerly’ was causing some confusion. Sensibility, according to the Merriam-Webster, is the “ability to feel and understand emotions” or the “kinds of feelings [we] have when [we] hear, see, read, or think about something.” Thus, paired with “writerly,” this intensifies or merely signifies the meaning, doing, understanding, and practicing of writing itself. Taking it into the technical communication realm, Henry references Gee, Hull, and Lankshear view of the new work order being “largely about trying to create new social identities or new kinds of people” (206). The latter of that quote calls for a pretty interesting discussion point – what does he mean by ‘new kinds of people?’ in the classroom? In workplace? Intellectually? Does he mean new ways f thinking? Professionally?

Speaking of institutions and that academic culture, I really liked how he addressed this shift of composition from production to process as he so rightly asks, “Why wouldn’t we want to afford student-writers the “real” experience of writing as we knew it – as n encounter with readers, as a response to feedback, [and above all], as a route to new visions” (202). So, in simpler terms, I think Henry is proposing new ways, theories, practices, and methods of writing predominantly through the postmodernist lens.

Further, I think Henry poses a fundamental call to the work remaining to “correct [the]underestimation of technical writing’s potential and prowess” (208) and how technical writing has in recent and past years be perceived as undervalued with a “neglected population” (209) of writers within he field. In this way, he stresses the importance of technical communication educators to equip their students with rhetorical, theoretical, and organizational knowledge (209) so as to take that know-how savvy into the professional realm.

Perhaps what really drew me in within this chapter was the questions highlighted on page 212 as Henry cites Cynthia L. Selfe and Richard Sefle, Jr. pertaining to writerly sensibility in the domain of ethics and responsibility. I think each question is vital in the research and practicing of technical communication and can be of much use for future thought/conversation (and maybe even for final projects – such questions help create that theoretical space when thinking about my own final project and how to go about it). To end on Hnery, page 214 underlines some key things to take away, such as “language is the very material from which realties are socially constructed” and he goes further into how and why writing, particular technical writing/communication, is imperative in knowledge making/creating/building.

In t light, Grabill’s chapter serves as useful perspective on research and how it “produces culture and… its own possibilities for change” (167). As students, scholars, learners, knowledge finders and makers, I think we can see how important research is both within and outside our own workplace/space. More so, as Grabill points our, how such research and methodological practice can make a “significant contribution to public life” and communities. To this end, I think his prime example of the community-based research in his TOSC’s project provided that exemplification of the different ways in which how to approach how technical information is communicated to the community. Personally, I liked this approach – it reminded me of our conversation with Dr. Sackey in regards to how he went about his research methodology for a certain project (can’t remember which on exactly but I do remember him saying how he interacted with the local community and asked them to essentially peer review the texts and documents and asked for constructive feedback, thereby engaging in community-based research; a collaborative effort in way).

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Week 12 response

I loved reading Kristen Moore’s piece on Black Feminist Theory within the technical communication field and classroom. Not only did I admire her personable and self-reflective writing style, but I also appreciated the way in which she structured the article – given the depth and complexity of subject matter, the simplistic manner along with the moments of self-evaluation or awareness (for example, on page 269, she recognizes how her own racial/ethnic identity can perhaps limit her expertise and experience in the realm of Black Feminist Theory, but I think this kind of honesty and awareness further augments her work/argument in it’s credibility and usefulness) made it (relatively) easy and enjoyable to read.

Digger deeper, Moore really got me thinking not only about why and how Black Feminist Theory is imperative in the development and diversification of technical communication – notably both in and out of academia – but also, from a personal standpoint, perhaps about the ways in which I could/should/might/will use Black Feminist Theory in the the not so distant future for upcoming research projects. Holistically, I think this article is a great illustration of ways of thinking and doing in terms of stepping out of that dominating and at times suppressing institutional box, as these “systemic and ideological patterns…dominate the United States at large” (269). Irrefutably,  I believe this is the foregrounding purpose that Moore is trying to get at here; it is an ethical and moral calling at fellow technical communicators, teachers, scholars, and above all students in the field to recognize the importance of utilizing such a theory to in part “enact social justice” (266), create a diverse and innovative thinking, doing, and creating space of collaborative engagement (playing upon intersections between teacher –students, students – community/citizens, teacher – citizens, researcher – community, etc.,) and to dive into the “civic responsibility and potential of technical communication course” (276).

The idea of “intersectional oppression” (267) I think is a great way to coin together the different levels and complexities in the historical rooting of African American female oppression. I thought it was quite interesting to note how Moore mentions that feminism, for the most part, deals with white middles class women and in doing so further suppresses Black feminism; in essence, I think she is saying that for so many years gender >race in that feminist scholar and readership focused more on “gender-based oppression over other forms of oppression” (269). Even in this, we can see the extent to which such intersectional subjugation can intensify the level of suppression experienced by women of colour in the fields of writing, rhetorics, and communication. In this way, page 270 notes that students and scholars have “little exposure” to Women of Colour’s scholarship, practice, and theories. After reading that one sentence, I thought well, why? But in an instant moment of realization (and ‘duh’ moment too), based on what Moore explains throughout the article, I then was able to answer my own question rather quickly and confidently – simply because of the governing white ideology, policy, and praxis in intellectual, theoretical, and institutional spaces.

Overall on a pedagogical platform, Moore stresses the importance of integrating Black Feminist Theory into the technical communication classroom. Specifically, she calls to the concept of narrative along with an emphasis on the emotional investment (or similar to Miller in previous week – humanistic approach rather than technical?!) through community-based work and collaboration. That is to say that narrative, in essence, is perhaps the most “important ways of making knowledge” – through peoples own “stories…[and] lived experiences” (294) in life. By doing so, Moore argues that technical communicators (and its students) will “not only strengthen [their] abilities” but will also begin to build upon a collective and “interdisciplinary effort towards social justice and equity” (295). Similarly, Rebecca Walton in chapter 8 further instigates and encourage the lens of narrative in in the technical communication as it “provides a viable entry point for beginning dialogues about inequity and injustice from a critical-cultural perspective” (364). Through this certain level of human interaction and relatabilty, narratives, Walton points out, give way to the points of reference for “how we, as individuals and communities, experience all facets of life” (364) and as technical communicators, it is possible that, in effect, our job can be and should be a way to shed light on how communication can both empower and disempower and I think that’s the bottom line – we are humans; we talk to one another, either verbally or non-verbally, every single day; for the most part, we like to engage and share stories and talk about the highs and lows of life, to feel apart of some type of community (be that family, group of friends, sports team, Engl 7780 class, with colleagues at work, etc.,) and more often than not, we enjoy listening to stories (well, I do anyway!) because we’re humans and it makes life a wee bit less stressful/difficult/hard. My point is I think taking the fundamentality of the theoretical framework grounded in Black Feminist approach with an encompassing focus on the narrative into technical communication, both in and outside the institutional context, can provide a very special and complex lens into how and why some things are being communicated out there in the world in a certain way to ultimately shut certain people out – if we simply ask and listen to what and how people have lived through life thus far and then place this information into how we approach a particular job/project/text, the results could facilitate and thus enact social justice and equity in certain communities. Perhaps we need to more aware of the proactive power of narrative in mean making and informing knowledge onto one another.

To end, here is a short but pretty cool blog post on the intersectionalities of technical wriitng and narratives. Interestingly, it’s written by novelist Dell Smith, who works as a manager of a small team of technical writers at a Boston software company. Think it’s kind of cool to see his take on on it all given his professional experience and positionailty.

http://smithdell.blogspot.com/2009/10/technical-writing-vs-narrative-fiction.html

 

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.

 

 

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).

http://bernews.com/2016/02/buzz-vision-where-herbicide-use-is-reduced/

http://www.beeculture.com/bermuda-bees-or-bust/

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.

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).

 

 

 

 

 

Wee note on tech comm and cultural aspects

I was going to briefly mention this in class yesterday but our conversations got so interesting, I felt it best to just post up here and see what you guys thought.

Recently, MTV UK posted on their Twitter account and website about this now popularized hairstyle of, as they call them, “boxer braids.” Of course, because Kim Kardashian is seen with this particular hairstyle, all of a sudden it is “having a total moment right now.” The article then goes on to give a step by step guide on how to be like Mrs Kim West, accompanied by a short visual demonstration through YouTube. Yes, it satisfies those who read it and want to know how to do this hairstyle, thus in this sense it serves as a piece of technical information for those within the UK sphere. However, looking to the US, in terms of technical communication and the things we discussed in class last week, I thought this good be a good example of MTV UK not being aware of their global audience and, perhaps most importantly, not doing their research on the cultural and social implications of posting such a text to the world through a virtual space.

In response to this, the African American online community and media outlets, namely therroot.com and essence.com, expressed their frustration on the lack of cultural consideration and how, to a certain extent, this is a form of “black appropriation”and argue that their people have been rocking this hairstyle for centuries. Now, I am fully aware that I am not African American and nor can I even begin to understand the anger and frustration, especially at such heated times as these at present, when a certain culture that’s not yours tries to undermine or even ignore the history of another. Maybe I’m overthinking it; maybe this is not even relevant to our discussions or to tech comm, and maybe I’m just being too critical of MTV UK’s approach to it all, but when I read it and saw the responses to it, I couldn’t help but think if the writer of this article at MTV UK would have done a better job at doing some background research, been more audience aware (not just people int he UK reading this, particular since it’s through social media), and last but not least, taken better care of how the piece is written (language, tone) then perhaps these negative responses and therefore increasing frustrations would never have been inferred.

Here’s the link to both the MTV UK article and then the subsequent responses to it:

http://www.mtv.co.uk/kim-kardashian/news/how-to-do-boxer-braids-tutorial

http://www.theroot.com/blogs/the_grapevine/2016/02/mtv_uk_renames_cornrows_boxer_braids_because_appropriation.html

http://www.essence.com/2016/02/20/rolls-eyes-according-mtv-uk-cornrows-are-now-called-boxer-braids

Have a good weekend beautiful people!

 

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)

 

 

 

Week 6 response -team work makes the (writing)dream work

From a personal standpoint, I found Ann M. Blakeslee’s and Gerald J. Savage’s chapter on what technical communicators need to know about writing very informative and insightful. In other words, it helped break everything down; even the introduction to the chapter itself gave a sort of synopsis of what it involved in the field of technical communication and the many different things that can effect what and how the work is being done (fro example, the organization or company one works for, the specific project at hand, even down to personal preferences and styles of working (362)). One thin in particular they mention is expectation of technical communicator employers and how or in what way their duties are explained through the job description, which can strongly relate to our definitional project and the different things we all found when it comes to what it is technical communicators do and are expected to do. By way of example, I signed up to Indeed.com (in hopes of finding a somewhat permanent job after this Masters and letting me stay in the States!) and put into the search category “writer.” That was several weeks ago and today, I am still receiving emails about the various jobs in North Carolina that have the fundamental aspect of writing. Interestingly, the job titles and job descriptions come in many different shapes and forms, for example Digital Content Editor, Internet Marketing Specialist, Communications Specialist, Associate Technical Writer, and perhaps most audience-centered, Client Service Coordinator among others. Although most of these job titles do not contain the word “writer,” if we look at the descriptions of each, it is evident that writing is perhaps the most focal skill requirement for all. Irrefutably, this can allude to what Blakeslee and Savage refer to on page 364, “writing may be the one competency that really binds together the array of practices we call technical communication.”

 

What’s more, I think it’s worth noting on the centrality of the idea on teamwork within the technical communicating world. Some of our readings before have said that before this field was recognized and respected as a profession in itself (maybe in nineteenth century or early twentieth century?), many technical communicators therefore worked in isolated situations, making informed decisions and carrying out the writing practice independently. Whereas now, given the advancement in technologies and variations of workplace contexts, many technical communicators (especially those with little experience, as we see in the book example of Siena) are integrated into a team of technical communicators with an emphasis on patience, flexibility, interpersonal and communication skills, and above all teamwork. In this way, Blakesee and Savage note that is is very common as “writers…work in teams to develop lager documents that are assembled and disseminated in different ways” (368).

When I read this and thought more about it, being the avid sports fan and advocate I am, I immediately thought about the parallelism between this set up and on the field/court/track in terms of a sport set up. In a sense, sports teams work together to achieve that one goal of winning or to succeed. To do this as best they can they must determine different play strategies and practices, evaluate or access their opponents (skill level, weak points, high points, etc.,), and execute and illuminate various skills accordingly in order to achieve this one objective – all through a collaborative effort. So, in retrospect, we can use this analogy to help illustrate or shed light on this idea that ‘team work makes the dream work.’ Further, Burnett, Cooper, and Welhausen also comment on the fundamentality of collaboration, suggesting that it is “important because virtually all workplaces rely on group-based decision making and projects [which in effect] increase creativity, productivity, and the quality of both process and product” (454). Again, alluding to the sphere of sports, the elements found within the definition of collaboration, can be applied to that of sports team – interactions, people, goals, tools, setting, complexity, and perspectives (page 458-9) all arguably embody what is is involved in the work of a team. Most notably perhaps is the ability to identify our individual position, skill sets, and role within a team and be aware of the decisions we make or things we do (and how we do it) and subsequently how it effects the team and task ah hand in the long run as Burnett et. El suggest in their example of Cassandra’s case that “each member brought a different skill set and therefore assumed a different project role with different responsibilities” (454) so as to accomplish the overall goal.

On a slight negative turn, Brunett et., al remark on the idea of social loafing and conflict in terms of cognition and learning within a workplace, signifying that teamwork is not always susceptible to positivity and productivity. I think in all aspects of our lives, be that as students, professors, writers, friends, mothers, brothers, human beings, it is important to be mindful of this as we see it popping up in different contexts every day. I do believe these are even more apparent within the workplace in terms of social loafing (not assuming fair share of work) and conflict (different ideas or approaches to different things which can ultimately go back to clash of personalities within the work environment). Once again, this stands true within the world sport – some players within a team may not give the same effort or establish their role as effectively and efficiently as possible as well as conflicts of interest among teammates and opponents.

On a more positive note however, chapter nineteen touches upon the understanding and awareness of leadership within a technical communication workplace which once again we can adopt to within a sporting situation in that “effective leaders encourage a unified effort, facilitate interaction, and encourage collaborators toward a common goal” (464). Personally, I’m a big fan of leadership and have much admiration for those who have the ability to adopt and foster it (in the workplace, in sports, in life). Albeit some may have to learn their way to leadership while others are simply innately gifted with it, I think we should as a people (with no stereotypes or discrimination to gender) should encourage and facilitate it in anyway we can, keeping in mind the different contextual implications leadership has in different settings.

Week 5 – approaches and values in TC

As with any profession, let alone any aspect in life, ethics play a fundamental role in what, how, and why something goes down. I think ethics can be found everywhere, but is probably even more complex and problematic when it is found in the workplace, dependent on contextual situations. In terms of professionalism, the extent to which ethics plays this role differs across the industrial spectrum. Admittedly, the pessimistic side of me would say that in most cases within today’s society, human integrity and ethical crux seems to dissipate or become irrelevant, particularly when within the corporate working sphere or when the big bucks are involved. Metaphorically, page 215 could point out the stop sign at a junction or intersection that technical communicators perhaps encounter on a regular– “the high stakes of accommodating [both] the client and the users.” In other words, do they go for the “financial stability” of clientele or loyalty to the users, thus “protecting them from harm” (215). One word that could be strongly connected to the term ethics or ethical is respect – that is respectability of those primarily involved in the task at hand, namely the users, audience, clients, stakeholders, and coworkers.

The following pages offer a lot of room for discussion, exploration, and discovery – there seems to be a number of ‘how’s’ implicated; how to engage in ethical negotiations, how to arrive at a contingent commitment to action, how to engage effectively with others in an open search for the best option (216) among others (how to do this, how do that). These ‘how to’ inferences are just a window into the ‘behind the scenes’ of what a technical communicator has to deal with and deal with in such a manner that helps meet expectations and overall goals given that they are the “fully-fledge author who contributes to meaning making” (217), which in part can allude to experience, knowledge, and heuristic within the field. I also thought how Scott evokes this concept of power dynamics and power relations/structure in this chapter – quite interesting if you think about these bigtime companies and corporations and how they employ technical communicator to sell or enhance their product or business. So in a way, the technical communicator is one avenue in which they can induce their power relations within the commercial and economical world (seeing as one of technical communicators job is to write for that specific company and to write well in a way represent and facilitate that company’s objective).

Most notably, as Markel (2001) perceives, “deciding the most ethical course of action…is more difficult than [actually] implementing it” (219). In this sense, one has to make that innate decision (through thought-process, social/cultural influence? meta-analysis and reflection, as well as heuristic) as what is the best possible course of action to take, whilst keeping in mind the consequences of said decision made. Perhaps then, as we’ve read in previous chapters, it is a positive thing that within the professional field of technical communication that they work as team and not simply trying to think and work independently (although this is required in some cases). I like this idea of a collaborative effort in making important ethical and legal decisions – I think being in isolation in this type of contextual situation would be very difficult and may cause significant problems, both for the technical communicator and for the company they work for.

On a side note, in regards to the term phronesis (which is relatively new to me), I found this cool post composed by a professor at University of Alberta in Canada. In many ways, it helps shed light on the application of phronesis in not only institutional contexts but also in everyday life (and in our case, we can think about how we can use the phronesis-building approach in ethical and legal decision making as technical communicators as mentioned on page 223). Put simply, he gives quite a nice synopsis of what it is and how we can use it:

“Phronesis … You could say that it’s something like common sense, but it is really more than that. What phronesis means is practical wisdom. And phronesis is the ability to both figure out what to do in any given moment while also knowing what is worth doing. So the idea is that it’s a practical wisdom – that you are wise about your intentions, wise about your ends, and at the same time you have a very clear understanding of the means that you need to actually get there.”

Check out the full text to which he talks about this term in connection to education:

https://www.ualberta.ca/~urban/Learning/Phronesis.htm

 

 

Week 4 response

Three key words came into mind during and after our readings for this week: adaptability, flexibility, and reflexivity. Conversationally, these could all encompass or provoke this fundamentality of open-mindedness and thinking outside of the box – a concept which I’m slowly but surely beginning to understand is so important within the field of technical and professional communication. In this view, Max’s case (page 126) could exemplify just how this very thinking outside the box could help him and the task at hand in terms of completion and success in transmission or transformation of information to said users.

Admittedly, when I first ready “usability specialist” (pg 125), I didn’t really know what that meant or entailed; however, the more I read, the more the text was able to dissect the complexities of the situation and Max’s problems faced. I thought it quite provocative how he seemed quite impatient (“the users just don’t get it” (125)) as this is probably something I would say or think if I had spent that time time and effort on trying to accommodate the users needs. But, as we see later on and as the chapter breaks down nicely what Max needs and should do in terms of meta-analysis and heuristic, as well as the importance placed on theorizing, it was cool to learn how Max could approach this certain problem and in what ways he could help resolve them.

To my understanding, in short, chapter five provides us with the very reasoning as to why and how the principality of theory is so focal in the professional field of technical communication. At first I was abit confused with this (and maybe we could talk more about in class) but I think what this particular chapter is highlighting to us is how, as technical communicators, they must first ask as many questions about the task at hand as possible (what is overall goal, who is my audience, what is the outcome, what purpose are we trying to accomplish with this text, etc.,), and maybe come up with a theoretical framework to build off when creating a documentation. Consequently, the primary focus is then placed upon the needs and wants of the audience, i.e the users of that document (or at least that’s what I got from it!).

On a side note, I really liked how this chapter identifies theory as it can be a rather complex and scary thing – about half way down page 129, Porter simplifies theory as a kind of “colour filter you use, that you must use in order to comprehend and analyze human behaviours, social events, or texts.” Moreover, on page 135, Porter sheds light on how writing is a “deceptively simple term” which I could not agree more with – personally, over past year or so (going from undergraduate to graduate in the English field of study), the realization of the many different facets of writing has become increasingly clear to me, in that it’s not just about literature (as we talked about in class briefly the other day).

Notably, Porter also helped clear a few cobwebs for me on what exactly usability specialist is as I previously mentioned I was abit confused with this term. Perhaps it indeed implies the analytical, critical, reflexive, metacognitive, and possibly more ways of thinking within the technical communicative sphere. One thing I will definitely take away from this particular chapter is the importance of being open-minded and self-reflective as a technical communicator. Yes, these traits are probably required for many, if not all, professions today, but I think, as Porter mentioned, that people tend to overlook the complexities and different levels of meta-analyzing that are involved in technical communication. With this in mind too, perhaps one of the most significant things I’ve learned about this professional field thus far (if I am thinking about this in terms of future career goals) is the amount of patience required in every aspect in order to be as successful as possible.

Touching briefly upon Longo and Fountain’s articulation on the history of technical communication, I really enjoyed reading this one. In all aspects of life, in varuious subject matters, or in numerous fields of study across the academic spectrum, I hold firm to the belief that without knowing and understanding history, we cannot move forward in the present. In other words, in order to understand the present, we must look to the past. On a side note and from a personal standpoint, my research interests are fundamentally based on the history of racism and colonialism so a lot of what I choose to write about in a rhetorical sense is based on historical aspects. In this way, I could maybe take the questions underlined on page 166 (half way down) into my writing process. I think it’s fair to say that people often neglect the history of something/one so it is important to be aware of it and take action to help augment progression and eventually succession in whatever is placed in front of us. With that being said, on a writing and textual standnpoint, I thought it was pretty cool how in this chapter we are told to look at the history of a text – not a person or a country or an interesting topic – a written piece of text, which can be quite a new concept (for me anyway!).