Service Learning and Tech Comm: Mending the Disconnect Between ECU and Greenville

When thinking about today’s class and Dr. Beckerman asking the question “What is ECU”, I couldn’t help but agree with Juliana in her statement that the institution and the community are inextricably linked. In chapter 5, Britt states that “Technical communication is the means by which institutions define themselves and conduct their cultural work” (148). One of the connections I made here is the culture of East Carolina itself. East Carolina University prides itself as an institution dedicated to giving back to the community. One way that students become what many like to call ‘better citizens’ is by performing public service (also known as service work). The relationship that ECU has with service work within the surrounding communities (and especially within Greenville) highly reflects the mission constructed by those who established and gave meaning to the institution. From the mission statement of the school itself to how we implement ideas of giving back into the minds of the student population, East Carolina is defined as being a college dedicated to serving others.

“To be a national model for student success, public service and regional transformation, East Carolina University…” (Note: I got this from the ECU Website. J)

I have always been extremely interested in the relationship between ECU and Greenville, and the above excerpt from ECU’s mission statement is written in a way that communicates a sense of privilege amongst students and faculty. One of the reasons I have mentioned the mission statement and the culture surrounding ECU is because I am concerned with how East Carolina communicates this message to those outside of its institution. Here, I am specifically referring to those who are amongst some of the surrounding communities that we are so adamant on assisting.

In what ways does ECU culture communicate itself through writing and practice, and what kind of meaning is taken from it?

I would like to begin by discussing how our mission statement communicates to outsiders just how much we are set on building well-rounded students. The idea is that we can potentially better the world based on the fact that these well-educated students are enabled – with their education, of course – to go out and make change; however, the way in which we embody being a part of ECU culture and this institution as a whole can be detrimental in 1) how ECU is perceived amongst locals and 2) how students interact with different publics. This notion comes directly from the student service learning programs that we implement and the constant placement/withdrawal of students in these programs within the community.

Figures concerning the demographics of Greenville, NC residents shows that approximately 56% of Greenville is Caucasian (37% is African American) while the rest of the population is comprised of resident with a diverse set of ethnic backgrounds (website link is found at the end of this post). I suspect that the only reason the population is this way is because of ECU, being that it is a predominately white institution AND causes the influx of students. Because ECU is in Greenville, the town is expected to fulfill the standards of the institution. Here is where we can potentially find a problem: students who are constantly put in the position of helping the community puts the community itself in a place where the marginalized are expected to receive help but are then suddenly put at a disadvantage when the students who assist them move on. To provide these communities with aid that is inconsistent sends a message to the general public that ECU is more concerned with upholding its image than it is with the residents and natives of Greenville (excluding those associated with the university).

What I’m getting at here is (I hope I haven’t been rambling) that I wonder about how the culture, goals, and mission of our institution can be revised to omit that sense of privilege which comes along with acts of service learning. In chapter 8, Henry (when speaking of re-writing workplace culture) basically says that in order to revise workplace cultures we need to first review and make changes to administrative structures (214). Seeing that the provided scenario is quite similar to that of a workplace culture, I wonder about how we as technical communicators can begin to mend this disconnect between ECU and Greenville. We send students out into these communities (or in most cases, areas considered to be the ‘other side of the tracks’) to help ‘better’ them, but many of these students have not been trained to be sensitive to the needs and circumstances of others nor will they ever do work in these environments once they leave here. As someone who came to ECU on scholarship and completed countless hours of service to a number of different organizations, I have seen firsthand that although the organizations appreciate the help that our students provide it can sometimes be frustrating to have to constantly switch out employees, volunteers, etc. AND deal with the large number of personalities that come along with these individuals. The services that we provide sometimes feel selfish in a sense that they are regarded as nothing more than ‘jobs’ and ‘tasks’ when most times they are realities to individuals within surround communities.

How can we change ECU’s mission, culture, and (overall) institution to be more accommodating to its surrounds in terms of cultural work?

Demographic Link: http://www.areavibes.com/greenville-nc/demographics/

Week 14 – Response

This week’s readings on Hip Hop Pedagogy and Critical Race Theory gave insight to how technical communicators within learning spaces can further promote inclusivity and give a voice to people who are typically underrepresented and/or considered marginalized (this applies within the field as well as outside of it). I thought it was interesting how Del Hierro stated that “ignoring nonwestern contributions to technical communication reinforces systemic colonialism, racism, and white supremacy in both the field and the classroom” (240). He then follows up this statement by asserting that “departments, classrooms, and campuses still struggle and maintain power structures that marginalize students of color for the ways they look, speak, and think” (257). Interestingly enough, upon reading this I began to understand how the implementation of Hip Hop Pedagogy and an embrace of non-dominant cultures within the classroom settings both carefully and critically challenge notions of what is ‘standard’ and expected of students. Often times, people who are a part of minority groups are forced to change their speech and appearance because it is not understood or appreciated in unfamiliar spaces. By allowing students to share their personal experiences, their cultures, and their understandings of how the world works we gain insight into how they view themselves, how they tend to communicate ideas, and how they take away meaning from their experiences. In turn, this allows us the chance to amend belief systems, rules, and practices that rob others of self-expression and, even sometimes, basic rights. I believe that this pedagogy has the potential to provide those within technical and professional spaces greater understanding, appreciation, and insight into why it is so important to look outside of the ‘standard’ that tech comm is so commonly associated with.

One of the most insightful moments within Edwards piece was the section of writing that contained the student responses to the prompt on race, racism, and power within the workplace. I liked it because it was basically an example of what employing Critical Race Theory within a classroom of students might look like. The concept and practice of “connecting issues of race and racism…as a way to talk about, understand, and negotiate how students may…use knowledge to be more aware and conscious about race and systemic racism” is one that I feel is necessary in academic spaces, but (unfortunately) I can easily see instructors facing quite a bit of negative feedback in prompts and student participation. I suspect that the colorblindness Edwards speaks of is such a popular option for people nowadays because it both ‘solves’ the problem of race and racism without the full-blown confrontation of the topics themselves. My question to the class is how do we use CRT to both eradicate the notion that race ‘isn’t as big as people make it seem’ and address problems with race and power without students becoming overwhelmed at the topic? (Hope that makes sense!)

I must say that of both readings, I found Del Hierro’s article the most fascinating. Granted it provided a lot of reasons as to why Hip Hop Pedagogy would work great within classroom settings, I must say that I would have NEVER thought to compare the lyrics and style in which Biggie composed Ten Crack Commandments to a technical document, nor would I have ever used it to reflect business strategies employed by capitalist societies (that connection was pretty awesome). It made me wonder in what other ways we can use aspects/attributes of non-dominant culture to provide methods/examples of the creating and sharing of information. Interesting stuff!

Week 10: Intersections of Disability Studies, Ecofeminism, and Tech Comm (Sorry! This is a ‘catch-up’ post.)

Hi everyone! I’m playing catch-up at the moment. Please bear with me. The following post is a response to the readings listed under Week Ten (10) on the syllabus. I believe I might have been absent that Tuesday (I’m not sure). Either way, I’m attempting to make up for it now.

Technical communicators must find ways to advocate for those who are disabled, oppressed, and/or disadvantaged in some way or another. Though it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how this should be done, the following discussed chapters provided insight to avoiding the use of separatist language and ideology within social and environmental spheres.

The Smyser-Fauble piece was really interesting to me since it dealt with feminist disability studies. For over ten years, my Mom has worked with an organization that provides housing and assistance to individuals with developmental disabilities. With that being said, I found the section of the article which spoke on language all too familiar. Early on, I was lectured on the use of appropriate language regarding our associates, friends, and family members who deal with disability and mental illness on a daily basis. So, even before Smyser-Fauble addressed words such as ‘those’ and ‘normal’ found in works by Elmore and Meloncon, red flags had already gone up in my head. For example, the article says that according to Meloncon, “accessibility is the material practice of making social and technical environments and texts as readily available, easy to use, and understandable to as many people as possible, including those with disabilities” (101). As pointed out in the text, the end of the sentence that includes ‘those with disabilities’ is separatist in its measures because it ascribes a kind of otherness to a specific group of people. This practice in language is almost always dangerous. It must be remembered that ‘those with disabilities’ are first and foremost people. I would like to propose that one of the ways in which we could advocate for those who are disabled, oppressed, and/or ‘disadvantaged’ to some degree is to 1) be more mindful of the language we use and 2) adapt ecofeminist theory in our work, writings, and communicative measures.

The idea of separatism closely resembles that which is presented by Shiva in Sackey’s piece. It may be a stretch, but it seems as though these two readings (Smyser-Fauble and Sackey) intersect in terms of addressing separatist/dualist mindsets. Last semester, I wrote a final paper on the degradative and exploitive effects that capitalism has on our environment. Within the paper, I presented ecofeminism as a theoretical framework – something that I thought would assist my audience in understanding how discarding duality-saturated mindsets helps improve the oppression of individuals, groups, the environment, etc. Interestingly enough, I found in research that ideas of dualism exist when humans assign standards and traditional values to certain situations and groups of people. Everything and everyone that does not fit into those categories automatically becomes subordinate to whatever does. When speaking in terms of the environment, dualist mindsets help perpetuate a culture of mastery. Because nature is often viewed to not be as intellectual and advanced as man, man has little regard for the well-being of nature (nor does he feel the need to consider what may benefit nature in the long-run). This idea could easily be applied to what was found in the Smyser-Fauble article. Due to the fact that individuals with disabilities are labeled with detriments instead of simple differences, they are often regarded as different and less-than-capable. In turn, the needs of our disabled counterparts are not valued to the same extent as the needs of those considered able-bodied and/or privileged.

Dualist ideology and separatist terms like other, normal, and/or anything that could possibly carry a negative connotation should be discarded. Collectively, if we decided to adapt a more inclusive mindset/outlook towards things and individuals previously deemed ‘different’ from us I believe that we would notice a positive change in how certain groups of people are perceived and accommodated.

What other ways might we improve the perception and accommodations for those who do not ‘fit’ into the standard-like brackets and traditional spaces as mentioned above? These articles got me thinking a bit, and I would love to hear others input.

🙂

 

Understanding Through Narrative – Week 12 Response

I found this week’s readings to be difficult but (nonetheless) engaging. All three articles (Moore, Moeller, and Jones and Walton) seemed to pretty much focus on narrative, teaching pedagogy, theoretical framework, and how they should all be incorporated into acknowledging and advocating disenfranchised groups of people. In my very own troubles with grasping the social and cultural contexts that come along with recent studies within the field of technical and professional communication, I found Jones and Walton’s chapter explaining why narrative is a great choice to promote critical thinking about diversity and social justice to be enlightening. I thought back to our textbook, Solving Problems in Technical Communication, and though all of them did not speak on problems relating to diversity and social justice, I realized that the end of just about every chapter presented a heuristic and/or some kind of scenario that encouraged students to think about 1) the topic at hand and 2) how they could intervene if put into certain situations. After the article confirmed that “narrative has been examined and employed in technical communication research and pedagogy by a number of scholars” (338) I thought about its own effectiveness when applied to me. Most of the understanding that I’ve gained from this course comes directly from examples and/or narratives within the assigned text(s). Thinking back to Moore’s article and how she helped students ‘make knowledge’ within Black feminist framework used in her classroom(s) has also allowed me some insight as to how much our culture values the art of storytelling. It’s almost as if we have been conditioned to find/make meaning from narrative, no matter how it’s presented. Granted I found Moore’s chapter on Black Feminist Epistemology as a Framework Community-Based Teaching to be a bit confusing in a sense that I had difficulty connecting TPC to the community projects she spoke of, I like the explanation that Moore gives when it comes down to the mindset instructors should have when implementing Black feminist theory into classroom projects. By “resist[ing] the tendency to solely value effectiveness of documents, the clarity of ideas, and the efficiency of the project…students are encouraged to value the new knowledge they’ve gathered with citizens” (291). This, in itself, seems to agree with the theme of ‘going against the norm’ of technical and professional communication since one of the main goals of being a technical student is to learn how to make documents and other kinds of writing more user efficient. To take away from that focus (to me) seems to pull away from the very standardized definition that traditionally encompasses tech comm.

(Switching gears! Note: The following bit is reading based and highly opinionated.)

Now when it comes to Moeller’s approach to FDS (Feminist Disability Studies) and the examples provided in the text concerning breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen For The Cure, I must say that I was somewhat annoyed when reading this chapter. Although I wholeheartedly agree that “technical writers have an ethical obligation to consider the impacts we have on users, intended or not” (333), I felt that Moeller (in addition to the person who did the website and pamphlet writing for the Komen organization) did an excessive amount assuming and was (in all honesty) ‘stretching it.’ Before I end this post, I would like to turn attention to the end of page 329. Here Moeller assumes that the section on Komen’s pamphlet that speaks on disability and breast cancer is generalizing all disabilities into physical ones. I can see how the wording of the pamphlet makes women with disabilities out to be “irrational and logic-deficient” (330), but the point Moeller makes on disability generalization feels like a generalization all in itself. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Tech Comm: Defined by Work Culture

This week’s readings seemed to bring about a number of thoughts and ideas on my part. I found Chapters 5 and 12 to be the most interesting since they deal primarily with cultural studies, rhetoric, and intersectionality. In Chapter 5, Agboka wrote mainly on how we as technical communicators should make ethical decisions and advocate for those whose human rights may be infringed upon. The writing within the piece studies intersections between the field of technical communication and basic human rights (166). Agboka notes that “while human rights education alone cannot eliminate human rights violations, it can certainly be instrumental toward the end” (187). Though Agboka breaks down the example of the memo created by Shell Oil Company and the Nigerian government to demonstrate times where technical communicators should intervene on the part of the oppressed, I couldn’t help but to find the reading incomplete. The entire time I read about how the memo—which is described in the text as a militarized document known for (rhetorically) justifying the terrorization of the Ogoni people—was constructed and implemented, I kept looking for an answer to the question of how we writers and technical communicators should respond accordingly to situations/documents that promote oppression, violence, and violations of human rights. In honesty, I found no answer. It is here that I began to think on two things in particular: 1) the origin and foundation of technical communications in relation to the cultural changes we hope to make within the field and 2) the discourse surrounding technical communication as certain theoretical frameworks (such as Queer theory mentioned by Cox in Chapter 12) shed light to flaws of ‘normality.’

(Note that all of this is an attempt to show where my mind has been during the readings as well as the past few classes; I’ll try my best to connect my thoughts. Feel free to chime in wherever you see fit!)

Earlier in the semester, we talked about how technical communication is closely associated with white-collar work. Now that we are examining the field from a more cultural-based perspective, I cannot help but to believe that this is where the dilemma that so many authors have brought up in their writing(s) resides: the field of technical communication (being a field which values writing that is goal-oriented and [ultimately] undeviating from original intent and purpose) has always been ethically and culturally white-washed. For years, technical communication and most of the professions within the field have adhered to the expectations of professional, white-collar culture. For example, technical writers are expected to do their jobs and do their jobs well, all while avoiding unnecessary confusion and conflict. An embodiment of these unspoken rules is an embodiment of what it means to be successful and efficient. Interestingly enough, Cox confirms this by stating how “we live in a culture where happiness and smoothness and efficiency as success are so expected that they seem to keep us from taking risks” (410). A few weeks ago, someone in class asked why scholars, researchers, and workers within tech comm are just now voicing their opinions and concerns on topics such as diversity, social justice, feminism, etc. The answer to this question, in my opinion, is that tech comm (just like any field/profession) has always been defined by its work culture. We are currently in a time where concepts and ideas that have always been perceived as ‘normal’ are being found insufficient and exclusive both inside and outside of work culture. Because of this, we are now being enabled with information that can help us identify gaps and solve problems that technical communicators have been faced with (but been silenced about) over the years. I find it pleasing to know that tech comm is finally at a place where people feel comfortable enough to study and critique that which is labeled “dominant” and/or “normative” (409), but I also think that it is necessary to begin configuring ways to ACTUALLY solve the many problems brought up in discussion and text. One question that I would like to ask is how can the word ‘professionalism’ be more inclusive in a society (and within the foundations of tech comm) when there are (clearly) restrictions to how the word is defined?

Week 6 Response – Discrimimation, Culture, and (Possible) Disruptions of Collaborative Processes 

In Chapter 18 Burnett, Cooper, and Welhausen begin by acknowledging the importance of communication and teamwork within both the workplace and the overall field of tech comm. We learn that the act of collaborating is “important because virtually all workplaces rely on group-based decision making and projects” (454). Then (in Chapter 19) we learn from St. Amant that a lack of communication/collaboration within international environments can highly influence the goals, effectiveness, etc. of certain projects. This weeks readings were extremely interesting, because they brought up topics that revolve around social and cultural barriers within the field. Though the text focused more-so on the effects of employee cultural knowledge (or a lack thereof) and team-member relationships on product efficiency, this particular post is going to dig a bit deeper by complicating and questioning employee interactions and collaborative decision-making processes. It will also question the assumption that all technical communicators must approach their jobs with a willingness to understand and comply with other people’s cultures.
I could not help but to think outside of these passages. Yes we understand that collaboration is important, but what do we do when issues arise that not only bring conflict to the collaboration process but also conflict with our personal beliefs? How do we manage conflict created by a resistance to collaborate? How do we handle situations within tech comm that may engage in discrimination? For example, after reading chapters 18 and 19 I imagined two scenarios in which conflict could possibly arise due to cultural and religious beliefs.
Scenario 1: Imagine being on a team of technical communicators creating a FAQ webpage for an company based in India. You have been instructed to take care of all visual aspects of the webpage (graphs, photos, etc.). You, in the process of constructing this page, are told that the image you selected consisting of a dark-skinned man in a business suit will 1) not be well received and 2) lacks visual appeal because dark skin in Indian culture is not particularly valued. During the next team meeting, a few of your coworkers seem to agree that you should find another photo. Do you discard your beliefs, find another photo, and make adjustments to the webpage as advised or do you keep the photo and continue developing the webpage?

Scenario 2: You are a woman who has been paired with a male coworker for an upcoming project. This particular coworker, due to religion, does not believe that men and women are equals. Therefore, he has a tendency to ignore and/or disregard the ideas you bring to the table. How exactly do you collaborate with someone who seems unwilling?

Both scenarios are very much possibilities, and because there is often a tremendous amount of background diversity between (and amongst) clients, technical communicators, and users I feel as though it is imperative to know how to handle both collaborative and cultural conflict that arises from discrimination. As the book mentions, “group based work methods exist in nearly 70% of U.S. firms” (457). Though it has been proven that group work is more efficient, it cannot be ignored that there are a number of factors which contribute to collaborative success. In Chapter 9, it was brought to my attention that ethics are to be regarded as “context-dependent” processes that can sometimes require tedious amounts deliberation and negotiation (234-235). Does this still apply here? Where do we draw the line when it comes to what is best for the project and what is ethically/morally “right?” Being the person that I am, I would want to choose the “right” option, but I’m finding that it may be more difficult to do than originally expected.

Week 5 Response (Sorry for Lateness!) 

In my readings, I could not help but find discomfort in the fact that the subject of ethics within technical communication is regarded as something that is situational. In chapter 9 specifically, Scott refers to ethics as “a process” that is context-dependent (234-235). The example within the text is even more of a reason to be alarmed, as it prescribes the idea of negotiation as a solution to ethical problems within the workplace. During class last week, my group raised a question to the class that (contrary to what the text tells us) was quite simple to answer. Considering the BioTech/MegaPharm ethical dilemma presented in the text, the class quickly came to the conclusion that because these companies were dealing with medicines and flu vaccinations that directly affected the well-being of their users, it is the duty of the technical communicators involved to protect the users more-so than it is their duty to be loyal to the client. One person even made a comment supporting the notion that certain companies (those that deal with medications, vaccines, health/fitness products, etc.) should be required to give facts on all documentations, advertisements, etc. 
Now skipping ahead (for just a moment)…

In Chapter 14 and on page 340, Henze gives an example of what the word genre encompasses. The scenario of the student introduction gives a clear image to what a genre is supposed to be. The genre of both the introduction and the student giving it seems to form from 1) a culture surrounding the classroom and 2) certain expectancies of the two. In his words, genres “help technical communicators diagnose a document users needs and produce documents that respond to those needs in situationally appropriate ways” (337). If this is truly the case when it comes to genre, then why exactly is the process for dealing with ethical dilemma within certain circumstances vary? Why must technical communicators accept that their morals may potentially be challenged? Why is it not already a standard within tech comm (or any other field for that matter) that all companies which create and/or market health-related products must be honest in their endeavors and strategies?

I feel as this: if these questions were to be seriously considered, a new genre within tech comm could possibly emerge that not only would assist technical communicators with producing documents that accurately respond to the intentions of its creators but would also help them avoid a number of dilemmas and negotiations. 

Capitalism, in all of its glory, inarguably affects the ways in which certain products are advertised, marketed, and documented (which clearly was the case in the chapter 9 reading); however, the whole idea of there being a need to instruct technical communicators on techniques of compromise would cease (not completely, but some) if a genre of ‘health-related’ documentations were to be created. Stricter laws would need to be put in place to deter companies from promoting products that are incorrectly advertised, but the result of this would be that 1) certain forms, documents, and ads would not have the ability to mislead users/consumers and 2) technical communicators would not face as much ethical dilemma because they would (equally) protect the users and remain loyal to the clients.

Granted, I understand that solutions to problems are not always so clear. I also understand that a culture of a company/organization sometimes has a difficult time evolving. If the goal, though, revolves around the satisfaction of the user AND the improvement of overall userability why aren’t these measures being put in place? Ethical matters should never be context-dependent when someones well-being is in the equation; this is one thing that should not be debatable. So, I guess my question (at this point) is ‘how can technical communicators help create and implement genres that avoid ethical dilemma?’ 

Week 4 – Reading Response

Theory (to me) has never only represented philosophical thinking. When it comes to science, technically a hypothesis in an experiment is theoretical, especially since trials (forms of practice) are conducted following initial research and inquiry. [I often write these responses as I read. I wrote the previous sentences before I got to the bottom of page 127. Proud moment! 🙂 ] The Max scenario located in the introduction of Chapter 5 notes that it is a lack of theory and practice on Max’s part that keeps him from communicating with customers more effectively. On page 130, Porter asks if “we should keep things as clear and as simple as possible,” but what exactly does clear and simple entail? That which is identifiable as clear and simple to some may not be for others. For example, on page 126 Porter suggests that Max’s problem lies in the fact that Max puts more emphasis and focus into his document than he does his audience. This very well may be the case, but this idea (in itself) can be problematic. The audience of the document that Max keeps making adjustments to IS the entire reason as to why he continuously works on it. [This was mentioned on page 140 – again, I wrote this before I read it too.] I would like to argue that the lack of theorizing on Max’s part has nothing to do with the method of communication he has chosen but more-so with user comprehension of the language the document holds. Max’s efforts into making the document more ‘clear and simple’ could be ineffective because he is being too technical in language. Perhaps he should break his information down another way in order for the audience to get better understanding (and this is where question forums and other suggestions may come into play). Whatever Max chooses to do, these are the ways of thinking and theorizing that he should apply to his job as a technical communicator. [I just realized that in the midst of writing this I, too, am doing what the chapter has been speaking of thus far. Talk about having a ‘meta’ moment!]

Also, I found it interesting that Porter mentions the practice of applying theory as what seems to almost be pedagogical. He didn’t say this directly, but on page 130 he mentions that “if you are working collaboratively on a team to design…for your company, you need a theory of collaboration and teamwork that guides how you work with others.” For some reason, this reminded me of the different pedagogies I studied in ENGL 6625 last semester. No, what Porter is talking about may not necessarily be education or writing related, but what he IS saying is that there should be planning and methodological practice behind whatever you do. Obviously, if your position requires you to collaborate on the regular with your coworkers/colleagues, they are going to have to be able to brainstorm and theorize just as you do. Whether it is the sharing of ideas, diverting/managing potential conflict amongst your very own work group, deciding how a document should be constructed/put together, etc. application of theory (in the sense of comprehension, analyzation, and the production of alternative practices, methods, and conclusion) has proven itself highly useful to the field of tech comm.

As for Chapters 7 and 8 (Longo & Fountain; Mehlenbacher), I found it interesting how both scenarios/examples given within the text display a need to be a thoroughly knowledgeable person as a technical writer/communicator. In Chapter 7, Rita needed to fully understand the history of the protocols in order to make modifications as needed. It is the exact same for Janine, except now (and even more so in the future as well as further down the road in tech comm) the task is probably not as stressful. This is mainly because 1) the information Janine needs is accessible through a number of different resources (past documents, the Internet, her peers/work group, etc.) and 2) the work that comes along with her research can easily be split up. Both chapters demonstrate that the job as a technical communicator has changed from a somewhat isolated occupation to one that requires group effort. I speculate that one reason behind this is the growth of the field and the realization that in order for documents to be more effective they should be handled by a number of people. This is also where the extensive amount of research, writing, theorizing, and collaborating that tech comm requires comes into play. As the field expands, the need for more knowledgeable people in different areas of study and profession will be needed.

Week 3 – Reading Response

Selfe and Selfe used the first part of Chapter 1 to give a better understanding of technical communication. This proved to be near impossible as (early on) technical communication was given no single definition but one which describes it as an in-depth description of the mapping/studying of “boundaries, artifacts, and identities that constitute the field” (19). In my reading, I noticed that the chapter actually switches goals. The beginning attempts to define technical communication even though it states that the field – at this moment- is far too large to compact into a concrete description. The last part of the chapter continues in its efforts to bring further understanding to the field of technical comm, but it does so by implementing visual representation (text-clouds) of the first part of the chapter. Though I understand what the authors were attempting to do here, I would feel conflicted if I did not voice my concerns with the “flow” of the information provided. There seemed to be an almost instant switch from what constitutes technical comm to the utilization of text clouds (it just seemed so awkward!). Granted the use of text clouds and its incorporation within the text gives more insight, I could not help but notice that when everything was said and done technical communication (despite obvious efforts) was still poorly defined and left to be interpreted by the reader. This in itself helped me be able to see where this becomes a problem for those within the field, as it must be difficult to be dedicated to something that you cannot quite put into words.

I will say, on another note, that the text clouds interested me because I can recall seeing them in major texts. Until reading this, I never realized how prevalent these maps actually are. They do tend to give readers large amounts of information at once, but the sequence in which text clouds were used within this particular chapter made understanding technical writing techniques even more confusing.

Now as for Chapter 2 and Chapter 4, I found it inevitable in asking myself if (or better yet, HOW) work patterns and practices will change in the years to come as well as how this change will affect the development of both technical communication and those dedicated to its advancement (especially since we are becoming a more technologically advanced society). All three professionals mentioned in Chapter 4 were considered technical writers to some extent but were given a number of secretarial – and even managerial – jobs. I feel as though it would be safe to say at this point that being a technical writer puts one in a position of multi-tasking, but I can only wonder if this is where some of the confusion lies. This entire reading assignment this week has attempted to make technical comm and the professions within the field clearer to outsiders; however, there seems to be conflict everywhere you turn, including within the field itself. There is conflict in relevance (to different fields), employee/employer expectations, and so on and so forth. Early thinking on my end brought about the idea that perhaps the first step to defining technical comm is to put less emphasis on the writing part since just about all of the readings agree that writing is but a small percentage of work being done, but because writing and working with a number of mediums/texts is at the core of the field this is innately impossible. In all honesty, I feel as though this conflict that the field is experiencing lies primarily in what Chapter 1 attempted to do and what Cook, Cook, Minson, and Wilson write as “a crucial step to becoming a profession” (101). Taking the time to define technical communication and all that is has to offer would make things easier for not only those employed within the field but also for those who are currently studying the field and/or preparing to enter it. How exactly does this come about though? My answer would be to continue studies around technical communication and begin separating its tasks and job titles so that it won’t all be clumped together. As mentioned previously, it will be interesting to see where the field goes as we begin incorporating even more technology. Many of the jobs that were mentioned in Chapter 4 by the three professionals may not even be required for tech professionals in the future. I question, at this point, if organization of the field is the key to finally being able to define it.

Week 2 Response

A number of things stood out to me in this weeks readings. I’m going to go ahead and put out there that I did have some difficulty in the beginning. If there is anything wrong or anything that could be further elaborated on, please chime in.

In the first article, there was a section where the author talked about technical writing and its concerns with both reader analysis and reality. In the beginning of the reading I could see how rhetoric and technical writing could be viewed as two completely separate subjects; however, I quickly remembered that there is always meaning behind writing a text and THAT is where I figured rhetoric could be applied. It dawned on me that although technical and professional writing is considered to be fact-based, writing style and clarity in a piece of writing itself depends solely on the interpretation of the writing to the reader (hope that makes sense). The science behind technical writing tells us that everything that is to be written down must be factual, but the understanding of these facts depends solely on the writer and reader. What kind of audience does the writer want to appeal to? A general audience? A career specific audience? What is the reasoning behind this? The list of questions go on and on. In this particular scenario, rhetoric can now be applied to the positivist legacy of technical writing that is brought up in the aforementioned piece. Why? Because audience adaptation tells us that 1) a technical piece is often goal specific (which, too, requires the composer to be specific), and 2) one persons perception/interpretation of words and ideas often varies from the next. Needless to say, this article definitely grabbed my attention.

In the second article, I found the rhetoric behind the memo interesting just as much as I found it disturbing. I, unfortunately, even before the author gave his reasoning for writing the article thought of ways that ‘ethics of expediency’ has saturated other areas of Western culture. Sure enough, the further I read a long I noticed the author explain how the relationship between rhetoric and ethics had always been ‘uneasy’. I thought about how pharmaceutical companies advertise medicines nowadays. A pill may in fact decrease blood pressure and be advertised for all of its positive effects, but if there is anything negative associated with the medicine it will purposefully be ignored, creatively downplayed, or given very little attention to. The rhetoric behind the memo in the article and the creation of the advertisement lies primarily lies with motive of the writers/promoters. The more I read, the more I saw how technical writing and rhetoric are nowhere near exclusive, despite outer appearances.

In the last three articles, all authors make mention of where technical and professional writing fit within academia. Interestingly enough, even upon entering this course and having no idea of what ‘theory of professional communication’ or technical writing was I never once questioned if the subject could be practiced separately from English. During my undergrad, my major was English and my minor was Communication. Writing, reading, speaking, etc. seemed to naturally tie together for me since they all deal with language in some way. Now that we’ve started digging into the readings, I can only wonder what other ways we are to apply rhetoric to technical writing this semester.