Getting the Job Done: Questioning Assumptions in Technical Communication Practices.


Our panel attempts to discuss the crucial intersection of various exigencies in rhetoric and technical writing, intersections which concern technical communicators as they engage with their work as symbolic analysts. Each of us begins by questioning a current assumption of technical writing practice as it manifests itself in the classroom, the workplace, or both. Our papers deal specifically with the treatment of ethics in technical writing pedagogy and textbooks that provide frameworks for those pedagogies, the relationship between scientific literacy and technical communication, the theoretical framework of systems mapping in technical writing pedagogy, and the function of the author in collaborative technical documents in the workplace. While these papers vary in topic, they all share the common thread that not challenging the current assumptions that permeate the technical writing field and classroom does a disservice to students, readers, and writers of technical communication. In addition to simply questioning these assumptions, we also attempt to offer fresh perspectives aimed at disrupting current beliefs, practices, and habits; In doing so, we are able to provide innovative strategies that technical communicators in the classroom and the workplace can put to practical use and effectively accommodate the unique audience, purpose, exigence, etc, of each communication situation. We offer new frameworks, ideologies, and theories to revise current classroom and workplace issues in a way that better meets the needs of the multiple and complex audiences of technical writing.

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The purpose of this essay is to discuss the situational and applied ethics discussed in Paul V. Anderson’s Technical Communication: A reader centered approach. In this paper I attempt to suggest that adding a theoretical lens may open the possibility for a logic of ethics which both informs and expands upon the current discussion of ethics in these books. The specific theoretical lens I suggest is John Stuart Mill’s sense of Utilitarianism through the greatest happiness principle which neatly fits the need to make audience centered communication and documents and helps define why writing for multiple audiences is crucial.

This essay aims to provide an overview of how novice technical communication teachers can promote scientific literacy in the classroom through classroom activities analyzing scientific discourse. I argue that written scientific discourse includes discourse about science, often authored by nonscientists, as well as discourse by scientists, and that the two cannot be separated. I offer a popular media article written in response to “Climategate” as an example of scientific discourse to share with students. I then propose two interrelated approaches to understanding scientific discourse: a theoretical lenses drawn from the rhetoric of science and practical guidelines for identifying “junk science.”

In this paper, I will argue that applying the terminology and framework of actor-network theory to the description of a complex process or system can afford technical writing students a unique opportunity to reimagine strategies for effective communication within that system.  By allowing students to describe and critique all actors within a system’s network using abstraction and systems thinking, a system description guided by actor-network theory can encourage their role as symbolic analysts in having power to shift information structures.  This type of powerful interpretation and synthesis can be initiated in the classroom through system descriptions guided by actor-network theory.

This paper seeks to answer the question: How does the idea of collage challenge/extend/amplify what we know about authors and authorship, as well as collaboration and plagiarism?  In this paper, I look at how the author is defined and how authorship is negotiated in the workplace in regards to collaboration both with other writers and collaboration with the text. By evaluating the ambiguous roles that professional communicators now have in the workplace, I discuss pedagogical strategies already in place and how they can be improved while also implementing other strategies for a more practical application in the classroom.
Throughout the paper, it becomes evident that authorship and documents are a collage of personal experience and how we collaborate with text and other writers to assimilate all of these pieces into writing.

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