A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Avoiding Wrong Turns in the Shrinking Global Village

With the global village growing smaller every year, more and more communication professionals are taking on assignments that span a wide range of countries and cultures. Cross-border responsibilities require that you constantly expand your horizons and learn about new places and people. At the same time, it can be more than a little daunting to get up to speed on each country’s business and social conventions—and when the two do and don’t mix.

Bird, Shelley. Communication World Bulletin (2005). Articles>Business Communication>International>Cultural Theory


Changing Nature and Uses of Media Literacy

The more that information and communication technologies become central to modern society, the more it is imperative to identify, and to manage the development of, the skills and abilities required to use them. Within both academic and policy discourses, the concept of media literacy is being extended from its traditional focus on print and audiovisual media to encompass the internet and other new media. Hence, even though the concept of literacy has itself long proved contentious, there is widespread speculation regarding supposedly new forms of literacy - variously termed computer literacy, internet literacy, cyber-literacy, and so forth.

Livingstone, Sonia. London School of Economics (2006). Articles>Communication>Theory


Communication, Culture and Surveys   (PDF)

Interest in corporate culture has been on the increase ever since studies over a decade ago found a link between certain cultural aspects and successful business outcomes. Buthow can you measure the bottom-link impacts of culture in your own organization?

Sinickas, Angela D. Sinickas Communications (2000). Articles>Business Communication>Cultural Theory>Surveys


A Critique of Hall’s Contexting Model: A Meta-Analysis of Literature on Intercultural Business and Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Edward Hall’s model of low-context and high-context cultures is one of the dominant theoretical frameworks for interpreting intercultural communication. This article reports a meta-analysis of 224 articles in business and technical communication journals between 1990 and 2006 and addresses two primary issues: (a) the degree to which contexting is embedded in intercultural communication theory and (b) the degree to which the contexting model has been empirically validated. Contexting is the most cited theoretical framework in articles about intercultural communication in business and technical communication journals and in intercultural communication textbooks. An extensive set of contexting propositions has emerged in the literature; however, few of these propositions have been examined empirically. Furthermore, those propositions tested most frequently have failed to support many contexting propositions, particularly those related to directness. This article provides several recommendations for those researchers who seek to address this popular and appealing yet unsubstantiated and underdeveloped communication theory.

Cardon, Peter W. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2008). Articles>Communication>Theory>Cultural Theory


Cultural Barriers to Internal Communication

Twenty years ago, I sat in the London offices of an American oil services company taking the conference brief for a CEO’s script. He was an oilman of the old school—no nonsense and pretty brutal in his management style. When his personal assistant came in with the coffee, she all but threw it over the guy and left the room with her nose in the air. “The natives are revolting,” he explained. “I made some redundancies this morning: everyone who arrived more than five minutes late.” It was my first experience of culture shock. For the Texan it was the most natural behavior; for the Brits, he represented a form of barbarism not seen since the Dark Ages. So how does a multinational firm communicate to audiences who have fundamentally different cultural values?

Wright, Marc. Communication World Bulletin (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Cultural Theory


Does Technology Enable or Determine Communication?

Communication technologies, especially those that are participatory, clearly do both, determine and enable communication. They determine communication by function of display possibilities, editing capabilities, information-chunk size allowances, access affordances, cost implications, communicative capabilities (one-to-one, one-to-many, etc.). Clearly, however, these communication technologies enable communication that otherwise would not be possible.

Brown, Konstanze Alex. Konjektures (2009). Articles>Technology>Communication>Theory


Examining the Scope of Channel Expansion: A Test of Channel Expansion Theory With New and Traditional Communication Media   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article draws on channel expansion theory to explore the selection and use of communication media by organizational members. Channel expansion theory scholars posit that media richness perceptions are dependent on experiences with communication partners, the message topic, and the communication media utilized. This study tests channel expansion theory in the context of new and traditional communication media. Respondents (N = 269) completed questionnaires regarding their use and perceptions of face-to-face, telephone, e-mail, or instant-messaging interactions. Results indicate that experience with channel, topic, partner, and social influence are all significant predictors of richness perceptions, when controlling for age and media characteristics. Findings also suggest that the richness of a medium is not fixed and may be shaped by interpersonal factors, including one's relevant experiences.

D'Urso, Scott C. and Stephen A. Rains. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Communication>Theory>Surveys


Expressive Practices: the Local Enactment of Culture in the Communication Classroom   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

As students participate in corporate communication classes, they may, on occasion, use the term culture to make sense of their experiences. The authors use Mino's idea of a learning paradigm to shift the emphasis away from teaching traditional theories of culture and use student-centered experiences to teach culture as an expressive practice. Using instances drawn from their own classrooms, the authors show how students can recognize the value of understanding their role in creating culture each time they choose how to act, how to evaluate others' behavior, and whether to label what is going on as cultural.

Wolf, Karen, Trudy Milburn and Richard Wilkins. Business Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Education>Business Communication>Cultural Theory


Games: A Transactional Context   (PDF)

Communication was not a theorized space until after World War II, it was just something we did. Both Claude Shannon’s seminal model of communication and Norbert Wiener’s model of feedback dealt with the technical transmission space for communication. From the beginning of communication theory, attention focused on technical aspects and broadcast models in which the recipient of the communication was presumed to be passive. All that was necessary was to use understandable codes (language, symbols, images) with which the recipient was familiar. Since those early days, a wealth of communication models have been developed that deal with various perspectives on communication including discourse models that seek to establish rapport; gratification models that attempt to sustain interest; innovation models that promote behavior change; and context models that seek to recognize and plan for the specific conditions in which a communication occurs. With these models the varieties of ways in which communication was received and interpreted came to the foreground, but the variables that influence any particular person’s interpretation remain daunting and undiscoverable in their totality.

Poggenpohl, Sharon. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Communication>Theory>Games


A Mathematical Theory of Communication   (PDF)

The article entitled 'A Mathematical Theory of Communication', published in 1948 by mathematician Claude E. Shannon, was one of the founding works of the field of information theory. Shannon's paper laid out the basic elements of any digital communication.

Shannon, Claude E. Bell System Technical Journal (1948). Articles>Communication>Theory>Minimalism


The Medium Is The Message

When it comes to understanding these various media, one of the best to learn from is Marshall McLuhan. Born in 1911 and passing in 1980, McLuhan had no opportunity to experience the Web the way we know it today, but that didn’t stop him from exerting a huge influence on it.

Gross, Jason. Smashing (2011). Articles>Communication>Theory


On a Growing Dualism in Organizational Discourse Research   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Duality arguments are now a common perspective employed in organizational discourse research to avoid the problematic dualism of necessarily prioritizing structure or agency. Despite this considerable philosophical maturity, not all duality approaches are created equal. In fact, duality theorizing in current organizational discourse research has developed into two perspectives— structured in action or acted in structure. This article outlines the characteristics of each research program and provides an illustration of how similar organizational phenomena may be interpreted differently depending on paradigmatic orientation. Then, methodological recommendations and two emerging theoretical myopias—duality and organizing biases—are described to challenge scholars to employ dialectically these seemingly incommensurate perspectives in their theorizing of 21st-century organizational discourse.

Bisel, Ryan S. Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Organizational Communication>Theory


Publics Performing Publics: Of PiGs, PiPs and Politics   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This theoretical paper considers the ways in which the "publics" of public understanding of science and public engagement with science perform themselves not only in relation to science knowledge and scientific institutions, but also in relation to other publics. Specifically, through a survey of the literature, there is an exploration of the processes of differentiation and identification amongst publics. Two broad rhetorical categories of public are identified: Publics-in-General (PiGs) and Publics-in-Particular (PiPs). The means by which they are variously differentiated, and the performative uses to which these can be put are considered. Implications for both the implementation of public engagement processes, and the critique of such engagement, are discussed.

Michael, Mike. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Theory


(Re)Appraising the Performance of Technical Communicators from a Posthumanist Perspective   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Composition and rhetoric's attention to writing as cultural performance is expanded to analyze writing as organizational performance. A Foucauldian understanding of discourse enables the diagnosis of a technical writer's annual performance appraisal as grounded in 20th-century Taylorized management principles. Tenets from posthumanism—including a discarding of the liberal humanist subject in knowledge production and a leveraging of distributed cognition for enhanced performance of humans acting in concert with intelligent machines—enable a theoretical framework for repurposing this genre.

Henry, James M. Technical Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Business Communication>Assessment>Cultural Theory


Resistance, Gender, and Bourdieu's Notion of Field

Recent conceptualizations of resistance have tended to privilege intentional and conscious acts of resistance and forms of resistance manifested within relations of power that researchers typically define as asymmetrical, such as the labor-management relation. The author argues that these tendencies lead us to overlook forms of resistance manifest in other relations of power that exist in organizations, as well as set ourselves up as arbitrators of what is to be considered 'effective' resistance. Using Bourdieu's concepts of capital and field, the author examines how we can read resistance both to the idea of sex discrimination and to patriarchal power relations from the accounts of female career police officers and offers a more perspectival, relativistic account of resistance.

Penny, Dick. Management Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Theory


A Response To Patrick Moore's 'Questioning The Motives Of Technical Communication and Rhetoric: Steven Katz's 'Ethic Of Expediency''   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In my 1992 College English article 'The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust' [1], I looked at the implications of a Nazi memo whose sole purpose was to improve the efficiency of the gassing vans, in order to begin to try to understand and discuss the negative uses and ethical abuses to which technical communication, and deliberative rhetoric generally, could be taken by the powerful and unscrupulous. In 'Questioning the Motives of Technical Communication and Rhetoric: Steven Katz's 'Ethic of Expediency'' [2], Patrick Moore accuses me of ignoring alternate translations, citing out of context, and focusing on the negative meaning of words to make my case. The point at issue in these charges, I believe, is whether (and to what degree) Aristotle meant to base deliberative discourse on 'expediency.' I will take each of these charges up one at a time to explore them more thoroughly, discuss their interrelations, and then conclude with a few observations of my own.

Katz, Steven B. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics>Theory


Revisiting Interpersonal Media Competition: The Gratification Niches of Instant Messaging, E-Mail, and the Telephone   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The theory of niche proposes that a new medium competes with older, more established media to fulfill users' needs. This study uses niche theory, a macrolevel theory, as well as social information processing theory and the theory of electronic propinquity, both microlevel theories, to examine the niche of instant messaging (IM) in providing general gratifications. Results indicate that IM is characterized by a broad niche, surpassed only by that of the cell phone. IM had substantial niche overlap with e-mail and the cell phone, indicating a degree of substitutability between them; the least overlap was with the landline telephone (LLP). The hierarchy that emerged indicated that the cell phone was superior to IM, which was superior to e-mail, followed by the LLP for providing general gratifications. Finally, displacement tests indicated that IM use displaced e-mail and LLP but not cell phone use. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Ramirez, Artemio, John Dimmick, John Feaster and Shu-Fang Lin. Communication Research (2008). Articles>Communication>Theory


The Sociological Turn in Information Science   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This paper explores the history of `the social' in information science. It traces the influence of social scientific thinking on the development of the field's intellectual base. The continuing appropriation of both theoretical and methodological insights from domains such as social studies of science, science and technology studies, and socio-technical systems is discussed.

Cronin, Blaise. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Research>Cultural Theory


Some Assembly Required: The Latourian Collective and the Banal Work of Technical and Professional Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this article, the author uses the critical vocabulary developed by Bruno Latour in his recent work Politics of Nature to offer an alternative way for technical and professional communicators to approach and articulate their work. Using the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters to explore Latour's vocabulary, the author argues that positioning technical and professional communication as more than transmitting and translating, but instead as the collecting of articulated propositions about the common world in service of the common good, thoroughly grounds its practice in rhetorical theory. Such a positioning also ascribes value to technical and professional communication without reinscribing the false dichotomy between science and politics.

Rivers, Nathaniel A. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2008). Articles>TC>Business Communication>Theory


Toward a Post-Techne-Or, Inventing Pedagogies for Professional Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article examines the concept of techne in relation to situatedness. Techne is conceived as techniques for situating bodies in contexts. Although many theorists and practitioners in technical communication are working from ecological and posthuman perspectives with regard to interface designs, this article argues for extending those perspectives to workplace and classroom situations. Starting from a Heideggerian reading of techne, the article moves toward the concept of post-techne, which remakes pedagogical techniques for writing and inventing in institutional contexts.

Hawk, Byron. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Articles>Education>Business Communication>Theory


What Is a Sign?

This is a most necessary question, since all reasoning is an interpretation of signs of some kind. But it is also a very difficult question, calling for deep reflection.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. Marxists.org (1894). Articles>Communication>Theory


Why Cultural Studies? Expanding Technical Communication’s Critical Toolbox   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

How can reviewing technical communication pedagogy, research methods, and theoretical concepts through a cultural studies lens enhance our work and that of our students? The essays in this collection offer a provocative array of answers to this question. Because this question has so rarely been asked, we envision this collection as a sourcebook for the field, surveying a mostly unfa- miliar scholarly terrain and providing other scholars the tools with which to continue this expedition.

Scott, J. Blake, Bernadette Longo and Katherine V. Willis. SUNY Press (2006). Articles>Business Communication>TC>Cultural Theory


Toward a Typology of Activities: Understanding Internal Contradictions in Multiperspectival Activities   (peer-reviewed)   (members only) new!

Professional writing scholars have often turned to activity theory (AT) as a rich framework for describing and theorizing human activity. But AT-based studies typically emphasize the uniqueness of activities rather than examin- ing how certain types of activities share configurations. Consequently, these analyses often miss the chance to examine activities’ internal contradictions that are a result of interference between different configurations of activity. This article argues that a typology of activities can deepen our understand- ing of these internal contradictions. Drawing from a range of literature, it describes the general characteristics of different types of activities, provid- ing examples from other AT-based studies. It concludes by discussing how this typology can help such studies to better analyze internal contradictions in activities.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2015). Articles>Business Communication>Ethnographies>Activity Theory

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