This article introduces apparent feminism, which is a new approach urgently required by modern technical rhetorics. Apparent feminism provides a new kind of response that addresses current political trends that render misogyny unapparent, the ubiquity of uncritically negative responses to the term feminism, and a decline in centralized feminist work in technical communication. More specifically, it suggests that the manifestation of these trends in technical spheres requires intervention into notions of objectivity and the regimes of truth they support. Apparent feminism is a methodology that seeks to recognize and make apparent the urgent and sometimes hidden exigencies for feminist critique of contemporary politics and technical rhetorics. It encourages a response to social justice exigencies, invites participation from allies who do not explicitly identify as feminist but do work that complements feminist goals, and makes apparent the ways in which efficient work actually depends on the existence and input of diverse audiences.
Kunnen experts het met elkaar eens worden over de vraag of een lezersprobleem aannemelijk is en of dat probleem ernstig is? Uit menig onderzoek is gebleken dat beoordelaars sterk van elkaar verschillen in hun oordelen over tekstkwaliteit. In dit artikel wordt verslag gedaan van een poging om met behulp van de Delphi-methode consensus te bereiken tussen beoordelaars. In het eerste deel van het artikel wordt duidelijk dat op deze manier consensus niet haalbaar is, hoewel de mate van overeenstemming wel enigszins stijgt. In het tweede deel analyseren we de argumenten die beoordelaars aandragen voor de stelling dat een probleem (on)aannemelijk en wel of niet ernstig is. Vijf typen minder adequate argumentatiepatronen worden met behulp van voorbeelden toegelicht.
Classical rhetorical theory has been used for relatively discrete, practice-oriented purposes in its application to teaching Scientific and Technical Communication. However effective these appropriations are, they isolate these resources from a comprehensive framework and from that framework's role in shaping disciplinary practice. Because these theoretical assets are integral to each student's preparation to be an effective, responsible practitioner, I have developed and taught an upper level rhetorical theory course for STC majors that is grounded in Aristotle s <em>On Rhetoric</em> and in his understanding that effective communication is a systematic <em>tekhne</em>/art.
This article supplements existing rhetorical scholarship by returning to the notion of invention as general preparation of the communicator. Although much scholarship about invention in technical communication exists, it consists mainly of heuristics, checklists, ethical considerations, and audience awareness. Part of invention is using basic strategies to prepare the communicator to assess any communication situation and its context and to generate the appropriate discourse. Rhetorician Kenneth Burke s theories of dialectic and rhetoric are a twentieth-century version of this; this article explains important Burkean strategies such as etymological extension, limits of agreement with the thesis, finding the complex in the simple, expanding the circumference, translation or alembication, the four master tropes, and the pentad, and it shows how to apply these in technical communication. The article closes with a classroom assignment that uses Burkean invention strategies.
Multimedia can sometimes convey meaning in ways that text and graphics alone cannot. This paper offers two principles for understanding how multimedia can clarify abstract concepts. The first principle is that multimedia is excellent for conveying any kind of change, such as change in quantity, size, shape, or relationship. The second principle is that multimedia can help present complex concepts by providing information in both the visual and auditory modes simultaneously. These principles can guide technical communicators in evaluating whether multimedia is a cost-effective way to present their information.
The redefinition of logos as an appeal to logic is a mistaken association found all too often in the technical communication classroom. Logic inheres in all three proofs of persuasion; moreover, Aristotle used <em>logos</em> within the context of classical rhetoric to refer to the argument or speech itself. In this light, the proofs of persuasion represent the set of all logical means whereby the speaker can lead a "right-thinking" audience to infer <em>something</em>. If that <em>something</em> is an emotion, the appeal is to <em>pathos</em>; if it is about the character of the speaker, the appeal is to <em>ethos</em>; and if it is about the argument or speech itself, the appeal is to <em>logos</em>. This interpretation reinstates all three proofs of persuasion as legitimate, logical means to different proximate ends and provides a coherent definition of <em>logos</em>, consonant with Aristotle's <em>Rhetoric</em>, to the next generation of technical communicators.
Technical communicators have longed turned to audience, purpose, and context as they analyze situations. But Mirel's article demonstrates that audience-purpose-context is too weak a framework to handle the job of detailed sociopolitical analysis: not only is it inadequate for analyzing the needs of end users, it is also inadequate for analyzing situations within the writer's organization. In this response, this paper explores the weakness of audience-purpose-context and points to alternative sociopolitical frameworks.
A discussion of how to argue that technical writing has humanistic value. Reviewing the common belief (at least in 1979) that tech writing was of necessity a 'skills' course, this article counters the traditional 'plain style' rhetorical theory by suggesting possibilities for professional and theoretical alternatives for the field.
The task of conveying technical information is usually taken to be the responsibility of the writer-researcher, aided possibly by editorial and supervisory reviews. And the test of success is usually understood to be a technically objective and accurate text, effectively presented to the intended reader. The subject of this paper is an inquiry into the existence of a fictitious personage, created by the writer-researcher, deliberately or not, to mediate between the author and the reader on the one side, and the author and the text on the other. If such a personage exists, the next question is whether this presence, often referred to as an implied author or 'second self' in literary studies, is an appropriate rhetorical device for technical discourse; whether it enhances or distorts the information transfer from writer to text to reader. Such questioning can, I believe, lead to a more refined understanding of the nature of technical discourse and its relation to the reality it addresses.
The rhetorician Longinus advises writers to 'transport' their readers by aligning the readers' perspective with the writer's. The methods for transport are five 'fountains': high thought, emotional appeals, figures of speech, notable language, and arrangement. This essay develops a Longinian concept and methodology for technical communication by comparing his ideas to current scholarship and then applying them to two technical texts. It shows how and why technical writers employ stylistic elements to achieve transport.
We employ an array of terms to denote the visual; however, we have not yet agreed on a clear framework for understanding the function and relationship between visual concepts. I propose a literacy approach to the visual so that as educators, researchers, students, and practitioners, we acquire more than skills that rely on changing definitions and technologies but an intellectual faculty that provides the knowledge, understanding, and abilities that the visual affords. Through an analysis of arguments for visual instruction, I present the wayS in which scholars justify their claims about the visual. These arguments uncover the breadth and depth of the visual and contribute to a taxonomy of visual terminology.
Technical communicators are skilled rhetoricians whose persuasive documents include letters, reports, and proposals, and with these documents, technical communicators persuade their audience to accept their ideas. Persuasion is the method of supplying new information about a subject to change people’s attitude about that subject. According to the Information-Integration Theory people form their initial attitude about a subject when they first learn about it. As people receive new information about that subject, they adjust their attitude in relation to the new information.
Four graduate students' papers on communication theory can contribute to the field of technical communication, specifically in two ways: increase our understanding of message production and reception; provide a context in which to develop a theory of technical communication. Several human communication theories have practical and theoretical applications to technical communication. Applying these human communication theories can increase our understanding of how a message is produced and received. Understanding the message, its sender, and its receiver in technical communication can help us to become more effective technical communicators as well as researchers and teachers of technical communication.
Pedagogical and scholarly representations of collaborative writing and knowledge construction in technical communication have traditionally recognized consensus as the logical outcome of collaborative work, even as scholars and teachers have acknowledged the value of conflict and "dissensus" in the process of collaborative knowledge building. However, the conflict-laden work product of a Denver task force charged with recommending changes to the city police department's use-of-force policy and proposing a process for police oversight retains the collaborative group's dissensus and in doing so, illustrates an alternative method of collaborative reporting that challenges convention. Such an approach demonstrates a dissensus-based method of reporting that has the potential to open new rhetorical spaces for collaborative stakeholders by gainfully extending collaborative conversations and creating new opportunities for ethos development, thus offering scholars, teachers, and practitioners a way of reimagining the trajectory and outcome of collaborative work.
This presentation examines a tension—common to students, practitioners, and academics—central to answering some form of the question ‘what is technical communication?’ The tension can arise in the attempt to provide a concise yet sufficient answer that embodies the variety of either the skills used in preparing technical communication, or the types of technical communication produced. Principles of classical rhetoric are useful in examining this communicative tension, and the role of first principles in technical communication is scrutinized. From this the formulation of a first philosophy of first principles is attempted toward addressing the popular communicative tension.
Studying past examples of successful technical communication may offer insight into strategies that worked with technologies and audiences in an earlier time. This article examines the texts documenting a controversy before and during the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Ellen Swallow Richards, chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Bertha Honore Palmer, president of the Fair's Board of Lady Managers, had distinctly different visions of how cooking technology should be presented. Palmer invited Richards to create a Model Kitchen in the Woman's Building, but Richards wanted to avoid gendering the new knowledge of nutrition and she fought to control her exhibit. The multimedia Richards used in her resulting Rumford Kitchen exhibit reminds us that sometimes an entertaining but familiar atmosphere might be the best way to introduce threatening new knowledge and technology, particularly to our increasingly international and intergenerational audiences.
Communication used to be about telling stories, about listening to narratives of discovery, learning, redemption, and war. Not just little stories, but big stories: heaven, hell, utopia. Relatively recently, though, the map has started to replace the story as our fundamental way of knowing. The new emphasis on spatial rather than temporal or historical concerns goes by a number of titles -- postcapitalism, networked workplaces, nonhierarchical management -- but the most popular (and often misunderstood) is postmodernism. In this text, I sketch out some of the ways that postmodernist tendencies affect the careers and possibilities for business and technical communicators. Briefly, I see the potential for increased responsibility, prestige, and influence for business and technical communicators, but only if we are able to reconceive what we think of as the value of our work; that is, we must reposition ourselves as mapmakers rather than authors.
This article examines the critical perspective as an alternative to our current descriptive, explanatory research focus. The critical perspective aims at empowerment and emancipation. It reinterprets the relationship between researcher and participants as one of collaboration, where participants define research questions that matter to them and where social action is the desired goal. Examples of critical research include feminist, radical educational, and participatory action research. Adopting the critical perspective would require that scholars in professional communication rethink their choices of research questions and sites, their views of the ownership of research results, and the types of funding they seek for research initiatives.
In this article I argue that technical communicators are in the position to foster users' commonsense understanding of products. The notion that technical communicators can increase the common sense of users is absent in the field of technical communication literature. Reasons for not recognizing the legitimacy of common sense range from its unexamined nature to a belief that it cannot be taught. After discussing different definitions of common sense, I suggest that including scenarios, common metaphors, and language that promotes procedural knowledge in product information can strengthen users' commonsense understanding of the products they use. Moreover, in failing to make use of commonsense appeals, technical communicators are ignoring a sound persuasive strategy.
Preparing students for civic engagement requires new knowledge about the uses of documents for advocacy and social change. Substantial social change results from repeated rather than from single rhetorical acts. Reconsideration of the rhetorical canon of delivery suggests expanding the concept beyond its present connection to publication (visual design, medium) to a rhetorical situation comprehensively defined. Delivery may take place over time and embrace a web of activities including field work, updates, and interconnections with other publications.
One indication of the state of our profession is the discriminations that we are just getting around to making: useful, even essential, 'sortings out' that, when then, are made, seem embarrassingly obvious. One such 'sorting out' or discrimination is essential for an understanding of what any composition class can do, whether advanced composition, technical writing, feature writing, or whatever. In the writer’s repertoire, there are local and transferable skills. Local skills have to do with a given genre and involve such matters as special forms (e. g., the scientific report), footnoting, vocabularies, special styles, and even the 'tones' that particular fields demand. Transferable skills are the 'basics' of writing: syntactic fluency, control of diction, sense of audience, organizational ability, 'mechanics' such as punctuation and spelling.
Although nonverbal technical communication played a key role in the nineteenth century introduction of varied technologies, verbal communication has been emphasized in most technical communication textbooks and classes. Recognizing that nonverbal communication is substantively different than verbal communication, this paper offers a heuristic table to be used to teach nonverbal technical communication.
The recent trend of incorporating more visuals into communication challenges technical communicators, who must now possess both verbal and visual literacy. Despite all the recent scholarship on visual aspects of technical communication, technical communicators lack thorough guidelines for selecting and composing effective images that convey thematic and conceptual information, or what Schriver calls "stage-setting" images. This article reviews existing literature in visual communication and reports results of a study that assessed readers' opinions of themes conveyed by specific example images. It then suggests that the rhetorical tropes of metonymy and synecdoche can be used to identify images for conveying certain themes, and that successful stage-setting images will show intrinsic, not extrinsic, relationships to their thematic subject matter.
Although the concept of community has been advanced in technical communication as a moral reference point for civic rhetorical action, this concept is typically used in romantic, redemptive, and essentializing ways. This article argues for a radical and symbolic/rhetorical view of community, regarding it a discursive construct purposefully invoked by technical writers for strategic reasons.