A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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The Affective Domain and the Writing Process: Working Definitions   (peer-reviewed)

Since the time of classical Greece, we have been accustomed to viewing humans as both thinking and feeling individuals. The dichotomy of cognition and affect is so ingrained in Western thought that it seems a natural one; the two elements have seldom, however, been deemed equally important in the scientific community. During the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, psychology gave primacy to affect; humans were thought to be at the mercy of various drives and passions. As behaviorism became more domiúnant in the field, affect was discounted; indeed, there were those who wished to exclude affect from scientific study altogether. More recently, with the ascendancy of cognitive psychology, humans have been viewed as problem-solvers whose thinking processes operate rather like a computer. Often in such a view, affect is seen as “a regrettable flaw in an otherwise perfect cognitive machine” (Scherer 293). But most researchers who study human behavior and human nature agree that the views of both extremes—emphasizing only affect or only cognition—are undesirable.

McLeod, Susan H. JAC (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Are Shared Discourses Desirable?

Some kind of shared discourse is needed for the shared work of the academic community to continue; and even more so, this paper argues that the nation needs some kind of shared discourse in which to address the pressing problems that confront us all.

Bizzell, Patricia. JAC (1994). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Characterization of Quack Theories

In this article, I will first list some evidential flaws and then discuss errors in relating evidence to theory. Of necessity, this is a short list that omits most such problems. It is largely biased by what I have seen in newsgroup discussions.

Turpin, Russell. University of Texas (1993). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory>Assessment


Creating Procedural Discourse and Knowledge for Software Users: Beyond Translation and Transmission   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Although most theorists agree that discourse creates meaning, they have not adequately described how this process emerges within the creation of procedural knowledge. This article explores how technical communicators in diverse settings based discourse decisions on their knowledge of (a) users, (b) organizational image and constraints, (c) software structure and features, and (d) genre conventions in order to create communication artifacts designed to help users develop procedural knowledge. The transformations in which they engaged indicated that these technical communicators were skilled in forming images in these four areas and then using these images as they created meaning in procedural discourse. In this process, they moved beyond merely translating or transmitting technical knowledge.

Rush Hovde, Marjorie. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2010). Articles>Documentation>Rhetoric>Theory


A Cubist Approach to Analyzing Interpretive Communities

Stanley Fish's theory of interpretive communities has been highly regarded for the past two decades. This paper deals with the idea of multiple interpretive communities as they relate to technical communicators. Technical communicators have a duty to use rhetorical devices and embedded structural cues to help readers identify the correct interpretive framework.

Connolly, Brianne. Orange Journal, The (2002). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Cultural Differences in the Appreciation of Introductions of Presentations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

On the basis of both established theories of the differences between cultures and recommendations in advice literature from different cultures, we believe that it is likely that cultures will differ in what they consider to be an effective introduction to a presentation. In this article, we report on an exploratory experimental study with 300 respondents in the Netherlands, France, and Senegal regarding their appreciation of and response to three introductions to a presentation about a mobile phone. The results show that the cultures differ with respect to the introduction they prefer. The Dutch respondents appreciated the overview most, while the French respondents preferred the ethical appeal, and research participants from Senegal preferred the anecdote. It is likely that the introduction that gains greatest attention and that best increases the ability to listen in a culture will be most appreciated in that culture.

Gerritsen, Marinel and Evelyn Wannet. Technical Communication Online (2005). Articles>Presentations>Cultural Theory>Rhetoric


A Derridean Approach to Critical Reading: A MONSTER!

Hearing the term 'critical reading' provokes my composition students to lemon-pucker grimace and nervously shift in their seats as if a monster had suddenly appeared. They often gasp at the prospects of the composition course's planned future critical reading unit. They identify with theorist Jacques Derrida's poststructural (deconstruction) notion that 'the future is necessarily monstrous: the figure of the future, that is, that which can only be surprising, that for which [they] are not prepared, you see, is heralded by a species of monsters'. I do not try convincing students that texts are un-intimidating and that critical reading is an unthreatening process of merely examining specific dominant codes within texts that allow for predisposed meanings to occur. I rather tell students that texts are indeed monstrous and the process of critical reading is undeniably what Derrida terms 'a monster.' Considering then that a monster rears its head in the composition classroom, it is necessary to learn one possible way students may approach the wide-ranging process of critical reading. In this brief article, I attempt to discuss Jacques Derrida's definition of the 'monster' and how this definition may be applied to a practice of critically reading texts, appropriately expressed by the memorable acronym, 'A MONSTER.'

May, Talitha. Lore (2002). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Does Web Delivery Impact the Reader-Response Approach to Technical Communication?

This paper is an attempt to explore how reader-response criticism and the overall approach to using rhetoric in technical communication may be impacted by the large amount of technical documentation moving to the Web. The discussion focuses on three main areas: moving from the “reader” to the “user” in online documentation; the value of plain language style in this medium; and how Web delivery seems to be bridging the gap between user interface (UI) text and help documentation. I shall explore these areas in an attempt to clarify whether the publication of technical documentation on the Internet negates the rhetorical approach to technical communication and how or if Web delivery impacts the reader-response view that users play a significant role in creating the meaning of a text.

Fisher, Jeanette. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Echoes of a Reading: Genre as Social Action as Formative Influence on Genres and Ideology

Carolyn Miller’s article on Genre as Social Action had a formative influence on my own article Records as Genre, and the story of that influence might give heart to new scholars. So here’s what happened.

Schryer, Catherine F. Composition Forum (2015). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre>Theory


Genre and Identity: Citizenship in the Age of the Internet and the Age of Global Capitalism

One of the more popular academic slogans of this half century is Wittgenstein's characterization of language-in-use as a form of life. Genre theory takes this slogan seriously. In perceiving an utterance as being of a certain kind or genre, we become caught up in a form of life, joining speakers and hearers, writers and readers, in particular relations of a familiar and intelligible sort. As participants orient towards this communicative social space they take on the mood, attitude, and actional possibilities of that placeóthey go that place to do the kinds of things you do there, think the kinds of thoughts you think there, feel the kind of way you feel there, satisfy what you can satisfy there, be the kind of person you can become there (Bazerman 1997, 1998). It is like going to a dining room, or a dance hall, or a seminar, or church. You know what you are getting yourself into and what range of relations and objects will likely be realized there. You adopt a frame of mind, set your hopes, plan accordingly, and begin acting with that orientation.

Bazerman, Charles. UCSB (1999). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Genre as Social Action   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Although rhetorical criticism has recently provided a profusion of claims that certain discourses constitute a distinctive class, or genre, rhetorical theory has not provided firm guidance on what constitutes a genre.

Miller, Carolyn R. Quarterly Journal of Speech (1984). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre>Theory


"Genre as Social Action": A Gaze into Phenomenology

Genre as Social Action opened up a whole new connection for me, which even now, some 20 years later, I am still exploring. That connection is between genre and everyday human activity, especially the relation between schooling and the other social institutions beyond it. In the early 1990s I was very taken with Bazerman’s idea of genre systems (1994), based on Miller’s 1984 article. I went around the house, the office, the kids’ school activities, imagining genres working together in my (and their) everyday life—including going to the store with my daughter, Madeleine (then 10). She loved using our new homemade grocery list, arranged by aisles and printed on our brand new printer, for our trips to Save-U-More. Diagrams of genre systems and activity systems danced in my head for months.

Russell, David R. Composition Forum (2015). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre>Theory


Influence of Burke and Lessing on the Semiotic Theory of Document Design: Ideologies and Good Visual Images of Documents   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The syntactic aspect of semiotic theory, especially its "aesthetic principle," is very influential in document design theories and practices. It has its roots in Burke's and Lessing s gender-related theories of images. Thus, it is laden with ideologies: it embodies our patriarchal attitudes and our iconophobia. Employing the semiotic theory in document design, we are making choices to reinforce the gender-related ideology in Burke's and Lessing's theories. It is time for us to re-conceive the "aesthetic principle" by de-emphasizing it and to adopt the reconciliation approach to design effective documents targeted at various rhetorical situations.

Ding, Daniel D. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2000). Articles>Document Design>Visual Rhetoric>Theory


Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change   (PDF)

We offer institutional critique as an activist methodology for changing institutions. Since institutions are rhetorical entities, rhetoric can be deployed to change them. In its effort to counter oppressive institutional structures, the field of rhetoric and com-position has focused its attention chiefly on the composition classroom, on the de-partment of English, and on disciplinary forms of critique. Our focus shifts the scene of action and argument to professional writing and to public discourse, using spatial methods adapted from postmodern geography and critical theory.

Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey T. Grabill and Libby Miles. CCC (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Institutionalizing English: Rhetoric on the Boundaries

Liberal historians tend to seek the disciplining of English in terms of the English department, as in Graff's account of people talking past each other while all finding shelter under the umbrella of a "humanist myth." While both these stories are useful (and in many ways, complementary), I want to examine disciplining of English into composition and literature by looking in relations English had with other disciplines, both within the new university, in that most defining feature of it, he specialization of disciplinary activity, and, indirectly, beyond the new university, in various social practices with English and its neighboring those disciplines interacted. Composition, I will argue, mediated those interactions in such a way that English was quite successful in its professionalization, but because composition was marginalized in crucial ways, its success was very limited.

Russell, David R. SUNY Press (2002). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Interpretation Within Audience Analysis Theories and the Crusade for True Empiricism

Audience analysis frameworks do not address an important aspect of communication in writer/audience relationships. This element is the humanistic aspect of cognitive processing, which encompasses emotional and cultural aspects. These elements exist on behalf of the writer as well as the reader, which without taking either into account lead us to a less than full understanding of how we can progress in our studies around this issue. We continue to study and theorize about how to improve interactions between writer and audience. Although current theories seem to add considerations important in the audience analysis process and the writer/audience relationship, there remains a need to find ways to address the truly empirical aspects of human interpretation.

Wolfe, Melissa. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory>Audience Analysis


An Introduction to Genre Theory

The word genre comes from the French (and originally Latin) word for 'kind' or 'class'. The term is widely used in rhetoric, literary theory, media theory, and more recently linguistics, to refer to a distinctive type of 'text'*. Robert Allen notes that 'for most of its 2,000 years, genre study has been primarily nominological and typological in function. That is to say, it has taken as its principal task the division of the world of literature into types and the naming of those types - much as the botanist divides the realm of flora into varieties of plants. However, the analogy with biological classification into genus and species misleadingly suggests a 'scientific' process.

Chandler, Daniel. University of Wales, Aberystwyth (1997). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Modeling a New Rhetorical Architecture   (PDF)

Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) are based in document architectures. They work in part because documents can be defined by type. Yet that basis in types gives us opportunity to free information from those traditional types. But this freedom imposes upon us a need to re-define our approaches to communication models.

Coggin, William O. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Negotiating Technology Strategy: Using Rhetoric to Understand Activity

The need for theory is as real today as it was in 2001. But as the debate for a single, unifying theory continues (if such a thing could ever exist), professionals in the workplace can nonetheless discover a great deal of value by putting theory to work now. The waiting need not prohibit the useful application of theory to contemporary problems in practice. Not only is theory used to acquire the seat around the table, but it is also needed as a guidepost once that seat is taken up.

Collier, Ryan. We Heart Theory (2009). Articles>Technology>Rhetoric>Activity Theory


On Material Rhetorics and the Canon of Memoria: Rethinking the History (and Future) of Rhetoric   (PDF)

This presentation looks to the past to explain the present lack of attention given to memory and to imagine a possible future for the canon in contemporary rhetoric with the inclusion of the study of material rhetorics, or a comprehensive inquiry of situated things produced in cultural contexts that investigates both the material dimension in rhetoric and rhetorical dimension in the material. To this end, this essay summarizes noted reasons for memoria's limited study in contemporary rhetoric; revisits classic rhetoric's memoria and mines it for features worth recuperating for contemporary study; introduces material rhetoric and its potential to recuperate memoria in light of these features; and calls for further discussion of material rhetoric, the canon of memory, and the place of both in the study of rhetoric.

Haas, Angela. Michigan State University (2007). Articles>Rhetoric>History>Theory


Pedagogy Shaped by Ideology: Beneath or Beyond Plato

Since the time that rhetoric and writing studies moved beyond current traditional rhetoric, the theory of the discipline has been complicating the often unchallenged Platonic framework that undergirds Western society and educational practices. Regardless of what theoretical school composition teachers subscribe to, Plato’s fixed notions of truth are problematic for writing instruction because they assume that all writers ascribe to one definition of truth and share the singular goal of moving toward it. In a Platonic framework, this truth goal is Plato’s truth, not the situated, kairotic, necessary truth of a writer rhetor who is working in the real world and for a distinct purpose. Moving away from Platonic rhetoric creates space for “a rhetoric that compels us to tell what must be told, to retell what needs to be retold, to search for the words that will make our day and the days of others” (Poulakos 175). An understanding of writing which encourages writers to write anything that needs to be told within a situation, instead of only writing in the pursuit of fixed transcendent truth has the possibility to open writing for writers—to make writing responsive to individual, communal, civic, societal, and cultural situations.

Ross, Kacey. Xchanges (2009). Articles>Education>Rhetoric>Theory


Rethinking Genre in School and Society: An Activity Theory Analysis   (peer-reviewed)

This article attempts to expand and elaborate theories of social 'context' and formal schooling, to understand the stakes involved in writing. It first sketches ways Russian activity theory in the tradition of A. N. Leont'ev may expand Bakhtinian dialogism, then elaborates the theory in terms of North American genre research, with examples drawn from research on writing in the disciplines in higher education. By tracing the relations of disciplinary genre systems to educational genre systems, through the boundary of the classroom genre system, the analyst/reformer can construct a model of the interactions of classroom practices with wider social practices. Activity theory analysis of genre systems may offer a theoretical bridge between the sociology of education and Vygotskian social psychology of classroom interaction, and contribute toward resolving the knotty problem of the relation of macro- and microstructure in literacy research based on various social theories of 'context.'

Russell, David R. Written Communication (1997). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory>Rhetoric


The Rhetoric of Decision Science, or Herbert A. Simon Says   (PDF)

The tools of decision science are widely used and accepted in industrial and governmental decision making. But...

Miller, Carolyn R. North Carolina State University (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Rhetorical Shifts in Author/Audience Roles on the World-Wide Web

Audience analysis figures prominently into Technical Communication curricula because the focus of technical communication is to take complex technical information and create materials that can help readers use, learn, repair, or build equipment or systems (Alred et al. 2). In order to help readers perform these specialized tasks, we must be intimately familiar with their real and anticipated needs, expectations, and limitations. Many different models of the author/audience relationship have been proposed to aid in this analysis. These models have worked well (depending on what school of thought one subscribed to) when the main delivery system consisted of print media.

Bartell, Sandy. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


The Role of Social Construction in Technical Communication

Technical communicators perform an important role in society, relaying complex messages in a clear and concise manner to people who would otherwise have to spend an inordinate amount of time tracking down this information for themselves. Among other things, technical communicators are responsible for writing software manuals and computer help systems, instruction manuals for everything from appliances to airplanes, and health-related pamphlets and warnings. If this information is misunderstood – either through the shortcomings of the writer or reader – the consequences can be devastating.

Robinson, Alyssa. Orange Journal, The (2001). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory



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