The Social Perspective

Posted: September 21, 2008 in Methods, Readings, Review, School
Tags: , , ,

I just finished reading The Social Perspective and Professional Communication: Diversity and Directions in Research by Charlotte Thralls and Nancy Roundy Blyler. It goes through three main approaches to technical communication (Social Constructionist, Ideologic, and Paralogic Hermeneutic) and then determines whether they can all exist together.

While reading this, one of my primary questions was trying to figure out where Thralls and Blyler came down on this issue. Which theory did they prefer? While they did an excellent job presenting the various parts and the various theories behind all three approaches, I did detect bias. I thought about going through and seeing which section had more research support, or to read it again and figure out where the tone felt most negatively biased. Luckily, I didn’t have to do any of that. At the end of the article, they assert that while all approaches are good, the Ideologic and Paralogic are too at odds with the current thinking, and are likely to not have much effect. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but they write that “it is difficult ot say the extend to which future research will actually be driven by either of these approaches” (142). I read this as somewhat dismissive, especially because of the word ‘actually.’ It’s like they’re suggesting that these theories are great in theory (no pun intended), but not really valuable. They’re a cute distraction, but that’s all.

So there was bias, but I could tell they were trying to supress it. I don’t want to give the impression that this wasn’t a good article. I feel like I have a much stronger grasp on all three concepts than I did when I started reading. I know that social construction says that “community is both a normative force, the origin of the shared values and beliefs that shape and even regulate communication, and subject to being shaped by the commincative process and discourse the community generates” (128).

I know that with the Ideological approach, “By pointing out the systems of power and the means of production that authorize knowledge within discourse groups, these scholars [Ideologicalists] wish to demystify the structure of authority behind knowledge-making processes” (131).

And I know that “[P]aralogic hermaneutics stresses the uncodifiable–and hence the paralogic–nature of interpretation,” and that “Paralogic theorists claim all interpretation and hence all understanding arise directly out of communicative interaction” (136).

But that brings me back to the bias. I wonder if they are setting up a bit of a Straw Man, particularly with Paralogic Hermaneutics. Any time an argument is couched in universal terms (like this one), only a single counter example needs to be provided to disprove it. That’s one of those strange things about logic: stronger arguments are couched in weaker language.

Overall, it’s a great article, but I’m wondering how much unspoken bias is creeping in, and therefore how much I can trust them to be fair to both of the theories they are presenting but do not agree with. The jury is still out.

  1. cbdilger says:

    Hrm, why do they have to pick? I’m not sure which of the three is “my” theory, or if those are the only three approaches to tech comm… paralogic hermeneutics is famously difficult, and ideology famously variant, so I’m not surprised to see them go with social construction. But does that mean they are biased against the other two?

    Off topic: things a post titled “Air traffic from O’Hare” is related to this one. Now, if anything is paralogic, it’s air travel…

  2. cogitas says:

    I’m not saying they do have to pick. But the impression I got as I read the article is that they DID pick. I’d be happy to hear any counter evidence… though it might be a bit difficult, as my copy of Central Works used to be yours. But you probably have another copy somewhere.

  3. cbdilger says:

    Doh! That’s where that book went!

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