Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Though not yet finished my reading for this week, I wanted to blog about two of the articles I am reading. The first is by Jennifer Daryl Slack, David James Miller, and Jeffrey Doak. It’s called “Technical Communicator as Author: Meaning, Power, Authority.” The second is “Extreme Usability and Technical Communication” by Bradley Dilger. Both are within Critical Power Tools edited by J. Black Scott, Bernadette Longo, and Katherine V. Wills.

So, first Slack Miller and Doak. (more…)

Critical Power Tools, part one

Posted: February 10, 2009 in Readings, Review, School
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Today’s post is about the foreword, introduction, and three chapters of Critical Power Tools by J. Blake Scott, Bernadette Longo, and Katherine V. Wills. The reason this is part one is that I will be coming back to the rest of the book in a few weeks.

Part of my interest in this work is that I’m seeking an understanding of “Scientific and Technical Communication.” I’m a Rhetoric person, which grew out of my Philosophy background. I’m okay with sticking with Rhetoric, but I want to understand STC as well. Which is why I was very pleased to read that “technical communication is like Foucauldian power/knowledge system in that it relies on the invisibility of the relationships by which it includes and excludes, by which it orders, measures, and discipline” (x). (more…)

On Great Writing

Posted: February 6, 2009 in Pedagogy, Readings, Review, School, writing

I have more to say about my own stuff, but first I wanted to talk about a nice little book that I just read. It’s called On Great Writing (On the Sublime) and is by this guy named Longinus. No, not the Roman soldier who supposedly stabbed Jesus on the cross. I mean Longinus, the writing teacher. I’m pretty sure they’re different people.

I’m being a bit flippant here. On Great Writing is an incredible book, and fantastically important. So much so that I’m amazed it has taken me this long to be exposed to it.  (Though I suppose if I’d ever had a copy of Rhetorical Tradition I would’ve seen it). This book, short as it is (58 pages of text, the Grube translation) very quickly establishes itself and shows why it has been so influential for so many thinkers. (more…)

The reading for this week was chapters from Carol Berkenkotter’s upcoming Patient Tales and a chapter on researching through discourse and textual analysis. I’ll start there.

Discourse and Textual Analysis are where I feel most comfortable. They don’t involve human subjects, they proceed at the pace of the researcher, and they involve close attention to detail. Add to that some rather extensive background in this sort of thing (it is pretty much exclusively how my Philosophy training was focused), and you have a pretty understandable love of this kind of research. This is the stuff that feels like research. The books spread out across the huge desk, the notes, the piles and piles of papers. Sifting through mountains of text, looking for that one perfect quotation. There’s an honesty to it, I think. A visceral joy that may not come with other kinds of research.

I’m not saying other research is inferior, nor do I want to imply that it isn’t “real”; there’s a lot that other types of research can do that discourse analysis can’t. DA is, in many, many ways, very limited. It’s a first step, usually. A jumping off point for research to begin from. Other things, like Case Studies, offer a whole lot more. What I’m saying is that different research methods work better than others for specific projects. You have to pick what method to use for each project. That feels about as obvious as saying that the sky is blue, but I know for students (myself included) this is a lesson that has to be learned. Well, not exactly learned as pointed out.

Now let me talk about Berkenkotter…


Technical Cyberspace

Posted: November 3, 2008 in Methods, Readings, Review, School
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This week was a mercifully light one for reading. The only article to read was Laura Gurak and Christine Silker’s “Technical Communication Research in Cyberspace.” Which is good, because I also spent time working on my research proposal. But that’s for another post. For right now, let me talk about cyberspace. (more…)

Last week, I read “Feminist Criticism and Technical Communication” and wondered to myself why it had been assigned. It was so out of place compared to the other reading for the week. Well, it was. It was actually reading for this week. Which makes much more sense. If you’re curious about my thoughts on that article, look back one week.

For this week, I want to talk about”Making Academic Work Advocacy Work” and “A Different Place to Birth,” both by Mary Lay Schuster (the first with Amy Propen). I’ll start with Making Academic Work Advocacy Work.


In this, the second post for reading this week, I will pick up exactly where I left off, with the forthcoming article by Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch titled A Work in Process: A study of the Development of Single-Source Documentation and Document Review Processes of Cardiac Devices. This article is a report on an ethnographic study (technically a case study, actually) of a writing team at a biomedical company as they transitioned over to what is called single sourcing. Basically, the way I understand it, single sourcing is where writers create a series of ‘topics’ that are then selectively chosen based on relevance for individual manuals for products, so that manuals can make more sense and be more usable, so that 230 topics could contribute to 100 manuals, rather than a single unwieldy 500 page manual (8).

Writing these topics is a collaborative exercise where feedback is given from outside readers (4), so “technical writers must negotiate social tensions and conflict as they work with others to create single source documents” (3). This means that writers had to work with people who were non-writers but experts in the field and try to develop a single document that everyone approved of. I can imagine the tension. (more…)

So there’s a lot of reading this week. Unfortunately for me, I was sick for large chunks of last week and most of the weekend, so it took me longer than usual to get through it all. But I have, and so I present now a few select comments on the things I read. I think this may end up with multiple entries

First we have Mary M. Lay’s Feminist Criticism and Technical Communication Research. Among other things, this was a description of how feminist research works, how it “might suggest new and different ways to gather and interpret data in recognizing the voices, needs, and interests of diverse women” (166). But also how feminists don’t generally believe that research is objective (167) and at the same time believe that “Gender is the primary variable” (176).

This bothers me. And while it’s very difficult to talk about feminism as a whole without being labeled “Part of the problem,” I will endeavor to forge ahead anyway. Here is my problem, generally, with feminism: I feel it goes too far. (more…)

As I read through Copyrights and Copywrongs, I found myself having a debate about the argument being presented. On the one hand, I had my academic side talking about the value of a citation culture, about the importance of fair use and the interesting developments of Open Source etc. On the other, I had my creative side talking about getting credit for my work, about controlling how someone else uses the ideas that I present. That part of me feels that copyright needs to be strong, and weakening it weakens the creative endeavor.


Quite a bit of reading this week. Much of it was outside of what was assigned for class. But I’ll get back to that. First, let me talk about Mary Sue MacNealy’s Strategies for Empirical Research in Writing and the three articles I read. (more…)