- Claire Bishop, “Viewers as Producers”
The article examines art and visual culture as artists have worked towards adapting to a more pluralistic audience and pushing the boundaries. Understanding art is no longer simply a matter of traditionalism but now the bizarre, uncouth, and political. This argumentation is supported by looking at Documents of Contemporary Art. Each edition of this publication focuses on a specific body of work and is introduced by a scholar. The Whitechapel Gallery, a common medium for display art and discussing creative ideas, is also examined by Bishop. An important point of departure throughout the piece is the social dimension of participation, which looks at the works pluralistically rather than at an individual level. The three major concerns for artists—activation, authorship, and community—which play a major role in artistic motivations are examined on a deeper level. Relational Aesthetics, a collection of theoretical essays, is examined on its individual parts. The first section provides the framework that readers should consider in their participation. The second is a collection of artist’s different writings. The final then presents a collection of different curatorial and critical positions. Bishop concludes by saying that many writing outside the discipline of history could be added, especially ones relating to the participation in subjects such as theatre and architecture.
Despite its short length, the reading was dense in its information, but ultimately was quite thought provoking. Art and its motivations are a fascinating topic, one I have found myself exploring in another one of my WRTC classes. So much of art can be characterized by its time just based on what it is depicting, yet pinpointing the artist’s precise motivations can still be quite difficult. Only a few works, usually the ones that go beyond the norm of the time and place, become the most memorable. Collections of Contemprary is an important archival work being done in this moment, and from what was said in the article, should be continued and expanded upon. Art and other visual rhetoric is important to the study of technical communication, and our understanding of history is deepened when artifacts such as this are analyzed and preserved.
- Hurley, “The Rhetoric of Reach”
The article primarily addresses instructors of technical communication, urging them to teach their students more about social media. Using examples such as the Anthony Weiner PR fiasco, the author notes the detrimental toll that poor use of social media can have on a person’s reputation and career. Still, students are weary to examine social media within the context of technical communication and professionalism. They are hurdled with warning about the pitfalls of social media within the classroom, but Hurley argues that it should also be argued as a tool to display their work. Hurley extends her claim by emphasizing that technical communication instructors are also well-suited to teach social media in the classrooms because they can demystify the current rhetoric of fear and illegitimacy about social media. She then discusses the heuristics of reach and crowdsourcing to foster student development in the genre of social medium. She also examines a case study from an introductory technical communication course. Using a barrage of statistics, she notes the demystification present in social media, and challenges that to change. She notes that while social media is primarily informal, that should not exclude from the professional world. She also examines student ability in performing popular social media tasks, such as uploading a video to Youtube. She concludes the article by saying that social media and writing are part of larger complex of communication practices, and that technical communication pedagogies should encourage students to be proactive in their use of social media.
I agreed with the author’s points and observations about social media. As a student, I have been lectured about the downfalls of social media multiple times, but not until I came to college was it presented to me as a platform for professionalism. The truth is that it is malleable, and what it made of it is really up to the user. I liked the research methodologies in which she went about making her case, and found the results to be quite fascinating. I do not know if the changes she suggests in teaching social media conduct will ever be practiced, but it will be interesting to see what changes are made as it becomes even more prevalent in our lives.
- Swarts, “Recycled Writing”
As the title suggests, the article mainly examines the common practice of reusable writing and its rhetorical purpose. Writing reuse is most commonly studied on literary models on the topic of single-sourcing. These models are very critical of the reuse practice, arguing that it lacks important context, but Swarts counteracts that in saying recycled writing could serve as strategic. He looks to reshape attitudes on reuse, believing that it strengthens the study of rhetoric and creates hybrid texts rich with information and more easily traceable. His method for arguing this involved the recruitment of several different sources; a technical editor, a university Webmaster, a research scientist, and four technical communicators. With recycled writing, there can be an even stronger network of sources, so Swarts argues. He notes that different mediums of rhetoric, such as signs and emails, often serve a similar categorical and communicative purpose. Since they are often fluid and previously stable within those conditions, recycling them is a feasible option. He notes that texts are instruments of coordination, and become more durable when they can represent intersecting ideas. He noted that non single-sourced writers had more to say about other texts, and were oftentimes reusing entire grammatical situations. He concludes by saying that other technologies for writing reuse need to be looked at in the larger context.
As a writer for The Breeze and within my sorority, I find that I reuse my own writing quite a bit. When emailing sources for the same story, I will often type up an email before sending it individually to each of them with a different introduction. I have also used excerpts from my previous works and work them into ones. To me, it is acceptable to an extent, especially one you have discovered a good approach for writing in a certain medium. Relying upon this too often is problematic, but to an extent it normal, especially when looking at my own writing within the same genre.
2. Pigg, “Social Media’s Role in Distributing Work”
The article looks at the ways in which technology and social media has altered people’s work, and equally notable how writing and communication has been transformed by this shift in technology. They have affected the practice of symbolic-analytic work, which is defined in the text as involving creative and analytical thinking and managing complex information. Technical communicators fit clearly into this category, and in the long-term the changes have altered their professional prospects. With statistics showing that workers are increasingly disconnected from desk and office spaces, and with contract and freelance work on the rise on the other, professional communicators whose work is symbolic-analytic often face a dual burden in that they also lack a composing an immediate time and space to conduct their work. Through a series of interviews, Pigg examines the importance of freelance networking, noting that they help writers improve their skills in gaining practice, build and maintain a presence within that community, and circulate their analytical work. The bulk of the article discusses the positives and pitfalls of today’s social media, noting that they affect the day-to-day logistics of writing and their geographic distribution. In order to stay connected professionally, technical communicators must maintain a presence by engaging in a variety of activities. This is done through the eyes of Dave, his experiences being the main basis of the article. She concludes by arguing that embodied practices never remain static, always driving forward with new adaptations. Dave’s story suggests that it suggests social media both extend symbolic analysts’ reach and direct their attention. This coordination has become critical to the complexity of literacy.
I thought the Pigg article was hugely relevant to the study of technical communication, and found myself agreeing with the majority of her observations. The professional world has altered so much within my own lifetime, and I oftentimes do find myself wondering what that will mean for this generation of college students. Some people have told me that doing all freelance work, and having the opportunity to have my home or a Starbucks as a workspace would be advantageous, and in some regards I’m inclined to agree. But in truth I’d enjoy some professional stability, a constant place to call my employer and workspace, and am determined to achieve it after I graduate. The author offered a lot of helpful insight into the world of symbolic-analytic work and the ways it operates. I hope to learn more about this topic and will keep Pigg’s observations in mind.
- Spinuzzi, “Lost in Translation”
The article examines the practices behind research techniques and the pitfalls that can come with a one-size-fit all approach to research. He does this by examining prototyping techniques involving mock-ups. Those allowed for a common technique that allowed workers and the academic community to collaborate. He then spent the bulk of his article examining four different techniques; UTOPIAn mock-ups, co- operative prototyping, PICTIVE, and contextual design’s prototyping component. Those techniques have been implemented in different socioeconomic environments. He argues that it has to be implemented differently in order to gain wider currency, and that sacrificing some coherency is acceptable in reaching that goal. Ultimately, working with the building blocks of translating for a broader audience helps researchers test their own agency. He also looks at the four moments of translation: Problemization (what needs to be accomplished or negotiated), interessment (what stakeholders are involved in negotiation), enrollment (how they negotiate), and mobilization (how they can be persuaded). The article concludes by noting that translation itself is democratic, adaptable to a specific environment rather than ruled by methodologies. We as technical communicators have always had a tendency to translate techniques for the purpose of forging new settlements.
I enjoyed Spinuzzi’s take on the fluidity of research development, and saw from his examples that it does indeed hold true. Translation is a very useful technique for gaining a wider understanding of a concept, breaking it down, as we would if it were shifting from one language to another (in some ways it is). Doing it for the purposes of persuasion is even more efficient, and as technical communicators having the power to translate in a favorable way is a tremendous advantage to your own cause. I especially liked Spinuzzi’s discussion of experiments in the conclusion, as they are something I have always seen as being very rigid, but in fact have more flexibility than previously realized. When implemented properly, translation can be very helpful for all levels of prototypers, and produce a coherent and successful outcome.
- Spika, Chapter 7
The Barry Thatcher chapter looked at the difficult issue of cross-cultural communication. Using the example of a project being conducted between the EPA and its equivalent in Mexico, he notes the issues that arise and insists the five ways of bridging these communication gaps. He discusses purpose, a common strategy in which the rhetorician asks himself how to communicate without failing. Success is determined by audience, Thatcher’s second component, which helps determine the communicative traditions to be followed. Informational needs, which vary by culture, must be catered to for the sake of effective and role-based priorities. Organizational strategies must be employed to encourage different approaches, according to Thatcher, so that digital communication can merge with the culture of the audience. Style preferences, or the communicative stance, is the last component. There is then a case study, as the information for how to format something to appeal to a culture is to look for other examples from that culture. Thatcher concludes by saying the study was for the sake of understanding, as technical communicators, what other culture’s needs are and how we can meet them.
I enjoyed the Thatcher article and thought it was very relevant. Here in the US, we have people of so many different cultures who come to live here, but as technical communicators we are sometimes taught to cater to a very specific audience. The author offered a lot of helpful approaches to understanding the cultural needs of others and even merge a document to fit into the needs of different individuals. It is a very complex issue, and as the United States becomes even more international and diversified, I am interested to see how technical communicator will handle their expansive audience.
- Ramey, “The Coffee Planner of Saint Domingo”
The article, taken from Technical Communication Quarterly, examines a 1798 slave-owners manual for building a coffee plantation. Advice on buying, managing, disciplining, and designing a home for them is all present within the instruction set. The manual notably fails to humanize those forced into servitude, instead speaking of them as if they were livestock; a means to an end. Ramey argues that this is essentially to us as scholars of technical communication. While we look for pattern in previous editions of technical writing, what we write will ultimately inform future rhetoricians. Looking at the implications in these documents, most notably human beings as economic entities, we can better understand the attitude and expectations with the field of technical communication at that point in history. Ramey offers a great deal of historical context on Laborie, the writer of the 1798 article, his life, and the racist times in which he lived.
Ramey’s piece was fascinating to read as someone with a passion for history. His points on rhetoric’s role in our study of history is tremendously important, and as writers and technical communicators we do have a responsibility to our audience to give an accurate representation of our present so that we can inform our future. That goes back to the issue of ethics discussed in the previous two articles, and complimented those pieces well. It is also tied in well to the theme of dehumanization; both plantation owners and Nazis were able to justify the way they treated others by saying that it was for the greater good, that the people they were persecuting were not fully human. Laborie’s use of rhetoric is a clear display of that attitude, categorizing them under the umbrella term of “negroes” rather than looking at them as individuals. Like others before it, the manual is immaculate from a technical and clinical standpoint, but entirely problematic when looking at the subject of their writing. This manual is a helpful tool for us to learn from, so that we can take what is positive to apply to our writing, and learn from the wrongdoings of others not to use rhetoric to harm.