Reading Log–Article 13

  1. Mark Ward, Ethics of Exigency

The Ward article also dealt with the issue of ethics during the Holocaust, this time in the field of design rather than technical writing. This needs to change as word-processing formats are more closely intertwined with information design, Ward argues. The author argues against the categorizing Katz offers in his article, saying that analysts should consider how these cultural symbols came to have such meaning to begin with. He then spends a large portion of the article examining a Nazi youth poster in which the “ethics of exigence” can be examined through the hidden propaganda. The propaganda can be seen in the poster’s carefully crafted rhetoric and design choices. Examining the Nuremburg rhetoric in relation to Kant and Markel, the writer concludes that the posters were not a devastating challenge to post-modern relativism in technical communication, as they had previously argued. He also makes a proposal for a synthesis of foundational and nonfoundational approaches to ethics.

Ward’s article was a great companion piece to the Katz article in this particular set, and helped me as a reader to think more carefully about how Nazi came to have those hidden connotations in the first place. The poster, I thought, made a great artifact to support his argument on design. So much about the effectiveness of information comes from the way in which we present, rather than the content of our words, the ideas we want to persuade an audience towards. The fact that something as devastating as the Holocaust was able to be carried out on the grand scale that it was really speaks as to the power of the rhetorical propaganda at that time, that it was strong enough that an entire civilization would turn against their neighbors and think themselves ethical for doing so. I appreciated the Ward piece for its thoughtful examination of the Nazi rhetoric, as it helped me to have a better understanding of history.


Reading Log–Article 12

  1. Katz, “Ethics of Expediency”

The Katz article looks at the issues of ethics and rhetoric during the Holocaust. Beginning with a memo from the published “Shoah”, the article delves into the ethical conundrum by noting that the memo is perfect in terms of technical communication, almost to a fault. The writer sees everything as a means to an end, that end being the final solution, and sets up Katz’s argument for the moral role of expediency. The article then looks at the issue of objectivity from an ethical standpoint, noting its fallacies. Unfortunately, Nazis and others like them used arguments of morality to support their actions during the Holocaust. The writer notes that the use of rhetoric to persuade even towards the unjust is reminiscent of Aristotle, who seemed less interested in the outcome. Notes on Hitler’s beliefs being ethical, from a mere technical standpoint, was also examined in detail. The fact that there is not a universal definition of what can be considered good or true is a focal point of the article. Katz then looked at the ethos behind the holocaust and technology, helping reader to better understand how something like this could happen. Noting its effectiveness, the author finishes by noting that we as technical communicators could learn something about composition and rhetoric.

I thought Katz’s piece was fascinating, and did a great job discussing a sensitive issue. Rhetoric, while historically used to do great things, has also helped in pursuing agendas of unspeakable evil. Seeing an example of writing that is on a technical level I aspire to achieve, that is in fact pressing the issue of a final solution is chilling to say the least. I can also appreciate the ode to previous rhetoricians such as Aristotle. Tying in to philosophy, I did appreciate the reminder that nothing will ever be considered universally good or right, and that just about everybody uses a supposed “moral” reasoning to justify their actions. Noting that helped me to look at the issue from a clinical perspective, and understand that it is important to our study of rhetoric because of its effectiveness. Propaganda is, unfortunately, crucial in the study of rhetoric and technical communication.

Reading Log–Article 11

‘‘Standing in Terri Schiavo’s Shoes: The Role of Genre in End-of-Life Decision Making”

The Schuster article looked in depth at the role that rhetoric played in the euthanasia debate, with a focus on the controversial Terri Shiavo case. The idea of a “good death”, one where the patient can die comfortably without prolonged amounts of medical interventions. Strong rhetoric such as those phrases worked to persuade the public to a certain side, despite opponents of euthanasia insisting that quality of life could not be determined on such narrow terms, and should instead be left up to the more complex individuals. Medical proxies, life support, and the legal implications associated with physician-assisted suicide were also examined in depth. Data for these studies was found by looking at 75 end-of-life court cases, coded these cases to state wards in Minnesota, and then examined them to better understand the genre. The article concludes by saying that the guardian’s ability to use genre in considering these decisions helps them to work in the best interest of the client. They ultimately define quality of life as being able to continue with desired activities and interact socially with the world despite their limitations.

Having just read about Brittany Maynard, a woman who has chosen physician-assisted suicide after learning of her inoperable tumor, I appreciated that the article is so very relevant in the world right now. The use of rhetoric is so important when looking at hot-button social issues like euthanasia, and public opinion can be so heavily swayed by the speaker’s use of persuasive speech. Rather than form unilateral opinions about the debate as a whole, I thought it was good that the writers foresaw the importance of looking at cases on an individual level to see if PAS is the right choice for them and their loved ones. Seeing elements of their life more as subgenres is an excellent approach to dealing with an emotionally-charged issue, and I agreed with Schuster that it will help to make wiser decision that would be in each person’s best interest.

Reading Log–Article 10

  1. Spika, Chapter Three

Dave Clark’s discussed in depth the “Rhetoric of Technology”, using the examples such as Twitter. He explained the rhetoric of technology by using a primarily scientific approach, compare and contrasting them to gain a stronger understanding. He looked at how these genres overlap, noting that technology has greatly helped to develop new forms of rhetoric. Because much of media and technology is public information, a person’s words can be viewed by anybody at anytime. In conclusion, it noted that the rhetoric of technology was both literature and a scholarly subject.

The article was great for helping readers to think outside the box of what constitutes rhetoric, as we readers so often fail to think of something as simple as Tweets constituting that genre. But really, rhetoric can refer to anything that aims to persuade or make a statement. As technical communicators, it is important to remember that. Technology has so profoundly transformed the way that we persuade and communicate with others, but that is the point of technology. Even before the internet launched, writing utensils, printing press, and visual messages such as political cartoons existed to advance the field of rhetoric through educating and persuading. Shaping these tools and being shaped by them, even when they are always changing, will help us s technical communicators to be the most effective that we can be.

Reading Log–Article 9

  1. Staggers, Julie. “Risk Communication, Space, and Findability.”

The article uses abstract concepts such as space and findability to look at public information in risk communication, and how that trickles into the different mediums of communication. Online instructions, visual models, and written all play roles in the effectiveness of the genre. It is explored by the Yucca Mountain Information Center (YMIC), who practice risk communication in a unique variety of ways. They do this to enable visitors to become active rather than passive in shaping knowledge, and learn by doing. Methodologies used to pull this off while retaining control were primarily visual, with text serving as supplemental; but media and modules were also present. The basis of their communication was based on the three levels of information processing; Lounging (learning while relaxed), standing (where space is in charge of the visitor’s pace), and tasking (the most attentive form). The article concludes by noting the effectiveness of having a space in risk communication where the problem is framed in a way that warrants a lot of questions, in that it allows for more solutions.

What was most interesting about the article was the observation that we as people are gaining knowledge one of the fashions at all times. Whether we are watching television or writing a paper, our brains are readily processing information. This is important to remember in a field like risk communication, which as we learned from the previous instruction set does vary based upon the product or task. Waste management, the specialty of YMIC , had a difficult job in creating valuable instructions sets in such a field. It will be interesting to learn more about how to make effective risk management instructions, and get a better idea of what will work for each particular genre. Research is key to this.

Reading Log–Article 8

  1. Rude, Carolyn. “Mapping the Research Questions in Technical Communication.”

The main purpose of the Rude article was concerning research questions that are separate and ones that will overlap. looks primarily at the four areas of related questions that are directed at researchers. Disiplinarity, which concerns definitions, history, status, and research methods. Pedagogy, which encompasses content, possibilities, and teaching. Practice, or how to construct work effectively and ethically. Then finally social change, which is how texts function as active agents. Each of these are discussed with relevant examples and detail. The article concludes that technical communication is mainly a field of pedagogy and practice, though the fields are interconnected. How long this will be the case, and whether the field will ever trickle into other areas, is to be determined.

The identity of any academic field relies upon its research, and research questions help to map coherence. While Rude’s article offered a lot of extensive research into the different aspects of the technical communication field, it was difficult for me as a reader to understand what the main take away points were. It was interesting to look at technical communication as a field of study, and ponder how heavily it is focused on research, but also how much it has grown in a relatively short span of time. It requires us as technical communicators to think fast because of its quick development, sometimes improvisation. As it continues to develop, likely at the same rate it has, I imagine it will only continue to grow into the other two elements. It was fascinating to see how it applied into those four elements.

Reading Log–Article 7

  1. Mackiewics, Jo. “Assertion of Expertise in Online Product Reviews.”

The Mackiewics piece looked at the issues of credibility in online reviews, how to establish it and how to recognize it. Asserting credibility, and multiple tips on how to do so are present in the piece, helps readers take that reviewer seriously. Different methods, such as preconfigurations and the use of specialized jargon (abbreviations), make it clear that the reviewer is knowledgeable of the topic they are viewing, and have used it before. If an amateur, it is best to admit so but also note that you are dedicated to the craft. Categories such a product-specific were also discussed, as they warrant dimension. The article concludes by saying that these reviews help to test the credibility of reviewers and help customers be taken seriously.

The article is very helpful to those who read the online reviews and those who write them. Readers have so much information to decipher between, and it can be difficult to figure out who should be listened to and whose qualms are the most fixable, and writers need to better understand how to have their complaints taken seriously by their product’s manufacturer. Reading this gives good instructions on how to spot credibility, which would lead to stronger reviews and more usable products. It is interesting to see examples of these and see how they can be applied to something as open and commonplace as online reviews.