Blog #10: What is Technical Communication?

At the beginning of the semester, some of our very first readings dealt with the problem of defining technical communication. Often, scholars offer a number of characteristics of workplace communication–it’s collaborative, multimodal, reader-centered, etc.–but one rarely finds someone willing to provide a neat, quotable definition. As we near the end of the semester, we are going to refocus on the question of what we mean when we identify “technical communication” as a sub-category of “communication.”

For example, in one of the very first articles we read, Susan Rauch defines technical writing as writing about technological or scientific content, a category that explicitly includes medical writing, such as that authored by the medieval abbess Hidegard von Bingen. In her work, Rauch draws upon Katherine Durack’s seminal article, “Gender, Technology, and the History of Technical Communication.” Durack’s own definition of technical communication, which continues to influence how professionals and scholars conceive of their field, consists of three identifying characteristics or markers: 1) “Technical [communication] exists within government and industry, as well as in the intersection between private and public spheres.” 2) “Technical [communication] has a close relationship to technology.” 3) “Technical [communication] often seeks to make tacit knowledge explicit.” (258)

Durack settles upon these criteria after an extended consideration of how other generally accepted definitions of technical communication as related to technology and the workplace led to historical exclusion of female contributions to the field. Thus, she argues that defining “technical communication” also necessitates careful and inclusive definition of “technology” as a key term. Specifically, she maintains that “technology” must include “knowledge, actions, and tools” (258) necessary to accomplish a broad range of human activity, from using the latest computer technology to preventing diaper rash.

Now that you have nearly completed this course, you should be able to come up with your own working definition of technical communication. Using any of the resources you’ve encountered or read this semester, write a blog post that offers your definition of technical communication, explains why you settled upon that definition, and also justifies the utility or value of your definition within the field of technical communication more broadly or within your particular discipline/major.

Posting: Group 2

Commenting: Group 1

Category: What is technical communication?

In your Blog #10 post, take a position about how technical communication should be defined as you consider some or all of these questions: Who “counts” as a technical communicator? Why is it necessary or useful to identify “technical communication” as a sub-category of “communication”? Why should we be concerned about defining “technical communication” in ways that exclude women, or medieval writers, religious or ethnic minorities, or people of color? Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog.

Sources Cited

Durack, Katherine T. (1997). Gender, Technology, and the History of Technical Communication. Technical Communication Quarterly, 6(3): 249-60.

Rauch, Susan. (2013). The accreditation of Hildegard von Bingen as medieval female technical writer. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42(4): 393-411.

Featured Image Credit: Books for school by Mark Larson on Flickr.

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