Answers to Questions 1-9


I would not got any other work done if I attempted to answer fully and completely all of your rather excellent questions about the readings. Part of the rationale for having you write questions rather than summaries is to see what you’re questioning about the readings. Since this is a new subject to the majority of you, it also helps me to see how well you’re getting the information.

The in-class exercise is also a way to engage you in more meaningful ways. Having you get together and question the questions moves you the taxonomy from something akin to a summary to more of a synthesis, which is a good teaching and learning move. It’s also useful to see what y’all think is important.

I love the fact that we started with a rhetoric question that led to some of the theories that underscore the field’s scholarship. here’s one my colleagues at UC made (thanks John and Kathy) and here’s one that I made as part of my research on programs. You’ll notice that are some overlaps but there are also differences, which is based on our orientation to the field. So when we were talking about how folks perceive theoretical orientations (which also aligned to the question about Slack and Dobrin), it definitely varies.

One question that popped up a couple of times was the disdain of the capitalist nature of TPC. There’s no escaping this and how folks situate within it varies. Even non-profits have to raise money to an eye toward their goals so every organization is typically tied to some sort of business objective or goal. That’s just how society functions. Now recent work in TPC on social justice, which often misses the mark, wants to upset the power dynamics that run the systems. That’s great and we should consider ways to make systems and organizations more equitable, but the bottom line ( and use this phrase intentionally) is that moves to shift power structures have to be tied to an understanding of the existing structures. That’s the beauty of TPC and its rhetorical dimension.

Academic research is like any other endeavor and there are things that become du jour and then the fad fades. The question of defining shifted when the field moved toward trying to examine it’s value, power, and legitimacy (words that if you search just on titles will generate a number of hits).   Academics get to choose what they want to research so even though a new definition may be warranted, no one can be forced to do it. Intersecting with the question as to why we quit publishing about definitions was the question about identity. YES, definition is a key part of identity and is crucial to how people see themselves as academics and practitioners. Speaking of identity,  my selections indicate some of my own orientation to the field. There have been a few more recent explorations, but the fact I didn’t include them is a question we need to explore when we talk about syllabus building.

Several you asked questions sort of related to what it is that we are actually teaching in a TPC course. We’re trying to teach how to approach a communication situation and solve a problem or get people to act. That expertise is connected to a specific subject matter. It also includes attention to actually writing such as style and grammar and constructing good paragraphs, but it’s overall an approach to communication and some skills that we’re giving them.

This notion of skills also popped in a couple of the questions. Keep in mind that when we say communication we’re also talking about designing a document, incorporating visuals and heading and using different technologies to create and or deliver that information. So it’s more than oral communication or writing. It’s a complex exchange of information that needs to be designed and typically happens through or because of a technology.

It was curious –and good–that so many of your questions directly engaged ethics and what that means and  how ethics aligns with professionalism in technical and professional communication.. We will be talking bout this at length in two weeks (Carolyn?! 🙂 but in short, I would answer the version of the question that appeared numerous time: yes, you can be a working technical and professional communication and be successful and be ethical.  This issue of ethics also interests with several of your questions about Brenton’s work on professional identities. He’s always been right about the way that corporations can work, and there is definitely room to try and shift those systems. But see answer above, it’s hard and you have to understand the systems first. Though, it’s a great view to take and it’s also very much an ethical stance.