Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reading :: Power and Legitimacy in Technical Communication, Vol.2

Originally posted: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 20:28:22

Power and Legitimacy in Technical Communication: Strategies for Professional Status

by Teresa Kynell-Hunt (Editor), Gerald J. Savage (Editor)

Technical communication is still trying to establish itself as a field, as we're told in this collection, much of which is devoted to figuring out what to do to advance that goal. But the collection illustrates in quite direct fashion why that goal is going to be difficult to achieve. The authors come to the question from a variety of theoretical (and sometimes atheoretical) perspectives, draw from different literatures, conceive different roles for technical communicators and TC researchers in the academy, chart different courses, assert different values.

Now, it's easy as a reviewer to pick apart collections, which are very difficult to keep cohesive. But in the best collections, the chapters achieve some sort of coherence through a shared, established theme or set of themes ? and they sustain that coherence through dialogue. This collection doesn't do that; "power and legitimacy" turn out too be too weak to hold it together, and dialogue is almost entirely lacking, with so little shared across essays that they don't even seem to come from the same field. So Beth Thebeaux launches an extended attack on theorists and urges us to get back to serving industry rather than reading fiction or dabbling in postmodernism; Jimmie Killingsworth urges us to bring science fiction into our classrooms; Jerry Savage invokes postmodernist theory to critique TC in industry; and nobody responds to each others' points.

The individual essays tend to be interesting, sometimes even thought-provoking. Thebeaux's essay in particular, an extended straw person argument, is entertaining and had me composing responses in my head. But as a whole, there is no whole.

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