According to N. Katherine Hayles, we have always been posthuman. Ever since the first social organization, the first use of fire, and the first development of language, humans have lived in and with systems. Even before its emergence as an academic field, professional and technical writers had been writing and living in organizational systems. Even when the profession is imagined as an isolated endeavor or end-of-the-process set of tasks, technical writers still must operate in larger, complex rhetorical situations. Many theorists have been trying to come to grips with this kind of situatedness from Michel Foucault's attempts to develop an archeological method to understand the human sciences to Bruno Latour's development of actor-network-theory to understand science's place within a complex social order. Professional and technical communication's emergence as a discipline has been marked by similar attempts to identify and articulate these systems perspectives. From Carolyn Miller's "Genre as Social Action" to Clay Spinuzzi's Tracing Genres through Organizations, the field has been trying to come to grips with the complex, and increasingly automated, systems a writer, text, and reader encounter, affect, and live in.
This special issue looks to extend the position that professional and technical communication has always been posthuman. By acknowledging this, we hope to open possibilities for thinking about rhetorical action in organizational, institutional, and technological contexts. As organizations become more complex, technologies more pervasive, and rhetorical intent more diverse, technical communicators need to develop multiple approaches to mapping and acting within these complex rhetorical situations. Philosophical, ethnographic, technological, or qualitative methods can all contribute to a larger understanding of the ways documents, technologies, and human actions affect/are affected by these larger distributed environments. Articulation theory in cultural studies, actor-network-theory in the sociology of science, GPS or data visualization in technical communication, and organizational theories in management are all posthuman rhetorics that enhance our understanding of the contexts in which writers think and act.To submit:
Send inquiries, proposals, or completed manuscripts as .rtf or .doc attachments to the guest editors: Andrew Mara (Andrew.Mara@ndsu.edu) or Byron Hawk (firstname.lastname@example.org). Proposals are due by July 17, 2008. For accepted proposals, first-draft manuscripts will be due September 25, 2008, and finished manuscripts March 12, 2009, for publication in Winter 2010. Please contact us as soon as possible if you would like to serve as a reviewer for this issue.Looks like a terrific issue.