Rhet sitch – right on!

Driskill, Selzer, Winsor, and others in the ‘Workplace Studies’ section focus on nonacademic writing, not on technical writers per se. What effect does this focus have on the research, methods, and conclusions of these authors?

Driskill urges an increased focus on the rhetorical aspects of a situation when determining the writing context. I could not agree more, specifically, in the realm of communicative exigences. In order to find the fitting response (Bitzer, 1968) to a communicative exigence in an organizational context, one needs to be very clear of the particular rhetorical situation. I see the lack of this at my workplace frequently. However, until now, that social media have entered the workplace, no one dared or even thought of changing the status quo, i.e. the perceived adequacy of communication was not challenged. An example of what I mean by this became apparent by the introduction of the corporate blog. The communication perceived as adequate when addressing issues with engineers was that it could not sound light, it had to be impersonal and must sound ‘corporate’. I don’t know of any empirical studies that verified this perception.

With introduction of the blog, however, little by little the technology allowed for the rhetorical situation to emerge. Almost through the backdoor, a lighter tone emerged in the conversation facilitated by the technology. Judging from the number of contribution and comments, it became apparent that an existant communicative exigence had found its fitting response. Not top-down, but rather bottom-up. In short, I completely agree with Driskill that we have to be much more analytic in determining the rhetorical needs in an organizational setting in order to develop the right kind of communication for that particular situation.


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