Epistemological Considerations in Technical Communication

I believe that by attempting to clarify or define our epistemology we could make strides towards a more satisfactory and possibly more universally acceptable definition of our field. For that to happen, all students and teachers of TC need to concern themselves deeply with how knowledge in our field is created and also with the ever evolving/changing epistemic processes that underlie knowledge accumulation/gathering/owning.

In my humble opinion, I see large potential for TC in the latter aspect, from two perspectives: 1. understanding our epistemology and the evolution of epistemic processes in phases of major transition in the way we communicate (and I believe we are in one now, as we were during, for example, the transition from primary to secondary orality), and 2. embracing TC’s role and genuine value to guide these transitions and to make them successful.

With respect to the Information Age we live in, I believe that not only should we own the expertise on communicating information/data/knowledge but we also should own the expertise on how to package and make accessible this information for all users. This clearly requires knowledge in communication theories (and I mean a wide breadth of them) but also expertise in communication technologies, especially the ones driving the current transition in epistemic processes, i.e., the processes we use to gather/create/own knowledge. Grossly oversimplified this might be a transition from ‘knowing a number of facts’ to ‘knowing how to tap the collectively available knowledge’ as afforded by communication technologies in a participatory communication paradigm.

TC should absolutely own the expertise on both of these aspects. Would this mean a shift in perception of what TC should be? Possibly, because it would be a shift from reporting on technology to the more inclusive communicating about technology using the best suited communication technology, i.e., not separate the content from the medium when we talk about communication. It would also mean a shift from a ‘reporting others’ knowledge’ mental paradigm to a paradigm of  ‘applying our expertise to design and construct intelligent communication systems’ for others. Big difference.

This said, I might now step into a hornets’ nest by calling for academia to catch up to the world in which citizens and organizations embrace knowledge-creating, participatory communication technologies and, yes, I will say it: social media.

A curriculum should ensure that students become experts in our field and that they KNOW they are experts. This might sound obvious but I believe much confusion arises from insecurity regarding our value-add and expertise, from viewing us as providing a service toothers. In this curriculum, we should include the ENTIRE cycle: from knowledge creation to knowledge communication techniques and technologies, epistemology to interface back to epistemology.

In short, a course, like you suggest, Pete, (see http://theoriapraxispoeisis.blogspot.com/2009/09/tc-and-epistemology.html) , that explicitly deals with this entire cycle as it relates to the identity of TC. Any following course could then be related to a certain aspect in this cycle that, in Foucault’s terminology, could also be called the episteme of TC.

Other resources on this topic:

1. Pete England’s post: TC and Epistemology onTheoria, Praxis, Poeisis

2. Konjektures Post:  What’s technical about TC (Dobrin) – A response

3. Konjektures Post: Ideology, a New Rhetoric, Authorship and Power Relations

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3 thoughts on “Epistemological Considerations in Technical Communication”

  1. Да, такой блог однозначно надо раскручивать сильнее – что б как можно больше жителей интернета о нем узнали! 🙂

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