Prompt 2

April 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm (Reading responses)

Explore  the relationship between professional/technical writing and computers and composition. Reference at least two of this week’s readings in your exploration.

Other than, as I think Maysel mentioned, they are both subfields of English studies, the fields of professional/technical writing and computers and composition seem to intersect in a very obvious way – over the issue of technology.  Sullivan defines “professional writing” in several different ways: a research field, a workplace activity, and an “academic curricular entity.”  However, I cannot imagine professional writing being employed in any of those uses without at least a surface-level attention to technology.  Professional writing in the workplace cannot be done efficiently without the use of computers, fax machines, and various other technologies; research into professional writing must undoubtedly involve both a use of and an examination of these necessary technologies; professional writing as an academic field must also both utilize and study the technologies used to produce writing.  In this way, Professional/Technical Writing overlaps with Computers and Composition, which also must study and utilize computers and related technology, by its very nature.  I guess this is why Johnson’s “user-centered” discussion becomes so important; with technology being constantly relied upon as an integral part of so many daily workplace activities, not to mention the surrounding research and academic studies, technology must be created in a way that makes it an efficient and beneficial tool for the user, not, as Johnson states, “placed into the user’s situation with the hope that it can be used” (30).  Computers and Composition and Professional/Technical writing are both fields in which the usability of technology, and the design that results in that usability, are vital concerns.

(I hope this answers the question adequately.  – C.Crawford)


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Computer Ethics

April 14, 2008 at 9:28 am (Reading responses)

Explore  the relationship between professional/technical writing and computers and composition. Reference at least two of this week’s readings in your exploration.

Sometimes I wish the authors of important articles would publish annotations of their outdated work, with lots of red underlines and additions and deletions.  Surely if Sullivan and Porter annotated their 1993 “Remapping Curricular Geography: Professional Writing in/and English,” the focus would shift to computers in a major way.  The single paragraph dedicated solely to computers (including the importantly prescient statement, “[P]rofessional writing is a major born to handle these writing technologies” [412]) would have arrows pointing to the back of the page, where Sullivan and Porter would scribble up to the margins a discussion of how this discipline’s “birth” has variously managed to “handle” new technologies in the last 15 years.  I would be especially interested to hear about how professional writing manages to teach the ever-necessary computer use in contemporary job situations without falling into the trap of focusing on just a few programs and technologies: word processing, spreadsheets, a smattering of web design, and that’s all.  In other words, I’m curious about where today’s possibilities intersect with today’s jobs’ expressed computer writing needs.

But what I really want to talk about is this idea of the ethics of well-written, user/reader-centered professional/technical writing, an idea that kept surprising me when it popped up in the reading.  This might be a stretch, but I think this idea is valuable in the context of computers and composition because of intellectual property and ethical issues that are so crucial to just about any conversation about computers and writing.  Salvo claims that “professional technical communicators have an ethical responsibility to articulate the challenges of communicating technology” (323-24), and Sullivan and Porter similarly discuss the ethics of communicating information in an efficient, understandable way.  When that communication enters todays world, where it’s being written on computers that are networked to millions of sites offering examples and sources of material for one’s own technical writing purposes, this ethic of efficient communication enters a tension with the ethics of plagiarism in different contexts and maybe even with copyright law.

I think that tension is kind of awesome, honestly.  I love the idea of students wrestling with what it means to create text that serves its particular need not in a vacuum, but in a datacloud (Johnson-Eilola’s term) of other people creating their own texts that serve their own needs, with lots and lots of overlap.  When so many examples are accessible to the professional writer, how much does he write on his own?  How much does he take?  When does composing mean the act of dreaming up words in a bubble, and when does it mean something more akin to borrowing, remixing, recreating?  And if one of the primary ethical components of professional writing is an implied contract with the reader to be meaningful and understandable, when does that concern trump that other implied contract: that the reader is reading the words of the writer?  (I could go on for days…)


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kz Prompt 1 and I didn’t get it either

April 14, 2008 at 1:32 am (Reading responses)

Johnson reminds us that there is wisdom, in the global sense of the word, in the things we know how to do. This, he says, often remains under-appreciated or unacknowledged, particularly as compared to technical knowledge. He also calls attention to all the various ways we use some sort of interface with the world, the door to a bank, for example, or the sidewalk leading up to the door. This prepares us for his discussion of user-centered design. I have to try to finish this tomorrow. It took me too long to read the articles (I didn’t finish Sullivan & Porter), and now it’s 2:30 and I have to get up tomorrow morning and see if an AARP volunteer will be able to do my taxes. Do them better, that is. So that I don’t owe $1500. I made $12,000 last year, and $6,000 went to pay my health insurance (in California). So I had $6,000 to live on for an entire year, and the government thinks that’s too much?? I should bring it down to $4,500. I was leading the high life. Oh I can’t think about this now or I won’t get to sleep and then I won’t get to the library which means my taxes will be late and they’ll throw me in jail. After they charge me a penalty. Oh, I forgot, they really do need my money. There’s that war that’s protecting us from terrorists I have to pay for. Oh, ok. I understand. Let me go find a little flag so I can wave it and sing God Bless America.

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Week 14 Response – Prompt 2

April 14, 2008 at 12:33 am (Reading responses)

Explore the relationship between professional/technical writing and computers and composition. Reference at least two of this week’s readings in your exploration.

The relationship that I see between computers and composition and professional/technical writing is that of two sub-disciplines in the English field that are developing into their own fields of study. As such, they are bumping into other disciplines within English and in other fields.

Both new fields also have barriers to overcome when it comes to analyzing the performance of teaching professionals within these fields. As Salvo discusses, since these two fields have much more interaction with computers, it is much harder for departmental hierarchy (who generally lack the technical knowledge of younger teachers) to include a professor’s technological expertise in an assessment of their educational abilities. Are they just “techies” that teach or are their computer skills a part of their academic skill set? And how much weight should these skills get when looking at issues such as promotion or tenure?

Another parallel relationship between these two fields lies with their inherent interdisciplinary nature. Because they rely so heavily on input and extrapolation from disciplines outside of English, they might not be seen equally valid areas of study when compared to a more isolated area like literature. Johnson talks about this in his first chapter of Situating Technology when he talks about the two-edged sword of interdisciplinary research. He says,” the problem of becoming so dependent on the borrower that we fail to reciprocate back into the interdisciplinary milieu with any contribution of our own.” (Johnson 15)

While Johnson is talking about the real danger of subverting your own field by relying on others for your data and supportive scholarship, there can also be a perception within and without the English field that an area of study that is so dependent on outside scholarship must be less worthy on its own merits.
– M. Markham

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Prompt 2

April 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm (Reading responses)

When it comes to technical writing and computers and composition, they tend to blur the lines.  Technical writing is different in the sense that technical writers use the technology to get the job done and computers and composition look at the rhetoric within the technology to accomplish some goal.  This was seen in the article Critical engagement with technology in the computer classroom.  The students coming into his class “expected the class to tech website design […and] how to use current tools such as Dreamweaver and Frontpage” (salvo, 320).  These students appeared to be more technical writing focused.  They wanted to learn the technologies in order to use them to build websites.  They soon learned that the class was geared towards the rhetorical side of technology.  Instead of the students being involved in a “system-centered model” they evolved into the “user-centered model” (johnson).  Johnson also discusses the steps where technology was just for use to trying to understand the effects it has and how it got to where it is.  He is almost comparing the technical writer and computer and composition; Although, I think technical writers have to also understand rhetoric behind technologies in order for them to make their designs presentable to possible clients.


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in response to prompt 2–but i don’t get it

April 13, 2008 at 7:32 pm (Reading responses)

Bryant, Kendra Nicole

13 April 2008


Prompt 2: Explore the relationships between professional / technical writing and computers and composition.


                After reading Robert Johnson’s “Users, Technology, and the Complexity of the Mundane: Some ‘Out of the Ordinary’ Thoughts,” along with Michael J. Salvo’s “Critical Engagement with Technology in the Computer Classroom,” I’m not sure how to answer the prompt instructing me to “explore the relationships between professional / technical writing and computers and composition.”  It seems that Johnson’s article explores the technologies, like the sidewalk, that are used so often, that they become mundane, and thus overlooked, while Salvo’s article provides an outline of a course he is instructing that requires his students to critically analyze technology, versus simply creating technological spaces, such as Web pages.   I guess if I were to analyze both articles, and attempt to answer the prompt, I figure the differences between professional / technical writing and computers and composition, is that professional / technological writing seems to explore more of how to use technologies, versus the rhetoric of technologies, which seems to be a topic that surfaces in discussions regarding computers and composition.  (I don’t know).

                Johnson writes that “arts of rhetoric can be used to resurrect this lost art form of knowledge and make it visible” (25).  The “lost art form” that Johnson is referring to, I assume, are those technologies that have become “mundane,” and he is suggesting that writing about their uses can revive their importance.  But I still don’t know how to connect this article with the required prompt.

                Then, in Salvo’s piece, he writes that “As a rhetorical field, technical writing speaks to the history and tradition of the design of communication—recording the ways in which practices and opportunities have emerged and receded, and this Web based age will add to its unique concerns to the tradition” (332).  Again, I really don’t get it.  But I think when exploring the relationship between professional / technical writing and computers and composition, there seems to be more theory involved in computers and composition, versus professional and technical writing. 


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Vieregge – Ohmann and Sullivan

April 13, 2008 at 6:29 pm (Reading responses)

Richard Ohmann’s article “Literacy, Technology, and Monopoly Capital,” which is fun because it is provocative, does not explicitly make allowances for the technical writer, but implicitly the concerns are very evident. Ohmann’s article concerns how “monopoly captial” (677) created a situation where capitalist elites tried (and suceeded) stabalizing social unrest and global market fluctuations. To do this, they partially had to change the way employees interacted with the technology – the means of production. What’s changed recently is that the means of production are more than ever connected with information and literacy. Not only do people transmit knowledge through technology, but the technology itself is built of language (HTML, etc.). Therefore, from a monopoly capitalist point of view, literacy would need to be controlled just like any other aspect of technology. As Ohmann points out, the technology itself is neutral and can be used for many different purposes. His point is well taken. In fact, if by technological determism we mean that technology changes things one way or another – then yes, I agree, but the ways in which that change occurs are conditioned on a number of factors. It’s not that Ohmann’s piece isn’t about technical writing, it’s just that he is not concerned per se, with technical writing. Then, there is “Remapping Curricular Geography” by Sullivan and Porter. Sullivan and Porter write about how technical writing is an ever evolving field, and in some ways the article is similar to Ohmann’s, in that they point out that the definition for technical writing changes depending on the political and professional agendas of the students, faculty, university, and community.  They try to define technical writing in a much less audacious way, for they simply compile the definitions of others, without creating their own terminology. Both Sullivan and Ohmann have very interesting points of view, but I would say that Ohmann’s – though not directly intended for the audience – impacts technical writers, nevertheless.

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In response to is cyberspace safe?

April 7, 2008 at 3:37 pm (Reading responses)

Bryant, Kendra Nicole

7 April 2008


Prompt: Is cyberspace a safer space than physical space?

            Of course cyberspace is a safer space than physical space; Internet users are claiming identity and becoming members of various communities in the comfort and safety of their own homes.   Especially with regards to gay, lesbian, and transgender people, experimenting on line allows individuals to be their authentic selves without worrying about being physically harmed by individuals who fear difference.  According to Jonathan Alexander’s article on “Writing Queer Digital Youth,” the Internet is described as a “virtual stage,” whereby queer users can rehearse coming out in a safe place.  In addition, queer youth use the Internet to communicate with other queers about their lives and interests, as well as discuss issues of sexuality, sexual identity, political issues surrounding queerness, and safe sex education—issues that are not so “safely” available in physical space.

            In addition, in T.L. Taylor’s “Where the Women Are,” women gamers, who nearly surpass men players, claim to enjoy the social aspects of gaming.  According to Taylor, women are able to create multiple identities through the use of avatars that allow them to be different from their “real life” selves, and join communities that reflect their interests.   Although Alexander’s article discusses how queer users can claim their authentic identities via cyberspace, and Taylor’s article examines how women make up identities online, I believe that even when women make up identities, they are experimenting with characteristics that are true to their authentic self, but would be unsafe to project in physical space.  Thus, like queer users who find it unsafe to come out in the real world, therefore using cyberspace to protect themselves in their explorations, women gamers use the Internet to find comfort and acceptance of their true selves.

            The only problem I have with “hiding” in cyberspace is how false some of the “realities” are in those worlds.  I don’t think I would find safety, comfort, or peace in joining an online community that claims to be homosexual, or pro-Black, or animal lovers.  Clearly, these worlds can be simply make believe, made up to play on my emotions and interests…to gain money through advertisements or something.  As long as I’ve been connected to the World Wide Web, I cannot remember joining chat rooms and putting all of my business in cyberspace because I feared being my authentic self.  And even as an active member of Myspace, I’m not interested in joining on line communities when I have a real life community in the neighborhood in which I live.  Surely, I understand how folks find safety in cyberspace.  However, cyberspace is so disengaging, and it just makes people living in physical spaces more and more disengaged with each other.   


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Realism and Safety

April 7, 2008 at 9:57 am (Reading responses)


Is cyberspace a safer space than physical space? Think about the claims that are discussed in these readings, and the ways in which these readings position themselves in relation to the issues surrounding a consideration of safety (what is it? why is it important? and so on). Reference at least two of the readings in your discussion.

I keep thinking about one sentence in Taylor’s piece that I think will help this discussion of safety: “Unfortunately, what I continually have found is that women in EQ often struggle with the conflicting meanings around their avatars, feeling they have to ‘bracket’ or ignore how they look” (110).  This is really intriguing, the idea that women who want to play avatar-based games have this extra layer of repression they have to do; instead of just playing, they have to consciously ignore how the game represents them.  I’d like to know how prevalent this is–like Taylor points out, many women don’t have this “need to ignore” problem.  But for women who do this “bracketing” work in their minds every time they play, safety begins to mean more than the safety of not having pushy avatar-guys make comments about their chain-mail bras, and even more than the safety of being able to express different parts of their identities in a nonthreatening online space.  Safety here takes on a psychological dimension, where some people are more able to safely embrace the relaxation or escape the game offers.  In that sense, games that don’t embody users (Tetris; Myst; Pong) are eminently safer, as no one has to do any mind-bracketing.

Alexander’s discussions with his interviewee Emily also expand our ideas of safe spaces online.  Alexander writes, “Despite her interest and involvement with the Web, Emily was skeptical about the vaulted democratizing effects of it.  She presented herself as a ‘realist’ . . .” (268).  For queer students like Emily (and for anyone whose identity categories are the object of widespread wrath from another group), this realistic outlook must be a necessary safety move.  Confronted with constant self-squelching in online and offline spaces, they are forced into a role where they don’t expect too much, knowing that often the “vaulted democratizing effects” are little more than good intentions.


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kz response cyberspace is safer

April 7, 2008 at 1:49 am (Reading responses)



In her Cyborg Manifesto, Haraway argues for abolishing binary oppositions  in our thinking. By blending the human and machine, conceptually, we can see beyond some entrenched perspectives that are always colored by gender. Cyberspace can be a testing ground for this new way of thinking and being, as one can hide or change genders at will. It’s safer, clearly than real life. Similarly, Taylor points out that female gamers can choose to be the other gender and explore different aspects of her self, whatever avatar she chooses. Female gamers have said the games help them develop confidence and assertiveness (97). It’s a safe space to do that, whereas in the real world, female assertiveness often carries repercussions, both socially and on the job.

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