Pedagogy of Technical Communication Annotated Bibliography

Witter, R. (1985). Poetry, imagination and technical writing, College English, 47, 698-712.

Although this article was written over twenty five years ago, it argues for addressing a challenge that may remain a relevant issue: that of conventionally trained teachers of English making the transition to becoming teachers of technical writing.  Many English academics find themselves in the same transition today, due to the demand for teachers and the extended birth process of the profession, even though it is true that teachers are now trained from the start for this field.  Only within the last two years has the position of Technical Writer been acknowledged by the U. S. Department of Labor as a profession.

The concept of fact and the nature of imagination demonstrate that there is a tangible connection between creative and technical writing. Classically trained teachers need not be intimidated by the concept of fact; its overall effect upon the understanding of the audience is more important than its “deification”.  Many assumptions about effect in the presentation of facts are virtually unknown to purely technically-oriented students and/or professionals. The “…creative powers of synthesis and selection…” do not compromise, but rather complete almost any communication process. Popular illusion teaches that literary people do not possess the faculties needed to teach technical writing; in fact they possess vital insight into making cold bare facts interesting, thus informative.

DeVoss, D., Cushman, E. & Grabill, J. Infrastructure and composing: the when of new-media writing (2005). College Composition and Communication,  57(3), 14-44.

Authors DeVoss, Cushman and Grabill argue that an understanding of the infrastructure of writing composition in “new media” – that such as digital video, audio and complex graphic digital files – is undeniably necessary for successful teaching and learning in contemporary writing classes. They base this argument on analyses and case studies of conflicts between instructional needs and infrastructure policies affecting computers, computer labs, and software. Infrastructures for writing exist almost everywhere (whether physical, political or virtual, etc.), but are actually visible only when they fail; therefore, scholars do not tend to offer much analysis in support of understanding them. Breaking points in an infrastructure serve to expose and identify developing needs for institutional change. These dynamics are clearly interrelated in new media composition processes.

It is essential for new media teachers and students to learn how to account for the cultural, material, and institutional dynamics set in motion by perpetual technological development. The article does a great service to those who work toward promoting advances in new media writing and technical communication education: it alerts academians to the fact that ongoing academic evaluation and analysis of the relationships involved between departments, their methodologies, materials, policies, and deliverables are essential.