What does it mean for a technical communicator to be a literate user of social media?
Posted by voigtb
The questions Dave Clark asked in the beginning of his article just came from my heart: “What does it mean for a technical communicator … to be a ‘literate’ user of Twitter?” (Clark, p. 86)
Does it mean just to be proficient with the tool or also to have a deep understanding for its roots and learning how the tool shapes linguistic activities?
He answers it with: Yes, all of the above. These questions couldn’t show my inner struggle any better. Privately, I am not much into any social media. Professionally, I am always intrigued in new programs and tools, as I am in social networking. However, I have to find out the practical side of them. I have to be able to use them for my work. Otherwise, I consider them to be ballast, overload. If my work requires me using new gadgets, new platforms, I am all for it to get my work done. But if it just blows up my work, if I am not efficient in reaching professional goals, then I got to stop it.
Hughes “emphasizes not the tools themselves, but their creative design, implementation, and use” (Clark, p. 89). I think that is the key feature why people adapt to new tools. Using them they magically can fulfill a desire they might have had just subconsciously. The desire to connect with others is old as humans are. We are social animals. Most of us like to socialize. Social media seemed to fulfill a desire to do so even when we seem to have no time to do so in real time. However, like with many other trends, humans seem just go for it with the wide-open throttle. It takes a wise man to keep it in a moderate volume. Situations like the breakfast table with parents on their Smart phones and children complain about not connecting with their parents should be an alert to think. In this sense, I mean literally stepping back, shutting off everything and thinking about what is important in life. We went through these phases with other new technologies and got them mostly under control after a few years of hype. So there is hope, we will do the same with social media. It should be a supplement to, not a replacement of real life. It should support not undermine our real life.
However, I know to become literate in something New you have to spend some time with the New. That is part of the process. Also, it is important to keep updated, especially when being a freelancer to know about new developments, to being able to accommodate your customers. That’s why I am so thankful for this course. However, it is not just about learning the technical parts of it, e.g. like to use it. The emphasis for professionals in our field should lie on the critical approach and the assessment of the “broader implications” (Clark, p. 87). Clark defines the term ‘rhetoric of technology’ as “the coherent category of literature that addresses specific concerns of technical communicators” (Clark, p. 87). In the following he introduces different approaches in this relative new research area. To me it would be worthy to dig deeper in this topic – just to make sure to explore the academic point of view on digital literacy from different angles.
Qualman to me delivers a very practical approach. I caught myself thinking pretty often what does all this have to do with technical communication. I get it that the boundaries are getting more blurry. However, me coming from the pretty traditional background of writing manuals, I never considered myself to be in that (marketing) branch of technical communication. I am not saying at all that reading Qualman wasn’t relevant. It is very interesting to learn about all the new ways of advertising and how companies can use social media to boost their products. It just seemed to me that both chapters were targeting the advertising industry more than our professional field. Somehow Clark’s introduction of what social media means for technical communication seemed to be more appropriate.
Please proof me wrong.
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