What does globalization do for us technical communicators?

Longo’s definition of “community” was actually an eye-opener. Nowadays, in the age of globalization many people talk about how the world gets smaller, how we become closer to others from around the world, how communities are not just physical distinguished from each other by location, but how we can form so called global communities, and how we might aim for a world English. Actually, I believe Longo’s explanation makes more sense, a universal community is a not logical. This term contradicts itself.

She quotes Lyotard:

“The only way to construct a universal community is to deny local histories and culture”.

To then come to the conclusion:

“Instead of finding ways to empower people through their localized expertise and worldview, a universal community promotes the idea that knowledge is common across localized groups”

We all have this arrogance in us (at least to a certain extent) that we believe the culture and community we are raised in or choose to live in is superior in many aspects than the next one. I don’t consider this necessarily a bad behavior. It is part of our patriotism, our feeling being included in some sort of community. The urge of belonging to any group is what drives us to meet our socializing needs. I actually believe that we (on average) do way better in this context than our ancestors from 250 years ago. Colonialism just left such a bad aftertaste. In today’s world we have to and we do communicate before we judge. We listen before we speak. To my understanding human + machine is actually a great initiator for this movement. We have the technologies today. So we might as well use them to connect with each other and more important to learn about each other. We still own the (sometimes very strong) feeling of belonging to one specific community. But I believe society changes in being more tolerant and respectful to other communities out there. However, technology cannot overpower cultural differences. It rather should help us to negotiate and to tolerate cultural differences.

Ian Goldin gave in his TED talk Navigating our global future an overview where we (all earthlings) are heading.

Coming back to my previous posts about the role of technical communicators, I am still trying to fit more puzzle pieces in that picture of where our profession is heading. After listening to Ian Goldin’s TED talk, and then going back to Longo’s article I believe she is right when she states

“Technical communicators are on the front lines of these decisions about inclusion and exclusion, especially in human + machine virtual worlds.”

Combining both thought processes I believe, we technical communicators have the ability using our background knowledge in communication to be an important part in the development of society in whatever industry we choose to focus on working in. We can help facilitating this process.

Posted on November 4, 2012, in Social Media, Society. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing that video. While it doesn’t mention social media specifically, Goldin does make a good point about how the world is becoming more and more interconnected and that this interconnection creates systemic risk. Now he’s talking about global pandemics and financial crises, but what I took from this was that a small group of people–or even just one person–can make choices that affect a lot of people.

    Technical communicators are getting more powerful too. We have better tools, both for creating and sharing content, and we have the skills to use them. Our jobs are all about sharing and connecting people to information and to each other.

    We used to just push information out the door and hope the customer understood it: one way. Then we decided we should find out if the customer understood it, so we would survey and interview some of them: two way. And in the near future, we will have to establish relationships with our customers and may also have to facilitate their communication with each other: many ways. For example, if we use an online community to share information, customers will communicate with us, but they will also communicate with each other. Or they may ask us a question and we may need to bring in other customers to help answer it.

    Longo makes that point that it is unrealistic to discount the real cultural differences between groups. There really isn’t a universal culture. But we do still need to communicate with people from all over the world. Maybe technical communicators can find another niche in this new world for our skills.

    • I love your statement “Our jobs are all about … connecting people to information and to each other”. That is it – you put the last piece in my puzzle. It seems my search about the role of technical communicators is solved – as of right now. How we get there, what we have to use and write to get there, doesn’t matter anymore that much. It doesn’t really matter if we write good operating instructions or twitter feeds, if we use print or digital media. We are fortunate enough, to have a wide array of means available today (in our digital age). As long as we reach that goal in connecting people to information and to each other, we fulfilled our purpose. Nice. THANKS.

  2. A completely globalized culture sounds like a horrible blob of boring-ness. There’s not much to teach if we all swim in the same pool of knowledge, and that would be nearly impossible anyway due to the realities of economics. If I understand your view correctly, I think you and I share the generalized idea that we need to be able to communicate with myriad groups, but in different ways because of differing cultural needs. Our audience needs to be analyzed for its potential sub-groups. It would be irresponsible to only create one version of a technical document, aimed at one of these subgroups, as that would exclude every other group.

  3. Excellent post and inclusion of a relevant outside source! I love the way you “read against” the authors and ask questions, especially of the more difficult readings. While we don’t know where the trends in tech comm may take us, it is true that good communicators will be at an advantage and can take a leading role!

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