Bungee Jumping and Other Acts of Agility

The theme of this week’s readings, for me, was “be nimble!”

The rather sobering cautionary tale, “The Effects of Digital Literacy on the Nature of Technical Communication Work” by Stanley Dicks suggests that technical communicators must reposition, redefine, and sometimes re-educate themselves to become symbolic-analytic workers instead of commodity workers if they are to survive and thrive in the new post-industrial, globalized economy. Chapters 4 and 6 of Socialnomics suggests the same about companies and organizations who want to survive and thrive in the new marketplace.

Dicks’ discussion of the move to a support economy where the “customer will become the center of the support economy universe” (56) helped me to understand better the implications of the Web 2.0 technologies.  The customized, transparent, interactive world that customers and consumers are become accustomed to and indeed, are starting to expect, is driving the nature of work in many fields and determining what is and will be valued in the workplace.  Technical communicators have to determine and communicate how they are adding value to an organizations’ main mission.  They can do this by showing how they contribute to cost reduction, cost avoidance, revenue enhancement, and intangible values, none of which have traditionally been easy for technical communicators to do (61-62).

Another value of this weeks’ readings for me is Dicks’ discussion of management principles.  Although I’d heard about most of these principles, either formally or by osmosis, I hadn’t ever considered the degree to which they would affect the profession of technical communicators.  (I was a little thrown off by his explanation of the benefits to “employees” at the bottom of p. 64 until I realized this had to be a typo and meant “employers” – how could these benefit employees, I wondered!).

Probably the most interesting and enlightening discussion in Dicks was the explanation and implications of single sourcing work for technical communicators. I could see that this work could remove the “sense of accomplishment and pride that, for many technical communicators, is practically their only job satisfaction” (69).  I was thinking as I read it that creating the framework for all those “chunks” of information could be considered symbolic-analytic work and should contribute greatly to the value of the core mission, and it seems like Dicks did suggest some optimism on that point (69).

The Qualman chapters, as always, made for lively and engaging readings, and along with the supplemental site, are still very relevant.  I think he is most astute when discussing case histories such as the 2008 Obama campaign and making the case that Obama wouldn’t be president without social media.  Obama had such huge advantage over McCain in terms leveraging social media engagement―3.1 million vs. 614,000 fans on FB; 883,161 vs. 217,811 friends on MySpace, and 113,00 Twitter followers compared to 4,650 (62-63).  On the other hand, I would have liked to see more on his site discussing the 2012 election, but I only saw one article from March 29 asking “Who’s winning the social media race – Obama or the Republicans?”  It had a lot of numbers, but very little analysis, which was maybe the point.

The site features a lot of other content, and I bookmarked it to stay in touch.  My favorite this week is “Jimmy John’s: Serving Up Freaky Fast Tweets,”  by Kevin O’Connell.  Read it here: http://www.socialnomics.net/2013/09/27/jimmy-johns-serving-up-freaky-fast-tweets/. I’m mulling over how to enhance my “digital voice,” which I’d never even heard of just a few weeks ago…

On the other hand, the subject about which I find Qualman least persuasive, and this has come up in previous chapters, is that the digital world is making it possible for people to live their own lives rather than living vicariously through someone else’s:  “It is without question ‘cooler’ to say you are bungee jumping off a remote mountain pass overhang in New Mexico than updating your status with ‘I’m watching the latest adventure reality series’ “(122).  Anecdotally, I don’t see that at all.  In fact, according to a study last July, “Overall, we here in the U.S. spend roughly 20 percent of our time on personal computers liking, tweeting, pinning, whatever it is we do on Tumblr and other stuff on social media, and 30 percent of our time on our mobile devices doing the same” (Popkin).  Now, for all I know that is just replacing the television-watching, time-wasting black hole of the old days, but it doesn’t make me too optimistic about bungee-jumping.

bungee jumping

You can get this bungee-jumping simulator from Layernet.com on Amazon for 9.99 and avoid finding the nearest cliff to jump off of, which would be my preference, since I have a rather inordinate fear of heights.  Will “simulating” life go out with the brave new Internet world? Qualman optimistically hopes so. (http://www.amazon.com/Layernet-40394ping-Simulator-Jumping-Download/dp/B003YDXF2A)

As usual, I find him most persuasive when analyzing business and marketing strategies of the old versus new media, such as the “Referral Program on Steroids” (129).  His example of Amazon’s “network universe” versus the network of one’s preferred social media network was enlightening in showing how the “referral floodgates have been opened” (132).  So, I think that is my challenge in becoming “nimble” in my current workplace – how can I open the referral floodgates using social media?  And, how will I become nimble enough to enter the symbolic analytic technical communicator workforce of tomorrow (which was actually yesterday)?


Popkin, H.S. (4 Dec. 2012). “We spent 230,060 years on social media in one month.” CNBC.com. http://www.cnbc.com/id/100275798

Posted on October 6, 2013, in Social Media, Society, Workplace and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post Evelyn! I will say, though, that there are many times I live vicariously through some of my more courageous friends. I will do the Bungee simulator before I will ever do it for real but one friend in particular has done some absolutely amazing trips on a tight budget. I not only live through him, I am keeping a bucket list of some of those amazing places for my husband and I to go visit. Without his posts, i wouldn’t even know that half these places even existed.

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