Hey, Look. It’s A Technical Communicator! What! Where! Who! When!


We have spent the past two months working to understand the breadth, depth, usage, analysis, audience, and users of social networking sites and emerging media in general. We have read articles, done our own research into companies and their social media presence, and experience a wide variety of opinions about the state of society in the Chrome Age we live in currently.

Thinking about the way we use social media in the different spheres of our lives is necessary if we are going to come to a consensus or even just a common denominator of standards and usage.

“Technical communicators are no longer able to control these new communication environments (perhaps they never really could), but technical communicators and teachers of technical communication are poised to understand content users now as producers and to work toward relationships between ICT and human interaction to design documents and content in this global context, allowing us to cross community boundaries (Longo p. 23).

I really appreciate what Longo had to say about the role of technical communications professionals and academics. If you’ve read my other posts, I do go back and forth about the role and mindset needed by academics and professors as we deal with a field that is constantly changing: partly because technical communication is still such an amorphous, inclusive field and also because we deal in technologies and platforms that are in a constant state of flux. It is definitely the definition of “blink and you’ll miss it.”

In my current role, I do see myself as straddling the world of information and communications technologies and the human experience. So much of what we do, as people, depends on the audience that exists almost constantly in our orbit. I work professionally to introduce people to different technologies through educational materials and technical manuals. I also manipulate content, create and Photoshop visuals (at a very basic level), and play around with layout design (bumbling around like an amateur) to make my content more streamlined and palatable to an audience that does not need or want to have the heavy technical knowledge required to fully understand the systems, softwares, apps, and other technologies they are using.

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

Source: (https://www.theadvocates.org/internet-privacy-conversation/)

I also really loved what the article has to say about a non-American perspective on social media and knowledge management/collection. One of the great things to say about social media is that it connects us as a transnational community. Having said that, dealing with each other has started to form a sort of transnational shorthand (like the way English is taught all over the world while languages here are encouraged, but not taught in the same way English is all over the world) that sacrifices cultural knowledge and particulars to avoid cross cultural communications confusion.


Thinking about our work (or future work) in the technical communication field, we as working professionals and budding academics must always question what we are learning and what value we can offer current and future employers. But how do we know where to start? Of course, the Society for Technical Communication (STC) offers a great place for us to network, job search, gain skills, and belong to as we start, or continue, on our chosen career path. The definition of technical communication offered by the STC website is a bit of a webpage full.

“Technical communication is a broad field and includes any form of communication that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions about how to do something, regardless of how technical the task is or even if technology is used to create or distribute that communication.

What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone’s life easier and more productive” (STC website).


Source: (https://www.stc.org/about-stc/defining-technical-communication/)

Toni Ferro and Mark Zachary (2014) dive into the idea of technical communication, collective knowledge, and social media. What I focused on was what they had to report from others in the field about what the role of the technical communicator was and potentially could be again.

“Following this line of thinking, Johnson-Eilola (1996) suggested that framing technical communication simply as an activity that serves the real work of those engaged in symbolic-analytics disempowered both technical communication practitioners and those they supported. He posited that if technical communication was going to be valued in the new economy, it needed to be positioned as symbolic analytic work itself, rather than as support for that work (Fero and Zachary p. 8).”

This idea is not new but not one I had experienced as viscerally before. We are not meant to act as go betweens, connecting audiences to the work completed by engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and other insular, niche knowledge professions. We must work to cultivate our own audiences and we must find validation outside of the work we do after technologies and other fields have developed their plans.

What do you think about this idea? Was it very obvious to you? Am I just late to the party?


Posted on November 13, 2016, in Blogs, Digital, Metablogging, Social Media, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thinking about our work (or future work) in the technical communication field, we as working professionals and budding academics must always question what we are learning and what value we can offer current and future employers. – I agree with this statement. As TCPs, we should keep abreast of current technologies and offer suggestions to other TCPs or employers how best to employ or avoid tech as it pertains to the situation. We should also be contributing to collective knowledge so we can carry it outside of the group we participate and increase our own knowledge. – An apt summary of this class, thank you.

    • Thanks, Alicia. I appreciate the response. I did not overtly mention giving back to the field because honestly, the idea is still something I find strange. I’ve written papers and done assignments for classes, but I haven’t quite made the leap from trying to get a good grade and investigate something interesting to sharing those thoughts with others in the field.

      • I think this is in line with Rheingold’s social capital idea. The more you get out, the more you should put back in. This does not necessarily mean researching and publishing. This could mean anything from answering surveys by those who are doing the researching and publishing, to blogging about your experiences as a TPC, from suggesting a useful tool to a colleague to mentoring a student.

        The great thing about this field is that it does have very rich traditions of research and collaboration. So even though technologies are “blink and you’ll miss it,” the ongoing research makes it possible to quantitatively pin down what’s going on in the field, while the collaboration makes it possible to more directly get a feel of the “atmosphere” of techcomm. Further, the disconnect between academia and the “real world,” which I noticed during my undergrad (I graduated in 2011), seems to be shrinking. Teachers are working more closely with practitioners to determine what skills should be taught.

        • I can definitely see your point! I can harp on and on about the disconnect, but the technical communications field is well aware of it unlike other fields that are so segmented they do not even acknowledge each other. Programs like this really help to bridge the gap as well as organizations like STC.

  2. I’ve not heard the term Chrome Age until your post. Did you mean it in this way https://www.jstor.org/stable/1576220?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents or more of a Google-influenced term? I ask mainly because when speaking to undergrads this morning about the technology they were exposed to in high school a surprising number mentioned Chromebooks as alternatives to computer labs. See http://stephanieschlitz.com/dh/assignments/final-exam/the-manifesto/ for the reading they were assigned that happens to promote an idea similar to yours:

    Today, we need collaboration, not lectures; we need to learn concepts, not singular facts; we need networking and socialization, not isolation; we need interactive learning, not to sit back and listen. We need new outcome objectives, not standardized tests. The immigrants ultimately need to accept this change, for the digital natives are fundamentally different.

    • I meant it more like the first example. I thought I was being clever, using Chrome to represent the age we’re in, like the Bronze or Stone Ages.

      Wow, I definitely agree with that manifesto It’s great and describes everything I belive about this field and education in general.

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