Knowledge is manufactured?

Subject: Knowledge is manufactured?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Dan Goldstein <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2007 14:54:59 -0400

Dan Goldstein opines: <<tech writers don't manufacture knowledge. We
acquire it and (if we're lucky) transmit it to other people.>>

Interesting point you raise. There's been considerable debate over
this issue for a great many years. The history of technical
communication education has progressed from thinking exactly what you
say (that we are nothing more than mouthpieces), to a slightly pre-
modern attitude that we instead "translate" between audiences (i.e.,
from "engineer" to "English"), to the modern attitude that we do
indeed create something entirely new in much the same way a
silversmith takes raw silver mined by a miner and turns it into
something valuable.

In reality, some of us do only one of those things, and suffer
accordingly in the workplace. Others of us do all three, at different
times. Some of us even focus almost exclusively on the "creating
something wholly new and precious" part.

This point is crucial to our success in the workplace: If we're seen
exclusively as dumb parrots who do nothing more than parrot back
information created by someone else, we get no respect. Our work is
treated as the commodity product that it is, and we're paid
accordingly -- or replaced by cheaper outsourced work of sometimes
dubious quality because the difference between smart and dumb parrots
is negligible. If we're seen as people who provide some direct bridge
between information creators (e.g., engineers) and customers who use
that information by serving as translators and user advocates, we get
a bit more respect and a bit more pay in recognition of the value we
add. We're now treated as distant cousins (chimpanzees) instead of
dumb birds.

Only when we're seen as people who do significant knowledge creation
are we given full respect and compensated and cherished accordingly.
That's not just empty theory. At a previous job, I was given the same
amount of respect and input in decisions as most of the engineers I
worked with, and had my salary classification upgraded into the same
category as these engineers (rather than being pegged in the lower
support classification). I'm freelancing now because I wanted to
pursue different work and different projects (such as writing books;
see below), not because I was in any way dissatisfied with the
recognition I received.

Lessons there for those willing to learn from them. If we hope to
succeed in the workplace, we really do need to create something new
("manufacture knowledge", if you prefer), not merely digest knowledge
and pass it along.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
***Now available*** _Effective onscreen editing_


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Knowledge is manufactured?: From: Dan Goldstein

Previous by Author: The Lost Secret To Business Analysis
Next by Author: Knowledge is manufactured? (take II)
Previous by Thread: RE: Knowledge is manufactured?
Next by Thread: RE: Knowledge is manufactured?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads