Re: paradigm for tech comm?

Subject: Re: paradigm for tech comm?
From: "Focus on 3 things: Quality, Quality, Quality" <raven -at- USABLE -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1993 08:59:43 EST

Michael Gos (and others):
I don't think that the technical writing community has jettisoned
the problem-solving paradigm (although based on my composition background,
I think of it more as "` la Linda Flower"), I'm sure many writers and editors
think of technical writing as solving problems--closely allied to "solving
problems" is the idea that technical communicators facilitate action or
performance--we write procedures that people perform.

In fact, the group in which I work has recently gone through a
reorganization; the group includes writers, editors, instructional
designers, course developers, and human factors people. The instructional
designers sit in the "instructional design" group; the editors and
human factors people sit in the "Usability design" group, but the
writers sit in "performance design" groups. I think the names of the groups
reveal a great deal about the paradigm under which the technical communication
mangement operates. I mean, they didn't call the writing groups "Scribes for
engineers" (which would indicate a windowpane "writers just write down what
really happens" paradigm), and they didn't call it "Reality Design" (which
would indicate a constructivist-type "tech writing is a persuasive version of
reality" paradigm).

Although the management seemed to have a shared understanding of
what they meant by "performance design", hundreds of writers (and yes,
I mean hundreds, the entire group is 900 people) were surprised by the
group name, and had no idea what management meant by it. And who knows what
the engineering groups (who fund us) think of the term. (I'm of the opinion
that their paradigm of what writers do is primarily the "windowpane" one.)

So, there, I've rambled, I've given my opinion to Michael's answer.
DISCLAIMER: Mind you, the opinions here are MINE, and not necessarily
shared by the other 899 people in my group :)

Mary Beth Raven
Digital Equipment Corporation
Nashua, NH
Raven -at- usable -dot- dec -dot- com

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