Re: degree programs

Subject: Re: degree programs
From: Paul Trummel <trummel -at- U -dot- WASHINGTON -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1993 11:16:48 -0700

Stuart Selber, Michigan Technological University, makes some
interesting and valid observations on technical communication
pedagogy. I cannot agree more that rhetoric forms an important
part of technical communication instruction. However, classical
rhetoric does not equate with technical communication.

Technical communicators need to expand rhetoric to encompass the
requirements of a modern technological society. They need to
explore how they can widen the scope of rhetorical theory and to
suggest ways by which they can construct visible and
kinetographic (verbal/visible) language theories that support
communication in new technological environments. They need to
recognize and explore non-traditional communication procedures
and practices when dealing with the electronic dissemination of
information concurrently with learning the techniques associated
with new computerized tools.

Heretofore, rhetoricians have restricted themselves to forms of
classical oral and verbal rhetoric that do not take into
consideration visible language. Consequently, kinetography
(verbal/visible rhetoric) performs an important role in technical
communication because it comprises both verbal and visible
elements. Kinetography becomes a means to communicate information
that emanates from interdisciplinary activity to specific
audiences. This information results from the interaction of two
or more disciplines that function as significant units:
significant because they evoke an aesthetic response or ethos
that precedes the conveyance of meaning (the coordinated function
that creates communication). This contrasts with
multidisciplinary means of communication that combine many
disciplines and methods (a complex organization of the content of
communication) without necessarily improving the information

The answer to Stuart's question on what technical communicators
can claim as "their own" probably amounts to nothing. Like
rhetoric, technical communication comprises an art and also a
craft/technique that supports communication in a variety of
disciplines. Its practice requires aesthetic appreciation and
many skills. Consequently, it defies politically correct
pedagogical concepts and instead requires curricula that develop
the learning process.

Approximately 50 programs exist in the United States that
advertise technical communication content. About 80% of these
programs (including some of those recently mentioned in TECHWR-L
correspondence) do not provide anything like a well-rounded
education in the field. Most do not employ professionals on their
faculties (an essential to teaching any craft) and rely on
outmoded theories that relate to either individual experience or
departmental politics. These programs rely for their economic
survival upon offering an education that they cannot provide.
This constitutes fraud.

Stuart has requested that I write more about the "elements" in
RPI's program that do not relate to technical communication. My
short answer: the RPI curriculum relates to the history of
classical rhetoric and very little contained in the courses
relates to technical communication. Like the programs at a number
of other universities most LLC/RPI faculty members have no
professional or academic qualifications and no experience in the

For further information on this topic, TECHWR-L readers may wish
to subscribe to my regularly published Internet column CONTRA
CABAL. This column consists of satire, based in fact, that
exposes malpractice extant in technical communication programs.
Several RPI administrators and members of the faculty of the
Department of Language, Literature, and Communication have chosen
to identify themselves with the fictitious characters named in my
column. They have made many attempts to precensor and censor my
writings and to have me removed from the Internet. By their
actions they implicitly support my contention that the program at
RPI contains virtually no elements that relate to technical
communication and have endeavored to cover-up the fact.

TECHWR-L readers may subscribe to CONTRA CABAL by email request
to CONCABAL -at- U -dot- WASHINGTON -dot- EDU -dot- CONTRA CABAL, published
electronically for the past six months, now has an international
audience of many thousands. I will transmit back issues upon

Paul Trummel

On Mon, 23 Aug 1993, Stuart Selber wrote:

> On Monday Aug 23 Paul Trummel wrote:

> >The RPI program contains virtually no elements that relate to technical
> >communication and most of the faculty have no qualifications or experience in
> >the field. If potential students will carefully examine this program then
> >will probably discover the faculty corruption, substance abuse, and
> >academic fraud that I have found to exist. Such an appraisal will provide
> >them with a true understanding of the program and give them the
> >opportunity to make an informed decision on whether to participate.

> Paul's comment clearly reflects a challenge facing those of us interested
> in technical communication and in technical communication pedagogy. How do
> we decide what constitutes appropriate instruction for students, and from
> what fields do we draw when framing this instruction? I've always felt that
> interdisciplinary work is important, particularly for students to learn a
> technical specialty such as computer science or biology. But even within
> the humanities there seems to be a wide range of work particularly useful
> to professional writers (rhetoric; composition/writing; critical/social
> theories; educational theory--to name a few). In fact, I've often wondered
> what technical communicators can claim as *their own.* In other words, what
> are the boundaries between technical communication and, say, rhetoric, for
> example. I wonder if Paul might be willing to talk a bit more about the
> "elements" in RPI's progam that don't relate or are not useful to technical
> communication. Although I know little about the program there, I have a
> hard time imagining that a background in rhetorical theory, their general
> focus, would not be at least somewhat useful to technical communicators.

> Stuart

> =================================================================
> Stuart A. Selber
> Department of Humanities email: sselber -at- mtu -dot- edu
> Michigan Technological University phone: 906-487-3252
> Houghton, MI 49931 fax: 906-487-3347
> _________________________________________________________________

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