Week 4: Unit One Wrap-Up

Hi, group. Thank you for your thoughtful and engaging discussions on the Major Malfunction video. They were timely as the 31st anniversary of the Challenger disaster was remembered this past week. One of the things that I want you to keep in mind regarding that event is that in the case of both the Challenger and Columbia missions, business and professional communication practices failed to save lives. Ask yourselves, how might these outcomes have been different if those engineers had better training in rhetoric? What if they could have advocated more effectively using their technical expertise? What if they had taken a hard stand together, collectively? What if the NASA personnel had defied the chain of command and pursued the gathering of more information about damage to the Columbia shuttle?

These cases serve as important lessons about the ethical responsibilities of BPC’s. As I (and most in the field see it), business and professional communicators have an ethical responsibility to advocate for the health, safety, and rights of all stakeholders. Many of you are noting that in your definitions of BPC so far, and I look forward to how you will apply these emerging ethical stances to the case studies you’ll complete in Units 2-5. Much of the work that BPC’s do involves negotiating the needs of multiple and diverse stakeholders, which means that BPC’s must be expert problem-solvers. One of the definitions that I find useful for understanding Technical and Professional Communication comes from the Society for Technical Communicators. They write, “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.

As you may have noticed, I am often switching back and forth between Business and Professional Communication (BPC) as well as Technical and Professional Communication (TPC). The ways that the scholars and practitioners in the field typically understand the relationship between these areas is that Business and Professional Communication constitutes the larger sphere of practice while science and technical communication is a smaller sphere inside of Business and Professional Communication. Take a look at the diagram below:

Diagram, Big circle with BPC with smaller circle inside representing science and technical communication

My own experiences and research, however, contest this definition. I argue that there is a whole domain of science and technical communication which is not connected to Business and Professional contexts, one that needs more attention and study. For example, I research maker spaces, places where people come together to tinker, hack, play, experiment, fabricate, program, and build with a host of shared tools, sharing and circulating technical knowledge. These spaces are rich sponsors of science and technical literacy; however, they are not necessarily connected to business and professional context. Thus, my own mapping of the field looks more like this:

Diagram, Science and Technical communication circle intersects but is not contained in the business and professional writing circle

I invite you over the course of the semester to continue thinking about and evolving your working definitions, deciding how you will embody these terms through your work with BPC concepts, practices, and ethical stances.  So while we’re we’re bringing Unit 1 to a close, your understandings of the field and its commitments should continue to emerge.

Learning Unit 1: Exploring Business and Professional Communication (BPC) as a Course and a Set of Practices, Tools, Place, Bodies, and Commitments

For this week (Jan. 29- Feb. 4), complete the following activities:

  1. Read Pages 1-5 (ending just before “Canons of Rhetoric”) in Writing in Professional Contexts. Also familiarize yourself with Part III: Sample Documents in Writing in Professional Contexts so that you know what’s available to help you in our next unit.
  2. By Wednesday, write a 250 word post on G+ that discusses the concept of a rhetorical situation. What is it? What does it include? Why is this concept important for business and professional communicators? How can it help you approach new BPC situations? Use the hashtag #rhetsit. Read and respond to three (3) other students’ posts.
  3. Prepare to participate in our first Twitter Chat and Live Hangout. For Twitter chats, check out these two resources: Melissa’s Griffin’s Tips and Elle and Co.’s Guide to Twitter Chats. For Google Hangouts, review these resources.
  4. Sign up to participate in the Twitter Chat and/or the Google Hangout. Note, Twitter Chats have no limit to the number of people who can participate. Hangouts, however, are on a first-come/ first-serve basis as only 10 people can participate in any one event. Remember, you are required to participate in four (4) live events over the course of the semester, and you can receive extra credit points for additional live event participation.
  5. After completing this week’s reading, and before midnight on Saturday, complete Quiz #1. Don’t click on the link until you are ready to take the quiz as you have only one chance to access it and twenty minutes to complete the questions. It is a short, six question quiz that covers the front matter in the textbook, the Major Malfunction film, and the course syllabus and policies. You may use resources to help you, but you’ll need to know where to find them quickly as the quiz is timed.

Week Three Learning Goals

  • Explore, define, discuss BPC as a sphere or domain of practice, including roles, responsibilities and ethical commitments of BPC’s
  • Articulate a rhetorical approach to BPC
  • Discuss the elements of the rhetorical situation
  • Understand how to use a rhetorical approach to composing in BPC environments
  • Participate thoughtfully and professionally in live events using Twitter and Google Hangouts
  • Participate actively in a connected professional writing/learning community by responding to others’ content

Finally

Please note that participation is a large part of your grade in this course (200 total points), and I expect you to participate daily (or at least every other day) in the G+ community, posting assignments, raising questions or discussion points, responding to others, and giving substantial feedback on their work. You cannot check in occasionally or show interest simply from time-to-time and be successful. You’ll need to make this course a part of your everyday habits. In other words, if your posts and responses are all logged on Saturday of each week, your participation grade will hover around 14%.

Please know that the research and writing you all have done over the last few weeks will become the basis of our synchronous, live discussions this week on both Twitter and Google Hangouts. If you are participating, please be ready to reference and discuss your work, your questions, the connections you are making, and the knowledge you are gaining about BPC as a domain of practice. Don’t forget, these events are scheduled as follows:

  • Wednesday, February 1 at 7:00pm for the Twitter Chat @ #engl3880
  • Saturday, February 4 at 12:00pm for the Google Hangout

As I have communicated, I will be serving as the host facilitator for these two events. Student facilitators will be chosen for Unit 2 events next week and those facilitators will choose the dates and times for their live events. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I look forward to seeing you live online this week!

Best,

Instructor West-Puckett

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Author:

I am an assistant professor of Writing and Rhetoric and director of First Year Writing at the University of Rhode Island. I received my PhD in Rhetoric, Writing, and Professional Communication from East Carolina University. My dissertation research analyzes the knowledge-making practices of composers in both online and off-line maker spaces, and my digital writing research has appeared in journals like College English and Education Science and in the books The Next Digital Scholar: A Fresh Approach to the Common Core State Standards in Research and Writing and Assessing Students Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely.

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