Saturday, December 23, 2006

moving back

I will now moving back to blogger + me with no prior notice or explanation.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I am so excite!!!!

Idea for a post: parody of a celebrity-style greenroom blog entry ("I'm here waiting to go on Leno and I'm soooo excited!") about my current wait to appear before grad committee.

1:05 pm.

Current location: Eating a cookie with green frosting while waiting in the lab to appear before grad committee.

On "ipod": Bach F minor concerto for piano v. orchestra.

1:06 pm.

Oh my god, your whole mouth is green. How am I going to explain that to grad committee?

1:07 pm

Gasp. Sarah L. has been called before the committee, ps, leaving her cookies unguarded.

1:08 pm

There goes Myrtle.

1:09 pm

Omg, it took me like forever to perfect my cartoon elevator.

So what you have is like a basic cartoon elevator that you can modify and resave?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

son of god

"There", said Hilary, wrapping the last string of holiday lights around an elephant-shaped murti.

Woot sub 1

Date: Thu 14 Dec 15:31:49 EST 2006
From: Ross Pudaloff Add To Address Book | This is Spam
Subject: Meeting, Dec. 19
To:, "Frances J. Ranney" ,,, Elizabeth Sklar , Barrett Watten ,,, Myrtle Hamilton ,

Dear Everyone,

We've received a second preface and list (Hilary Ward's), which you will find in your mailboxes.

So, the agenda for Tuesday's meeting is as follows:

1:00-1:45: Discussion and review of Sarah Delhousse's Preface and List.

1:45-2:30: Discussion and review of Hilary Ward's Preface and List.



Every time I turn around, I see pita going into the conference room on wheels.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Every time I turn around, I remind myself to retreat into the blinding white silent inside of my mind and say no, no, no, that's not how it happened. "It" varies as a function of time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Hilary Anne Ward
Qualifying Examination Preface
Qualifying Exam Committee: Drs. Frances Ranney and Ruth Ray [Dirs.], Dr. Ellen Barton.
December 10, 2006

The history of technical communication is primarily a history of writing at work. Since its inception as a writing course within the engineering department of agricultural and mechanical (A&M) colleges founded by the Morrill Act (1862; 1877), technical communication has struggled to attain legitimacy as an academic field by positing theories, methodologies, pedagogies and ethics that “can be applied to the workplace” (Anderson, p. online). When the first technical writing courses began within engineering departments in 1908, the term technical writing referred to the workplace writing of engineers; the corresponding “Engineering English” courses emphasized “the usefulness of English in advancing the professional practice” of engineering (Harabager, 1938, p. 157). Then, as the Taylor system of “scientific” management (1895-1947) lead to fine-grained specialization in the engineering workplace, including the separation of clerical and managerial from manual labor, technical writing differentiated from engineering and grew into an aspiring communications profession comparable to radio broadcasting and journalism (Longo, 2000, p. 123). The academic field of technical communication instituted graduate-level courses to support the profession; after World War II, technical communication programs had migrated from engineering departments to the Rhetoric and Compositions programs within English departments in which technical communication is new most often housed (Connors, p. 178-188). This new milieu of English studies sparked a “humanistic” (Miller, 1979) approach to the research and practice of technical communication; this humanistic approach turned away from its original emphasis on precise representations of technical data to focus more broadly on technical writing as an act of participation in a scientific community – a rhetorical act of participation laden with ethical (Ornatowski, 1992; Katz, 1992), political (Longo, 2000; Kynell, 2000) and theoretical (Dobrin, 1989) implications. While this humanistic approach certainly has “broadened our understanding” of the role of technical communication in shaping technical knowledge, subsequent research has focused exclusively on humanistic aspects of technical communication in one setting: the workplace (see, for example, Doheny-Farina, 1988; Dombrowski, 1994; Winsor, 2003).

After the surge of critical and reflective historical studies in the early 1990s (Russell, 1991; Adams, 1993; Kynell, 1996), the exclusive emphasis on the workplace in technical communication has become a focus of occasional critique. Four researchers have proposed the examination of new, non-workplace sites: Tebeaux’ (1997) historical research analyzes women’s domestic technical writing in the English renaissance, with a focus on the professional status of midwifery; Kynell and Savage (2003) calls for an examination of technical writing in “alternative” workplaces such as contractor-client relationships and home offices (p.4); Kimball (2006), who ventures furthest from the workplace context, calls for research of extra-institutional documentation in “dangerous” cases such as computer hacking, fraud, and terrorism manuals (p. 84). However, with the exception of Tebeaux, whose historical investigation of the professional status of midwifery and on the working conditions of midwives retains obvious ties to the traditional emphasis on workplace studies in technical communication (Tebeaux, 1999), these calls for research in non-workplace sites remain unanswered: no actual archival or empirical research in technical communication has ventured outside of the workplace into new and “dangerous” sites.

One particularly striking consequence of the exclusive emphasis on the workplace in technical communication is that technical communication is one of few remaining fields in the social sciences that have yet to develop underlife as a legitimate area of study. The term underlife refers to communicative acts that “employ unauthorized means, or obtain unauthorized ends, or both” to undercut prescribed organizational norms and is associated with an early move in sociology research to examine off-the-record or “deviant” communication in organizations (Goffman, Asylums, p. 189). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the fields that “nourish” technical communication (Johnson, p. 13) such as composition studies (Brooke, 1987), literacy studies (Beall and Trimbur, 1993; Moje, 2000) and industrial-organizational sociology (Goffman; White, 1983) began to investigate forms of underlife that are found within, or are related to, more traditional research sites: graffiti as a literacy practice of gang-connected youth (Moje) , note-passing and other off-topic communication in a Composition course (Brooke) and the strategies that private neighborhoods employ to undercut municipal social policies (White). Research from within the computer and information sciences suggests that computer users enjoy a rich and multifaceted underlife of quasi-legal and illegal hacking activities that force a computer system perform functions that the system “was not originally designed to do” (Thomas, 2001, p. ii); technical knowledge about how to execute these hacking activities is documented in the form of hacks, or informal instructions written by hackers. These instructions are then published on the Worldwide Web (WWW) to fulfill the hacker ethic of technical knowledge that is “free from subordination to commodity production” (Wark, par. 31) and to obtain prestige for the hacker. However, despite the availability of the hacks and the central role of hacks in sustaining hacking activities and hacker culture, the exclusive emphasis on the workplace in technical communication has discouraged the field from researching hacks and other potentially significant forms of underlife in technical writing.

This QE list and preface, then, will prepare me to develop a dissertation project that broadens the scope of technical communication research (Dobrin, 1987) to include technical writing underlife. More specifically, I plan to describe and analyze hacks as an emerging genre of computer documentation. The corpus for analysis will consist of web pages tagged as “hack” on, an online bookmarking system that allows users to tag widely used sources on a given keyword and relevant commentary. This selection method will allow me to focus on hacks that circulate widely and generate reader responses. Two complementary methods will guide the textual analysis of the corpus: a genre analysis of the structures, stylistic features and content of the hacks (Swales, p. 27) and a discourse analysis of interesting features of the hacks (Barton and Stygall; Bazerman and Prior; Hyland). Finally, discourse-based interviews with hack authors, readers and authors of commentary will provide contextual information about the communicative purposes of the hacks, their intended audiences, and the actual situations in which hacks are composed and interpreted (Bazerman and Prior, 2004). This analysis of hacks directly responds to recent calls for technical communication research in new, non-workplace sites (Tebeaux; Savage; Kimball) as well as to Johnson’s (1998) call to broaden technical communication scholarship in the area of computer documentation by examining informal documentation written by users (p. 121). Furthermore, an analysis of hacks will promote the ideal of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research in technical communication (Johnson, p. 14) by participating in underlife studies, an area of interest for surrounding fields. Finally, on a broader social level, an analysis of hacks will illuminate the role of networked writing in promoting and sustaining hacking, an activity that has been the target of highly publicized legal and technological countermeasures such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (1986; 1999) and the USA Patriot Act of 2001, which augmented the penalties and scope of the CFAA.

The first section of the list, technical communication, surveys historical perspectives and current research in the field. Most of these histories have emerged within the past 15 years. Historical accounts by Russell (1991) and Adams (1993) focus on the emergence of technical writing as an academic discipline, with Kynell (1996) focusing more specifically on the relationship between technical communication and engineering programs. These disciplinary histories are supplemented by historical accounts of the practice of technical communication in the workplace (see, for example, Tebeaux, 1997). A survey of research in the field of technical communication complements these historical accounts; foundational texts on the list examine nonacademic writing as a broad research area (Odell and Goswami, 1985), technical and professional communication as a focus within nonacademic writing (Bazerman and Paradis, 1991), and technical communication as a distinct emphasis (Anderson, Brockmann and Miller, 1993). More recent edited collections critique and theorize the foundational texts (Kynell, 1999; Mirel and Spilka, 2002), while Windsor (1996) and Sauer (1996) and draw on this emerging body of knowledge to provide book-length research studies of technical communication at particular workplace sites. As Aldred (1997) acknowledges, scholarly historical and research studies are woefully incomplete if not read alongside practitioner-oriented texts. Therefore, the scholarly texts listed above are supplemented by practitioner-oriented handbooks such as Jordan’s (1971) early handbook of technical writing and recent works by Schriver (1997), Tufte (1997) and Doheny-Farina (1998) that apply technical communication research and theory to the practice of technical communication.

The second section of the list, Computers and Composition, provides a review of research on technology and writing situated within the broader context of Rhetoric and Composition Studies. This established body of research informs conversations about technology and writing within technical communication (Selber, 1997). First, a selection of texts on the list comprise an overview of the rhetorical tradition that underlies composition studies (Aristotle, 1950; Bizell and Herzberg, 1990; Foss, 1990; Poulakos, 1993) and the history of Composition Studies as an academic discipline (Harris, 1997; Crowley, 1998; Vitanza, 1997). Next, foundational texts in Computers and Composition Studies explore the theoretical and practical implications of writing with technology for Composition Studies, raising issues such as technology use in differing social contexts , changing conceptions of “literacy” in a digital age (Selber, 2004) and the impact of specific writing environments such as MOOs and networked classrooms on the composing process (Holmevick and Haynes, 1998; Johnson-Eilola, 1996 ). Drawing on research from within Computers and Composition Studies, Sullivan and Dautermann (1996) and Selber (1997) initiate a conversation about computers and writing from within the discipline of technical communication. While technical communication as an academic discipline has contributed only two (2) books to the area of technology and writing, practitioner-oriented texts have grappled with the exigencies of technology and writing in the workplace. Handbooks by Berk and Devlin (1991) and Britton and Glynn (1989) and address writing with technology at work, with an emphasis on technical and professional writing in high-tech organizations.

The third area of the list, technology and culture, will help me to position my dissertation in the field of technical communication within wider theoretical and philosophical perspectives on technology. While technology and culture is a broad research area comprising cultural studies, technology studies and media studies, this list focuses on readings in technology and culture that are widely read and cited within technical communication. Ellul (1964) provides a theoretical perspective on technology as part of la technique, or “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity” (p. xxv). Ellul’s controversial perspective on technology is extensively discussed – and critiqued—by theorists in diverse fields related to technical communication. In philosophy and political theory, Winner (1997) highlights the human constraints that can, and should, limit technological innovation; Feenberg offers a similar critique of technological determinism from the perspective of Marxist critical theory; Mitcham (1998) calls for a philosophical inquiry into the technical and humanistic nature of technology. In contrast to these theoretical and philosophical perspectives on technology and culture, Latour and Woolgar (1986) pioneer empirical work on technology and culture, focusing on the networks of human and nonhuman actors that work to “construct” everyday reality. Latour's and Woolgar's empirical work sparked a succession of studies on the interrelationship of technologies, cultures and data: Pinch and Bijker (1987; 1992) investigate the historical and cultural processes that socially construct technological systems; Nardi and O'Day's (2000) workplace ethnography discovers “information ecologies” or local, interwoven systems of technology, humans and information, while Doheny-Farina (1996) explores the shifting relationships that link electronic communities and geophysical neighborhoods. Finally, drawing on both the theoretical conversation sparked by Ellul and the empirical approach of Latour and Woolgar, Johnson-Eilola's Datacloud (1996) proposes new forms of technical communication and documentation that are designed to support “recently emerging forms of work” (p. 1).

The final section of the list, qualitative methods, provides an overview of the capabilities and limitations of a qualitative approach to social sciences research. Readings in this section will help me in conceptualizing and designing a project, conducting research within the site and reporting findings (Becker, 1998; Cresswell, 2003; Deznin and Lincoln, 2000; Gubrium and Holstein, 1997). As the primary methods text, Swales' Genre Analysis (1994) introduces methods for analyzing generic features of texts; more recent works by Swales update and expand on these methods (Swales, 2000; Swales, 2004). These texts on genre analysis are complemented by other relevant qualitative methods for textual analysis, such as discourse analysis of written texts (Barton and Stygall, 2002; Hyland, 2000; Bazerman and Prior, 2004) and Geisler’s (2003) methods for analyzing texts mediated by networked information technologies. While the general methods texts address a wide range of qualitative approaches including contextual research, two texts on the list focus exclusively on this area: Emerson, Fretz and Shaw’s (1995) Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes provides a guide to complex process of ethnographic research, while Hine’s (2000) Virtual Ethnography introduces methods for conducting ethnographic research in online spaces.