Why social justice is important to technical communication
There’s no better place to view the future of technical communication than our undergraduate and graduate students. After all, these are the people who will eventually step into the ever-growing field of technical communication and guide it to new eras of technology. However, a lot of technical communication scholarship still relies on papers and studies done ten or twenty or even thirty years ago. The main argument seems to be that not much has changed in certain areas of technical communication scholarship. Considering how much the socio-political landscape has changed, though, it’s safe to say that this might no longer be the case. In short, social justice needs to be a part of technical communication. But to what extent is this emphasized to our students?
Dr. Agboka and Dr. Dorpenyo decided to study technical communication professors and their courses from universities all around the United States. Their goal was to see if they taught social justice as part of their technical communication curriculum, and if there were entire classes dedicated to social justice, or if the subject was only a unit taught in a large course. Of the professors and teachers surveyed as part of the study, only half offered some form of social justice teachings, and only 15 taught social justice as a fully-fledged course centered around a specific issue, like feminism, disability studies, or race studies. They determined that a “large disconnect” existed between the scholarship going on around social justice in technical communication and the actual instruction going on at the universities. To elaborate, while academic scholarship emphasized how important social justice was to technical communication and how it was necessary for human-centered document creation, few classes were emerging in college curriculums alongside these papers.
We, as technical communicators, need to recognize the importance of social justice communications in technical communication. Even subconsciously, our inherent or unconscious biases can influence our writing and potentially cause harm to our audiences. By far the best way to combat these biases when it comes to the world around us is to learn and be open to having our views challenged. Arguably, there’s no better place for this than college, where our views are already challenged by the sheer number of different people we interact with. What we on the outside can do is push for more social awareness in technical communication scholarship and emphasize how important it is to be aware of the influence of social justice trends on our writing. The more aware we are of trends in social justice, the better we are at writing human-centered technical documents.
Curricular Efforts in Technical Communication After the Social Justice Turn, by Godwin Agboka and Isidore Dorpenyo
Viewpoint Written by Elena Ofenstein, Texas State University
Edited by Anjanie R. Fairbairn, Texas State University