Little Helpers

Little Helpers

Technical and business communication can be classified as in-person, routine production, or symbolic-analytic service. For the most part, though, we're in danger of remaining in the first and second rather than moving toward the third classification.

The reason I see for these trends is not because of the ways that we typically think about technical and business communication. We think of our work as non-routine, difficult, not amenable to direct supervision or inflexible rules.

At the same time, though, we don't think of our value in the manner of symbolic analysts, because we are content to think of ourselves as enablers, people whose main job is to help customers find the real value (which is in the technology). If we wish to capitalize on our somewhat hazy position and to reconstruct technical and business communication as symbolic-analytic work, we need to begin to think of ourselves as not just enabling people to use technologies someone else invented, but to think of ourselves as orchestrating a context, of arranging user, technology, and knowledge in particular, valued alignments.

This rethinking can't be confined to the minor mapping exercise I discuss elsewhere in this text, although the project should suggest some possibilities. We need to think through the idea of communication as mapping at a broad, institutional and disciplinary level that can help us to rearticulate in valuable ways our (multiple) positions in postmodern society.

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