10 Matching Annotations
  1. Oct 2016
  2. techwritingf16.robinwharton.net techwritingf16.robinwharton.net
    1. I believe there are significant instances of technical writing and the use of technical documentation that occur within the household. Many of the tech­nologies produced by industry are targeted for home use; the associated doc­umentation is used primarily within the household (by women and by men). Examples include instructions for computer hardware and software, but also those for vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, blenders, and even coffee mills (note that Dobrin finds instructions for the coffee mill worthy of analysis; see "Do Not Grind"). Further examples of other types of technical communica­tion that enter and are "consumed" within the household include credit card agreements, billing statements, and tax and insurance forms and documents. Daily life is not devoid of instances in which individuals might produce arti­facts we would find worthy of study if they had originated within the "work­place" : there are any number of situations in which private individuals must interact by text with organizations. Surely correspondence challenging billing errors or notifying insurance carriers of changes to personal information are as "significant" as intercompany correspondence and job postings.

      Although history tries to portray technical writing as a property solely for the workplace, Durack is proving that the users of this sort of writing can stretch across many different platforms in many different day-to-dy activities that, ironically were often carried out by women.

    2. An irony of our focus on workplace writing is that it comes at a time when the "workplace" itself is disappearing. To define technical writing by placing it strictly within the workplace denies the historical contributions of women, but in doing so it also denies a larger past—and future—where the household is a primary location for the economically productive activities of women and men. According to Shoshana Zuboff, "home and workshop continued to be the prin­cipal centers of production as late as 1850" (227); with the increase in computer technologies, the prevalence of two-income households, and the rise of an information economy, the separation of home space and work space blurs, and as Joan Greenbaum asserts, "the office of the future may be the home" (117). Many people (myself included) spend many of their productive hours working in a home office, connected to clients and coworkers by computer networks, fax, and phone. Barber welcomes these changes, and the increased flexibility they offer child-rearing members of our society: "We are looking forward into a new age, when women [and men?] who so desire can rear their children quietly at home while they pursue a career on their child-safe, relatively interruptible- and-resumable home computers, linked to the world not by muleback or the steam locomotive, or even a car, but by the telephone and the modem" (33).

      In an even more ironic twist that makes the earlier thoughts on technical writing obsolete is the fact that the workplace can barely defined in today's age, too. Then, there was a set place for men and women in society, where men went put to work and women stayed in to tend to household duties. Nowadays, there are beginning to be a lot more "work from home jobs" which make it more difficult to place gender roles on technologies.

    3. Because there are almost no cultures in which men bear the primary responsibility for child care, this task typically has fallen to women and influenced the variety and type of work they do (Brown 1075). We might agree then, that as scientific inquiry and technological innovation have been primarily the work of men, the contribu­tions of women have consequently been subsumed, lost, or overlooked.

      The first reason Durack gives as to why there aren't many women or work from women mentioned in the history of technical writing could be because the world is mostly driven by a male dominated society, so the works of women would not even be considered as valid and be quickly dismissed. This seems ideal since the overlooking of women throughout history has been prominent throughout many cultures and societies.

    4. Yet another possible reason why the history of technical communication is so barren of women is that (as feminist scholars have noted about histories of technology) "the absence of a female perspective . . . was a function of the his­torians who wrote them and not of historical reality" (Cowan, "From Virginia Dare" 248). In our case, the omission arises not from the absence of women historians (after all, nearly one third of the articles named by Rivers in his 1994 bibliographic essay were authored by women), but instead can be attrib­uted to the "peculiar set of cultural blinders" (Cowan, More 9) that make it difficult for us to see many of the ways in which women may have con­tributed to technical communication

      The second possible reason is given not to the idea that a woman's idea was never used, but maybe the historian failed to acknowledge that the idea came from a woman. This could be caused by the way we define things and the way in which we see gender through our "cultural blinders", with women being inferior to men. In order to digest the full history of technical writing, these preconcieved notions would have to be ignored.

    5. While it is true that we have yet to agree upon what constitutes modern technical writing, popular definitions often exhibit either or both of two key characteristics: first, a close relationship (in subject matter or func­tion) to technology; and second, an understanding that technical writing is associated with work and the workplace. An example of the former is David Dobrin's definition of technical writing as "writing that accommodates tech­nology to the user" ("W hat's Technical" 242); an example of the latter is the premise proposed by Tebeaux and M. Jimmie Killingsworth to guide histori­cal research, that "technical writing exists to help its readers to achieve work- related goals —to perform work; to solve problems in a work context" (7). It follows then, that "what counts" as technical writing is derived from what is considered technology, what we consider work, and where we understand the workplace to be

      Before the past of technical writing can be examined, the actual definition of what it is must be discussed. The major characteristics involve technology, work, and the workplace. But because these words cannot always be defined with just one definition, what is considered technical writing becomes clouded, which makes it even more difficult to find a woman's role in this history.

    6. "The consistent theme unfolding here is this: women are to be found in great numbers operat­ing machinery . . . [b]ut women continue to be rarities in those occupations that involve knowing what goes on inside the machine" (Cockbum 11). As Cockbum puts it, "[w]omen may push the buttons but they may not meddle with the works" (12). The popular image of Rosie the Riveter and the fact of women's successes in all facets of industry during World War II testifies to women's tech­nological competence; their immediate dismissal at the conclusion of the war punctuates the persistence of the view that a woman's place is in the home.Both Cockburn and Wajcman observe technological competence is involved in establishing masculine and feminine difference. According to Wajcman, "skilled status has . . . been traditionally identified with masculini­ty and as work that women don't do, while women's skills have been defined as non-technical and undervalued" (38). She illustrates her point with the example of sewing: "It is not possible for anybody to sit down at sewing machine and sew a garment without previous experience.. . . Although this is one area where women are at ease with machines, this is seen as women's sup­posed natural aptitude for sewing and thus this technical skill is devalued and underpaid" (49). Women are accepted as users of machines, particularly those, that are used for housework, but such knowledge is not considered as compe­tence with technology

      Technology competence was even measured differently between male and females, which proves that the definition of technology varied amongst the genders and put women on the tail-end of technology and its advancement. They may have known how how to work the machinery, but did not possess the skills to know how the machine actually worked.

    7. Feminist critics of technology contend that women are excluded from that which we consider technological by definition: As Stanley puts it, technology is "what men do" rather than "what people do" ("Women" 5). The basis of this assertion lies in cultural views that:• Deny women's identities as inventors and women's work aids as "tools"• Deny women access to knowledge necessary for inventing and protecting tools and ideas

      The feminists critics of technology show that the definition of technology was also shaped by these cultural blinders just for the simple fact that women did not even possess the knowledge and materials to successfully be inventors or innovators in any processes of technology. And the fact that it was seen as "what men do" could be deeply rooted in the simple fact that much of it was what women could not do.

    8. The industrial revolution brought with it not only great technological innovation, but increasing differentiation between appropriate work roles for men and for women (see Kerber; Oakley). "One of the most profound effects of industrialization was, and is, the separation of 'work places' from 'home places' —and the attendant designation of the former as the 'place' for men and the latter as the 'domain' of women," asserts Cowan (More 18). During the rise of industrial society and capitalism, "the modern concept of work, as the expenditure of energy for financial gain" (Oakley 4) came to further dis­tinguish the stereotyped expectations of productive activity done by men and women.

      The industrial revolution continued to polarize what was appropriate for what men could do and what women could do. And because the workforce was where moeny was earned and was seen as place for men, women's household duties generally found no type of spotlight.

    9. Furthermore, technologies that pertain specifically to women's biological functions and social roles have been essentially ignored by historians of tech­nology. "The indices to the standard histories of technology . . . do not contain a single reference . . . to such a significant cultural artifact as the baby bottle," a technology that Cowan asserts has "revolutionized a basic biological process, transformed a fundamental human experience for vast numbers of infants and mothers, and been one of the more controversial exports of Western technology to underdeveloped countries" ("From Virginia Dare" 248). Such omission by categorization presents obvious problems for the researcher, who would find few women's technologies (such as horticulture, cooking, and childcare) in the standard indices of technology

      In addition to ideas and inventions brought forth by women being ignored, any invention that tended to a woman's needs or duties were also not as important. Although the baby bottle was a popular, almost necessary invention, it would generally be omitted from important parts of history simply for the fact that he involved labors of women and not "work".

    10. Women's general absence from the patent record (and consequently, from histories of technology) is attributed by Stanley (Mothers xxviii-xxix) to sev­eral factors:• Patents require disposable income and time, both resources of which women historically have had less than men• Married women in the United States and Britain could not own their inven­tions or patents until after the Married Women's Property Acts passed (first in New York in 1848 and 1860; in Britain in 1870 and 1882)• The technical and mathematical training necessary to build models of inven­tions and patent them was not available to women because of gender- segregated education• Cultural stereotypes discourage women from claiming credit for their achievements• These same stereotypes also encourage women to be generous and giving, resulting in sharing ideas rather protecting and profiting from them

      Money and education were typically a rare part of a woman's life in that day. Even the attitudes of giving that were expected of women were all major factors in patents of important technologies and attributions were usually given to men. So even though women were not mentioned in these histories, does not mean they did not play a major part in them.