Salvo, Michael J. “Rhetoric as Productive Technology: Cultural Studies in/as Technical Communication Methodology.” Critical Power Tools:  Technical Communication and Cultural Studies. Eds. Scott, J. Blake, Bernadette Longo and Katherine V. Wills. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2006. 219-40. Print.

  • In this chapter Salvo amends Berlin’s argument that race, gender, and class would dominate cultural studies inquiry by proposing that “technology” be added to the list of shaping matrixes (219).
  • Salvo claims that technocultural studies – much like literary studies before it – “aestheticizes” technoculture that it largely remains apart from.  To amend this problem, Salvo recommends supplementing Berlin’s triad with “technological development, the artifacts it produces, and the culture those artifacts are deployed within” (220).  In effect, S. is arguing that we need to take the most important and insightful work cultural studies undertakes (analytics that map discourses, institutions, and flows of power onto a “virtual” map of culture) and turn that process to technology (informing how we critically design, map the discourses that inform design, and reveal the complex networks of power and the interests that are served and subsumed in different designs (221).
  • Salvo highlights that an infusion of cultural studies into technical communication methodology might do a better job of explaining the ways that technical artifacts circulate in culture – drawing attention to the often increasingly blurred boundaries between producers and consumers (223).  This stance would mitigate the current information distribution model that puts formal, corporate broadcasters at the top of dissemination: “In effect, the broadcasters are claiming that only their transmissions are to be afforded cultural capital” (223).
  • Technical communication: communication that accompanies invention, design, arrangement, and deployment of technology in culture (223).
  • Salvo sees the importance of incorporating cultural studies in technical communication in much the same way that Berlin argued a move away from exclusively ideological critique toward engagement with the cultural forms that make that ideology possible (224).  Technology can achieve this because of the dissolution of the producer/consumer binary (Salvo says “from building for users to building with users” 224).  Salvo claims that by adopting this cultural studies-technologies approach technical communicators would not only describe the interrelated relationship of humans, technologies and institutions but it would also allow those TC experts to actively engage those relations to create new possibilities (democratic possibilities) for human agency (225).  Salvo defines democracy as “the place where dialogue has an opportunity to impact the design and deployment of technologies in culture and of the construction and regulation of relationships among competing groups within culture” (225).
  • Salvo sees this new technocultural worker as an individual that inculcates themselves into a tribe, becoming part of the community, learning their language, and establishing positive working connections with other individuals in the community they engage – this is much akin to the sort of methodology advocated by anthropological and ethnographic researchers.  So, the role of the TC’r is to conduct a self-conscious analysis of the situation, contributing expert knowledge but also being attentive to local needs and contexts.  Salvo notes, “technical and professional writers’ existing expertise in effective communication, coupled with the role of user advocate, informed by cultural studies analysis, can and should allow practitioners and academics to contribute to the invention of new technologies” (226).
  • Salvo notes that the processes of globalization have made acting with the local appear less viable; however, it is only when the TC’r listens closely to the local that she can do the ethical work of representation to larger cultural narratives.
  • As Salvo references throughout the socially informed nature of a cultural studies infused technical communication moment erode the Romantic sense of authorial genius and instead place the audience at the center of the design process.  This answers some of the anxieties about what sort of solution will work best in any one context.  It also dismisses some of the concerns about how the development of technological systems might harm the populations they are supposed to help (this won’t happen as the system is the result of “audience-centered design”) (233-5).
  • In the end, Salvo’s piece ends up creating a hybrid cultural studies technical communicator who is interested in doing community literacy based work.  As he notes, “One way of fighting totalization and silencing of the weak is to foreground a rhetoric of dialogue in which all stakeholders are encouraged to raise their voices, to engage in the cultural as well as the technical aspects of technology, with the expectation that technological participation will support wider cultural participation” (237).

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