Mirel, Barbara. “Writing and Database Technology:  Extending the Definition of Writing in the Workplace.” Central Works in Technical Communication. Eds. Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 381-96. Print.

  • M. begins by highlighting that when she published this article (1996) many didn’t consider reports as a central feature in TC.  Beyond just the province of good document design, M. notes in her preface that her work has increasingly turned toward the rhetorical, contextual aspects of TC support in recent years.  She notes, “many things have changed since I wrote this piece.  But one thing that has not is the crucial need for a rhetorical understanding of data-intensive communications for complex problem solving.  I still believe that TCers are uniquely qualified to bring this valuable rhetorical stamp to software and Web projects” (382).
  • M. argues that data reports should be constructed rhetorically and contextually so that managers and other individuals are able to more quickly sift their data to discover what they’re after.  This means that the designer of reports should take into account various contextual factors to more productively create useful reports.  Basically, M. argues that while computer classes might teach you how to produce a report, TC classes can teach you how to produce a report for particular purposes (skills vs. rhetorical/contextual aspects) (382).
  • M. argues that teaching data report construction in response to rhetorical needs/concerns is beneficial for students because they can develop communication ability/literacy that transfer into other workplace contexts; further, she also argues that the skills they gain from creating reports using “electronic writing to communicate networks of relationships rather than linear prose” will be essential to successfully navigating the web in the future (383).
  • M. argues that data reports aren’t merely objectivist reporting of facts; rather, their nature is constructed and designed to provide a particular message (they’re rhetorical).  She goes on to highlight how data report success is fundamentally reliant on the creators decision not to include extraneous data or data not directly relevant to the communication situation (384).
  • How do the technical and rhetorical work together?  “developing effective data reports requires writers, on the one hand, to be adept at rhetorical strategies for invention, arrangement, and delivery, and, on the other hand, to understand the logic and capabilities that a program offers for defining, searching for, and retrieving data and for organizing it into reports” (384).
  • M. highlights how invention, arrangement, and delivery share both rhetorical and technological concerns when it comes to sifting database tables to create meaningful and effective tabular reports (387).  In the end M. argues that we should teach report creation as rhetorical enterprise because it relies on many of the rhetorical canons to be successful; furthermore, the creation of chartsengrafs moves students beyond linear prose forms toward different visualizations of data . . . visualizations that are graphically oriented, non-linear, and fundamentally rhetorical.

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