Cooper, Marilyn M. “Exploding the Myth of Transparent Communication of Information.” Resources in Technical Communication:  Outcomes and Approaches. Ed. Selfe, Cynthia. Amityville, N.Y.: Baywood, 2007. 309-30. Print.

  • In this article Cooper hopes to demonstrate that the “clear communication of information” in a document is a contextual issue; in other words, successful communication depends on audience awareness, rhetorical/contextual purpose, and kairos or at least audience need (309).
  • C. acknowledges Miller’s “window-pane theory of language” early on in this piece as a way to point out the long-ranging historical narrative about the non-objectivity of language and communication (especially in workplaces) (309).
  • Instead of this objectivist paradigm of communication C. wants to see language use as a “stimulus” or something that provides responses in people, asking them to “become involved in the construction of useful understandings” (309).
  • What do corporations and the government tell us about communication?
    • Clarity in communication is a prime requirement for employees
    • Clear communication saves time and money and improves comprehension
    • Clarity is a concern in composing all aspects of a document, including organization, formatting, and visuals.
    • Clarity depends fundamentally on understanding readers’ needs.
    • The best way to gauge what readers need is through usability/document testing with readers.
  • What does academic research tell us about communication in corporate/organizational environments?
    • The goal of achieving absolute clarity through textual features rests on a misunderstanding of language as transparently representing the real world: this stance is a rejection of positivist theories of language use (not mere empiricism folks – or is it. . . speculative realism?).
    • Clarity rests instead on evoking contexts that enable useful interpretation: contexts can be evoked by technical documents . . . it is these contexts that actually enable interpretation of data and information successfully.  This is particularly true in pluralized societies. . . folks need to tap into existent knowledges/contexts; however, they must also leave room for the “filling in” of the audience (b/c of different backgrounds, contexts, knowledges, language traditions, etc.)  In other words, difference is actually “the very stuff of communication” (Weiss 1993, 205).
    • Clear communication is more likely when readers participate dialogically in the creation of meaning:  in other words, language is fraught with ambiguity; as such, folks need to negotiate and repair conversation all the time in order to successfully convey meaning (315).
  • C. recommends a couple of different assignments to encourage students to develop clarity through understanding audience needs, evoking shared audience contexts, and involving readers in the writing process (316-321).


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