Moeller & McAllister – “Playing with Techne: A Propaedeutic for Technical Communication” TCQ, 2002.

  • The authors highlight how techne is particularly productive if we think about technical communication as a process of knowledge making rather than the “mechanics of document production.” In this way, techne and its “conversational, ingenious, cunning, unpredictably artistic” nature can be harnessed in tech comm situations productively, better situating students to attend to “history, artistry and well-developed social relations” in their work (185).
  • The authors argue that by having students jump directly into fake corporate writing environments in professional communication courses, students aren’t able to participate in the essential step of learning through play and experimentation with basic concepts and a subsequent development of imagination that engages complexity in a given field.
  • An overemphasis on the instrumental in TC is, ultimately, a displacement of authorial agency. This leads to inauthentic writing assignments.
  • An emphasis on techne allows students to function more as scholars and members of society rather than as cogs/employees. This encourages play and experimentation.
  • Goals: 1) inspire TCers to think in creative ways that do not rely on corporate terminology or workplace analogies; 2) provide teachers of TC with a new focus that can be used playfully in the classroom; 3) inspire teachers to think of themselves as teachers, not as bosses or representatives of the real world (188).
  • The authors highlight how it is difficult to both: 1) teach the given forms or genres of power; and 2) critique those same genres/forms while learning to occupy them (191).
  • The authors review both the tradition of techne in RC as not particularly useful (from Aristotle – Miller) as well as techne as interventionist (Atwill) to highlight how techne itself is a contested term.
  • The four characteristics of techne: 1) techne as a conversation about art; 2) techne as ingenuity; 3) techne as art of cunning (thinking about how people think); 4) techne as trick (a trick on beginners, not for beginners; 5) techne as a means by which something is gained without any definite sense of art (techne as chance rooted in experience).
  • Final thoughts: “We need to move beyond the descriptions of technical communication as the practice of clearly presenting technical information, and reclaim techne—creative, ingenious, tricky, unpredictable, and utterly human—for our work as teachers and technical communicators” (204).

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