Who makes engineering knowledge? Changing identities of technical writers in the 20th century United States

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

At the turn of the 20th century, technical writers in the United States were mostly engineers who both developed technology and wrote about it. During Worm War II, however, engineers seeking to increase the efficiency of technology development separated their engineering from their communication tasks. This trend opened up a new occupation for non-engineering technical writers who communicated knowledge made by engineers. While this specialization may have allowed engineers to develop technology more efficiently, it also allowed non-scientists to give voice to scientific knowledge and by the 1970s created tensions between practitioners in scientific fields and liberal arts-trained technical writers. How could non-scientists give scientific knowledge its material form through communication? And did this arrangement between engineers and writers too often render engineers mute within their own professions? This paper traces a history of technical writing practice in the United States and explores current trends in the academy which aim to prepare engineers more adequately for communicating about their work. Finally, this paper suggests that technical editors, as distinguished from traditional technical writers, can accommodate both an engineer's need to give voice to technology developments and a writer's contributions to shaping that voice into effective communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIEEE International Professional Communication Conference
Editors Anon
PublisherIEEE
Pages61-68
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997
Externally publishedYes
EventProceedings of the 1997 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference - Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Duration: Oct 22 1997Oct 25 1997

Other

OtherProceedings of the 1997 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference
CitySalt Lake City, UT, USA
Period10/22/9710/25/97

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Software
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

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