Reshaping Technical Communication: New Directions and Challenges for the 21st Century

By Barbara Mirel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
6

Becoming a Profession
RACHEL SPILKA
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The field of technical communication is suffering an identity and credibility crisis. Ask any technical communication specialist, in industry or in academia, to list uncertainties about this field, and almost inevitably, critical issues of identity, credibility, and value emerge, such as these:
What should we call this field? Why have so many different titles emerged?
How should we define the field? Why has the field had so much difficulty reaching consensus on a definition?
What gives rise to the need for technical communication? What do most technical communicators do? What underlying problems in industry need the specialized help of technical communicators?
Given their potential contributions to organizations, why do technical communicators have so little influence in strategic decisions in their organizations? To what extent is this a crucial source of dissatisfaction for technical communicators?
What do technical communicators wish they could be doing? Why are so many dissatisfied with what they are doing now?

These uncertainties have characterized our field for quite some time, but could also be regarded as opportunities for significant reform. They could reflect our field's healthy, ongoing struggle to come of age, to evolve into something more permanent, credible, and valued, namely a profession.

In this chapter, I argue that technical communicators need to take the following steps to move the field beyond its current uncertain status and identity so that it can become a profession:

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