Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology

Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology

Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology

Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology


In this volume, methodological, cultural, technological, and political boundaries felt by writers are analyzed, translated, and challenged in a way that will appeal to researchers, theorists, graduate students, instructors, and managerial audiences. Instead of extracting rules from previous research, the contributors, working from multidisciplinary perspectives, describe and analyze the social and technological contexts surrounding nonacademic writing. Their essays present a formative rather than summative outlook toward future research on nonacademic writing.

Collectively, these chapters articulate a unique perspective toward nonacademic writing that considers:

• The centrality of emerging communications technologies in nonacademic writing research and the need for a socio-technological perspective. New technologies reshape the concept of text and significantly impact the writing process and written products in nonacademic settings.

• The relationship between the academy and the workplace. A number of chapters challenge us -- sometimes from opposing perspectives -- to scrutinize our role as writing educators in preparing students for the workplace. Should we support the interests of corporate employers, or should we resist those interests? Should we enculturate students in workplace writing practices by placing them in these environments, or should we examine the tacit knowledge gained by workplace professionals and deliver this via classroom instruction?

• New theory, new research agendas. Contributors from diverse fields offer new theoretical lenses or use established lenses in innovative ways, expanding the agenda for nonacademic writing research.

This volume represents the vision the social landscape demands for research and pedagogy in nonacademic writing.


Clearly, the most exciting area of research and scholarship in writing is the area of nonacademic writing or, as it is alternatively named, workplace writing, technical and business writing, real-world writing, or as Ackerman and Oates suggest in this collection, writing in "settings of consequence." Part of the excitement comes from the relative newness of the area to be explored. Most scholarship on writing (in the disciplines of literature and rhetoric) has focused exclusively on the writing of literary authors (including as "literary" any published writing, regardless of genre, considered to have aesthetic merit). In the mid-20th century, academic writing both of students in classrooms and the scholarly writing of academic disciplines became an object of study for the burgeoning field of composition. And the contemporary study of nonacademic writing began, as this nomenclature belies, when writing teachers, motivated by their concerns about how well they were preparing students for their later writing on the job, employed the new methods and questions developed to study academic writing to look at workplace writing.

Like the refocusing of attention from the writing of literary authors to the writing of students and academics, the shift to studying the everyday writing practices of people on the job marks a shift in the direction of academic research and scholarship, one that is not unique to the interdisciplinary field of writing theory. Across the humanities, scholars have been increasingly concerned with the practices of everyday life, whether it be questions of how people orient themselves in urban spaces, how they construct themselves and their world in watching music videos, or how they are constructed by the institutional practices of mental hospitals or prisons. Like . . .

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