Jumping Off the Ivory Tower:
Changing the Academic
DEBORAH S. BOSLEY
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Technical communication faculty strive to develop working partnerships between technical writing practitioners and academics and to influence practice. Much has been written about the need to strengthen ties to industry, develop joint research projects, and collaborate in developing internship and learning opportunities for students (Bosley, 1992; Hayhoe, 1998, 2000). However, in general, except for the few academics who have developed long-standing relationships with practitioners, such programmatic partnerships are still relatively rare. What stands in the way of such partnerships?
My contention is that academics themselves often set up barriers that militate against such partnerships. These barriers exist, in part, because of academics’ tendency to focus on differences between academia and industry rather than on similarities of their work environments, work practices, and workplace documentation processes and products. In addition, academics tend to be influenced by traditional assumptions about self-definition and, through behavior based on those assumptions, they tend to separate themselves from practitioners in unproductive ways. Finally, academics tend to underestimate the value of their research as an aid to practitioners. As a result, they inadvertently keep such research results within the academic community instead of disseminating them to practitioners.
In this chapter, I first delineate similarities by describing common ground that both technical communication academics and practitioners share. I then