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

By Barbara Mirel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
5

Active-Practice: Creating
Productive Tension Between
Academia and Industry
STEPHEN A. BERNHARDT
University of Delaware

It may be tempting to wish for close relations of academia and industry, but we should be careful what we wish for. We should not immediately assume that the best case would be to have full concord of goals and work practices between academia and industry. To some extent, the two worlds are best left to their own purposes and tasks. Many academics would challenge the notion that schools should be more accommodating to workplaces, fearing that the curriculum might become dominated by the goals and practices of the workplace. Many academics also welcome some degree of distance for the critical stance it affords toward workplace practices that an informed (and socially attuned) rhetoric delineates.1

Dicks (chapter 1, this volume) examines reasons for maintaining this distance. He demonstrates how both industry and academic professionals have many good reasons to keep their counterparts at arm's length. A desirable goal in the field of technical communication might be to achieve a productive tension between academia and industry. In this chapter, I make a case for why academia and industry remain separate in their goals and practices, and then argue that their relationship could improve significantly with the shaping of what I call

____________________
1
The technical and professional communication literature well recognizes the need for critical distance from industry (see, for example, Herndl, 1993; Spilka, 1993; and Thralls & Blyler, 1993).

-81-

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