RE-ENVISIONING THE PROFESSION
New directions have characterized the steady evolution of technical communication from its earliest days. Yet, at the risk of echoing prior claims, we believe that the new directions proposed in this volume are categorically different and especially exciting.
In other periods, new directions and progress centered on some aspect of the communications that we create. It was a breakthrough, for example, when we transformed the activity of “translating” subject matter into the goals of writing and designing for audiences, contexts, media, and purposes. The outcome was human-centered documents, task-oriented manuals, and the like. Another leap forward, still underway, involves mastering effective communications in new media, and moving beyond print to hypermedia, video, animation, virtual realities, and numerous combinations.
In this volume, the call for new directions diverges from this primary concern with communication products themselves. Instead, as Part II chapters insist, we need to broaden our vision, goals, and concerns to new categories, beyond the communication products that we develop. We need to take on boundary spanning roles organizationally and become the originators and purveyors of information and knowledge crucial for strategic planning and decisions about product directions. Anscheutz and Rosenbaum (chapter 9) aptly position the profession at a crossroads. We can choose to define technical communication traditionally, focusing on knowledge and skills for putting out our products, or we can choose a more expansive definition and professional identity, one that embraces a network of activities within and across our organizations. This network of efforts involves strategically and tactically affecting the usability, usefulness, and quality of technologies. To do so, the development of our portion of