Nonacademic Writing: Social Theory and Technology

By Ann Hill Duin; Craig J. Hansen | Go to book overview

modating diversity, including possible gender difference. In our testing of documentation effectiveness, we need to research and apply what gender preferences we discover. We need to test each piece of documentation by questioning such characteristics: If those who test high in femininity on the Bem Sex Role Inventory (or perhaps Turkle and Papert's [ 1990] bricoleurs) find learning a new system satisfying as they first experiment with an example and then learn a method, does our documentation contain such opportunities to experiment? We need to integrate measures used by feminist scholars into our traditional documentation testing instruments.

We must recognize and measure not only males who strongly identify with traditional masculine traits, but also males who identify with traditional feminine traits, with females who score high in femininity on the BSRI, and with females who score low. We must write for not only females and males who strongly prefer the bricoleur style, but males and females who function well with top-down structure. We must write for women who have little confidence with math skills and who have not had experience with computers before they encounter our documentation and for males who have experienced the opposite -- or perhaps the same. Accommodating gender difference leads us to accommodating individual difference, whether based on gender, age, experience, race, economic and education background or culture of origin. Fortunately, feminist scholars have already begun the work of recognizing and measuring difference. We need to learn what they have to say and follow their lead if our nonacademic writing research and practice is to be successful. Moreover, this venture into difference grants us insight into how technology and social theory intersect with and illuminate each other.


REFERENCES

Allen J. ( 1991). "Gender issues in technical communication studies: An overview of the implications for the profession, research, and pedagogy". Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 5( 4), 371-392.

Barker T. (Ed.). ( 1991). Perspectives on software documentation: Inquiries and innovations. Amityville, NY: Baywood.

Belenky M., Clinchy B. M., Goldberger N. R., & Tarule J. M. ( 1986). Women's ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.

Bell P. ( 1991). "Cognitive writing: A new approach to organizing technical material". In T. Barker (Ed.), Perspectives on software documentation: Inquiries and innovations (pp. 73-89). Amityville, NY: Baywood.

Bem S. L. ( 1977). "On the utility of alternative procedures for assessing psychological androgyny". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45,196-205.

Benston M. L. ( 1983). "For women, the chips are down". In J. Zimmerman (Ed.), The technological woman: Interfacing with tomorrow (pp. 44-54). New York: Praeger.

Bernhardt S. A. ( 1992). "The design of sexism: The case of an army maintenance manual".

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