Part four of Solving Problems in Technical Communication focuses on developing knowledge about the field of communication. This section follows a section pertaining to approaches to the technical writing field and in my view, adequately provides analyses which turn the theories of how to interact within the technical writing field, as detailed in part three, into practical methods for approaching the field as a technical communicator or teacher of technical communications.
Part four begins with an emphasis on understanding methods to transfer knowledge and information about technical writing to others in the field. From a quick look through the table of contents for this section, it appears as if the editors of this collection arranged the articles in a manner that examined different modes of understanding for the technical writing field. The forth section has articles specifically about genre, knowledge creation, information design, new media, collaboration, and international environments for technical writing that for me, together, represent a small portion of the considerations that are necessary for technical communicators to be aware of in order to be able to come up with the best appropriate means for completing any given technical communication tasks.
This point, that technical communicators can only really be briefed on a few of the circumstances surrounding their technical communication, is one that I feel resonates throughout the book as a message that reminds readers that just because they might feel as if they “know” how to technically communicate, doesn’t necessarily mean that what they know how to do in one context will still be applicable in another. This, I believe, is one reason why scholars like Henze believe that it is beneficial for communicators to understand how different genres can necessitate different responses than others. As Henze explains, “Genres can help technical communicators diagnose a document user’s needs and produce documents that respond to those needs in situationally appropriate ways” (p. 337). This is a sentiment I agree with and would only amend to extend beyond “documents” to include any type of medium used for communication.
Ultimately, after finishing this book and the articles in it, I wonder to myself, how could teachers of technical communication better decide what areas to focus on when teaching students? Is it acceptable to simply rely on what I, as a teacher, believe to be the most important areas to focus or is their some need to have a baseline understanding of certain aspects of technical communication that might supersede teaching, say, ideas surrounding new media? I ask because I just don’t believe a semester is a large enough space in time to teach even the different considerations explored as the subject of the articles in part four, let alone those subjects in addition to a model based on forms and reports. What do you believe the single most important piece of information people should learn in a technical communication class?