Design Discourse: Composing and Revising Programs in Professional and Technical Writing
David Franke, SUNY Cortland
Alex Reid, University at Buffalo
Anthony Di Renzo, Ithaca College
Copyright Year: 2010
ISBN 13: 9781602351677
Publisher: WAC Clearinghouse
Conditions of Use
The essays in this book cover a lot of ground—from starting a new program, to revising an existing one, to alternatives to full programs for majors, to visions of the future. All of it is very good, but I feel that, 10 years after this book was... read more
The essays in this book cover a lot of ground—from starting a new program, to revising an existing one, to alternatives to full programs for majors, to visions of the future. All of it is very good, but I feel that, 10 years after this book was created, we are living in the futures envisioned. I'd like to see that section in particular updated. No index or glossary. An index would be helpful.
Since the essays in this book are all essentially first-person case studies, one has to take on faith that they are accurate. The case study approach is very helpful for showcasing the wide range of situations and institutional constraints that a WPA might encounter. Seeing the different approaches and their effects is useful.
As mentioned under "Comprehensiveness," it would be helpful to update the futures section, and perhaps add a few new essays from more recent program developers. I'd also like to read about how program administrators are addressing the changing expectations around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Excellent. Each essay is clearly and personably written. A pleasure to read.
As a collection of essays, there is naturally some variation in style and terminology, but nothing that is confusing or jarring. Everything works very well together.
The section dividers as well as the essays themselves make the book easy to use in any number of ways. As another reviewer mentioned, it is not perhaps intended for the average college course, but it is an immensely useful resource, and I am glad it is available.
The sections each make sense and progress in logical way.
The book is very straightforward and plain, but that makes it very easy to navigate.
The text is very clean.
I would like to see some text that wrestles with the ways in which professional and technical writing expectations are being challenged as for being exclusively white and middle-class, and how those expectations are changing as a result. How do we make visible that issues of accessibility, equality, diversity, and inclusion are important elements of what we are teaching in our programs? How have people successfully incorporated such elements into their programs?
While the book contains neither an index nor a glossary, this is not much of an impediment in a book that is so clearly organized. The book is a series of essays written by twenty-four different authors, and each essay is clearly titled, so it's... read more
While the book contains neither an index nor a glossary, this is not much of an impediment in a book that is so clearly organized. The book is a series of essays written by twenty-four different authors, and each essay is clearly titled, so it's not hard to navigate through the book in order to find the essays that are of greatest interest to the individual reader. Moreover, the book absolutely covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately. If you're interested in the complexities of composing and revising programs in professional and technical writing, this book will have something for you, no matter your institutional context or where you're at in the process of program development.
The book is definitely error-free; I was impressed by the copyediting and fact checking. As for whether or not the content is accurate and unbiased, that's a little harder to say because the book's editors are very open about the fact that, in gathering the essays that comprise the book, they "emphasized that [they] were looking for case studies in first person that revealed how designers made sense of and organized their particular location." In other words, the essays contained in this book are subjective. In my opinion, this is a strength of the book, rather than a weakness. It's exciting to read about such a diversity of experiences; this diversity almost guarantees that the reader will be able to relate to at least some of the essays, no matter the reader's institutional context. Also, the first-person narratives make this book a much more enjoyable read than your standard academic prose.
This book was published in 2010, but if it weren't for being asked to comment in this review on the book's relevance/longevity, I wouldn't have even noticed that the book is already seven years old. In other words, it feels very up-to-date; the concerns it addresses are still the concerns of those who are developing professional and technical writing programs today.
In the book's preface, David Franke writes that he emphasized to prospective authors that the book's editors "were looking for case studies in first person that revealed how designers made sense of and organized their particular location." The first-person narratives make this book a much more enjoyable read than your standard academic prose. The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and any jargon/technical terminology that has been used is appropriately contextualized.
Terminology and framework vary across the different essays, as you would expect in a book with twenty-four different authors. However, the book's editors experimented with peer review: "Alex Reid and I wrote responses to each essay we accepted and mailed our comments back to the author. Simultaneously, each essay was mailed to another contributor in the book for further response and comments." This little experiment means that there is perhaps greater consistency than is found in similar collections of essays (though the book's editors only rarely inserted cross-references between chapters, which might have been a nice addition). Overall, I was impressed by how well the book worked as a whole, not just as a collection of parts.
This book is a collection of essays by twenty-four different authors, so it's readily divisible into smaller reading sections. However, I have a hard time imagining it being used as part of a course. I think it's a great book for administrators of professional and technical writing programs, but I don't think the audience goes much beyond this. It's not that the book is too difficult for students; it's that the subject matter is perhaps too particular to be used in any but a very small number of very specific, advanced courses.
The sixteen essays in this book are arranged in five sections. Of these five sections, four of them are well conceived and represent a logical progression. In the middle, however, is a section titled "Minors, Certificates, Engineering." Even the title of this section represents a strange mixture of things. It's not that the essays in this section aren't important or valuable; on the contrary, there are some particularly excellent essays in this section. However, the organization of this section within the larger structure of the book is... well, strange.
The book contains no significant interface issues. There are no display features that would distract or confuse the reader. The tables that have been included are well chosen and well designed.
The text contains no significant grammatical errors. It's remarkably well copyedited for an academic book with a presumably small market.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. Jude Edminster and Andrew Mara's essay, “Reinventing Audience through Distance,” makes a particularly valuable contribution to the book by drawing on Thomas Kent and post-colonialist theory in its discussion of professional and technical writing.
Table of Contents
- The Great Instauration: Restoring Professional and Technical Writing to the Humanities, Anthony Di Renzo
- Starts, False Starts, and Getting Started: (Mis)understanding the Naming of a Professional Writing Minor, Michael Knieval, Kelly Belanger, Colin Keeney, Julianne Couch, and Christine Stebbins
- Composing a Proposal for a Professional / Technical Writing Program, W. Gary Griswold
- Disciplinary Identities: Professional Writing, Rhetorical Studies, and Rethinking "English", Brent Henze, Wendy Sharer, and Janice Tovey
- Smart Growth of Professional Writing Programs: Controlling Sprawl in Departmental Landscapes, Diana Ashe and Colleen A. Reilly
- Curriculum, Genre and Resistance: Revising Identity in a Professional Writing Community, David Franke
- Composing and Revising the Professional Writing Program at Ohio Northern University: A Case Study, Jonathan Pitts
Minors, Certificates, Engineering
- Certificate Programs in Technical Writing: Through Sophistic Eyes, Jim Nugent
- Shippensburg University's Technical / Professional Communications Minor: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Carla Kungl and S. Dev Hathaway
- Reinventing Audience through Distance, Jude Edminster and Andrew Mara
- Introducing a Technical Writing Communication Course into a Canadian School of Engineering, Anne Parker
- English and Engineering, Pedagogy and Politics, Brian D. Ballentine
- The Third Way: PTW and the Liberal Arts in the New Knowledge Society, Anthony Di Renzo
- The Write Brain: Professional Writing in the Post-Knowledge Economy, Alex Reid
Post-Scripts by Veteran Program Designers
- A Techné for Citizens: Service-Learning, Conversation, and Community, James Dubinsky
- Models of Professional Writing / Technical Writing Administration: Reflections of a Serial Administrator at Syracuse University, Carol Lipson
About the Book
Design Discourse: Composing and Revising Programs in Professional and Technical Writing, edited byDavid Franke, Alex Reid, andAnthony Di Renzo,addresses the complexities of developing professional and technical writing programs. The essays in the collection offer reflections on efforts to bridge two cultures — what the editors characterize as the "art and science of writing" — often by addressing explicitly the tensions between them. Design Discourse offers insights into the high-stakes decisions made by program designers as they seek to "function at the intersection of the practical and the abstract, the human and the technical."
About the Contributors
David Franke teaches and is past director of the professional writing program at SUNY Cortland. He founded and directs the Seven Valleys Writing Project at SUNY Cortland, a site of the National Writing Project.
Alex Reid teaches at the University at Buffalo. His book, The Two Virtuals: New Media and Composition, received honorable mention for the W. Ross Winterowd Award for Best Book in Composition Theory (2007), and his blog, Digital Digs (alex-reid.net), received the John Lovas Memorial Academic Weblog award for contributions to the field of rhetoric and composition (2008).
Anthony Di Renzo teaches business and technical writing at Ithaca College, where he developed a Professional Writing concentration for its B.A. in Writing. His scholarship concentrates on the historical relationship between professional writing and literature.