Monday, March 1, 2010

760: on clark

I really don’t have much to say about this essay other than it does a tremendously good job of surveying the issues relating to content / structure separation.

I found two extremely meaningful comments. The first: “As a result, after implementing this type of separation, a significant part of the writing process becomes the negotiation of content across genres rather than simply within them, and writing is structured by the design and use of information models, rule sets, style sheets, and the technical infrastructure that maintains and enforces those models and rules and presents the content whenever it is requested” (50). As the other essays in the week’s readings argue (directly and indirectly), these are the principle activities of the modern technical communicator AS WELL AS anyone else building information products from content objects. I think Clark is correct in assuming that “trained” technical communicators have the advantage of adapting these activities to their workflows because they have a long history of performing the same activities in less controlled traditional workflows.

Clark’s second meaningful comment is an assurance that there will continue to be a space for the technical communicator in the CMS-based authoring environment: “Authors write and structure complete texts to which visual style is added as needed, allowing them to continue working flexibly within organizational genres and facilitating changes and the creation of new genres. But the implementation of a system that granularizes content and makes genre formation part of a multigenre, automatically generated presentation system means learning to write differently” (54). In many ways, this is what technical communicators have done as long as new tools and technologies have been introduced into their practices.

Both of these comments illustrate that Clark wants to keep the “writing” in “technical writing” and does not privilege the technology over the craft. This, I think, is something that needs to be foregrounded as we work through the issues and implications of content management and content/authoring systems.

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