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Rhetoric, Innovation, Technology: Case Studies of Technical Communication in Technology Transfer

Rhetoric, Innovation, Technology: Case Studies of Technical Communication in Technology Transfer

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Improving the way that technology is transferred from laboratory to marketplace is central to improving American productivity and competitiveness in a global economy. In this provocative analysis, Stephen Doheny-Farina shows that the technical and commercial processes of turning technologies into products are, in significant ways, communication processes. He explores the key role that technical communicators must play in the movement of technology from expert designers and developers to users. Several lengthy case studies illustrate the rhetorical issues involved in technology transfers as well as the rhetorical barriers to their success.

Doheny-Farina argues that processes typically called information transfer and technology transfer are not transfers at all but instead are series of personal constructions and reconstructions of knowledge, expertise, and technologies by the participants attempting to adapt technological innovations for social uses.

Underscoring the rhetorical nature of any technology transfer, the case studies describe the powerful effect that a startup company's business plan can have on its future (including the many factors that surround the writing of a business plan), the rhetorical barriers to the transfer of an experimental artificial heart from a university research hospital to a biomedical products manufacturer, and two compelling situations that call for the inclusion of technical writers in new product development from its inception.

A final chapter focuses on the important elements in the education of technical communicators and an appendix discusses classroom applications and includes a fictional case incorporating issues of intraorganizational barriers to collaboration in the new product development process.

Stephen Doheny-Farina is Assistant Professor in the Technical Communications Department at Clarkson University. His previous book, Effective Documentation received the 1989 Award for the Best Collection of Essays, the National Council of Teachers of English Awards for Scientific and Technical Communication.