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English professor wins award from NCTE/CCCC for original essays in technical communication

February 19, 2013
Jessica Reyman

Jessica Reyman

The National Council of Teachers of English/Council on College Composition and Communication (NCTE/CCCC) has awarded associate professor of English Jessica Reyman its 2013 Technical and Scientific Communication Award in the category of Best Original Collection of Essays in Technical or Scientific Communication.

The award was given for a special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly, “Technical Communication and the Law,” which Reyman co-edited with Mary Lay Schuster.

“It’s an honor to receive this award,” Reyman said. “I hope that it will bring more visibility to the collection and to legal issues related to technical communication.”

Legal issues continue to emerge as people find novel ways to use new and existing social media to facilitate communication. While this opens up new channels for connecting with one another, it also can present ethical and legal challenges, Reyman said.

“Participation and composition online often occur on commercial sites that collect and store users’ data: details about their social networks, shared conversations, text, pictures, videos and music. In this evolving rhetorical environment, a new level of awareness is required for reading and writing online, she said.

“User contributions on the social web are made under new and uncertain circumstances; while many are intentional acts of rhetorical agency in the form of user-generated content, others are unknown or incidental contributions of user data each time someone uses Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., ”she added. “Often, these contributions are made without clear understanding among everyday users about ownership and privacy rights to what they have authored, about who has access and how it can be used.”

Social media logosReyman, who spent her fall 2012 sabbatical researching and writing about online privacy and ownership issues, offers some suggestions for those who inhabit the dual role of reader-writers on the web:

  • Be aware of the filters through which you are accessing the Internet. What services are you logging into when you read and write online? What information is being tracked and collected by these services? What cookies are enabled on your machine?
  • When writing online, be sure you fully understand the ways in which your contributions are being appropriated and used by social web services for different purposes, including consumer profiling and target marketing. You will want to know whether a site or service automatically assumes ownership of your posted material, how they will share it, and how they may use it.
  • Remember that on the social web, the social web services are not a product you are using; rather, you are the product, creating the value within the site through your participation. Your contributions are, in turn, appropriated, researched, bought and sold in many ways that you do not intend and may not even be aware of.
  • Read terms of use policies and stay current on legislative actions relating to online privacy and ownership. We should neither ignore the problem of the lack of control on the web, nor should we resign ourselves to the situation.  Take action by modifying settings within the social web services that you use, educate yourself and others about terms of use, and choose services that offer more user control. Continue to participate online, but do so with awareness.

by Deborah Fransen