Comp Theory Week 3 pt. 2

Horribly, Horribly, boring schoolwork. Notes on:

“Introduction” by Thomas Kent
“Research in Professional Communication: A Post-Process Perspective” by Nancy Blyler.

From: Post-Process Theory: Beyond the Writing Process Paradigm. Ed. Thomas Kent. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999.

Thomas Kent proposes three characteristics common to post-process theorists:

  1. Writing is Public
  2. Writing is Interpretive
  3. Writing is Situated

These assumptions are part of a larger assumption regarding the writing process: “Writing is a practice that cannot be captured by a generalized process or a Big Theory.” Hurray! At last, something in this class I agree with.

By definition, language is a means of communicating. Communicating requires an audience. There is no such thing as solitary writing. Kent provides two fundamental pieces of vocabulary for post-process discussion: hermeneutic and paralogic. Paralogic, in the dictionary definition is “illogic” but the spin placed on the word on his introduction is “beyond logic.” By this, he means that though we can quantify and observe a process of writing, it is impossible to reverse-engineer this process to construct the same piece of writing. Hermeneutic is generally used to mean “interpretive,” and Kent further postulates that the entire process of writing is interpretive. What this means in the largest context is that writing is based on sets of assumptions held by the writer and audience that are never in total coincidence. Writing is thus situated in a constant flux of interpretation, and cannot be fixed by standard research practices that function only on a logical, repeatable level.

Blyler’s article is a look at what this implies in the construction of research in writing. Research, from a process perspective, is most often used to support pedagogical strategies. Post-process theory sees this as deeply flawed, because of the flux between the classroom and workplace situations. The idea that the workplace environment can be replicated in classroom practice is based on a Platonic separation between “knower” and “known.” In post-process theory, no such split exists. The goal of supporting pedagogy through research must be discarded, according to Blyler, but this does not mean that research itself must be discarded.

Rethinking the possible directions for research, Blyler proposes an agenda of workplace sociology, where power structures and relations are explored. Clearly, this speaks to a social-constructivist agenda which I am completely uneasy with. Rather than setting forth empirical theories of mythic process, Blyler seeks to substitute empirical theories of political relationships in their stead. The interpretation of research through these goggles seems hardly productive. Is it necessary to view research through stiff agendas, such as process or social constructivism? It doesn’t seem essential to me.