June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
26.365.1 - 26.365.7
Communication as Both the Ultimate Interdisciplinary Subject and a Field of Specialization Encompassing More Than Technical Writing: Communication Instruction Across Divisions What we have here is a failure to communicate. -‐-‐Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke (1967) As Strother Martin's ironic and oft-‐repeated assessment illustrates, communication is a field dominated by truisms. At one level, this phenomenon is simply a manifestation of the claim made by John Durham Peters (Speaking to the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication, 1999) that '"Communication" is one of the characteristic concepts of the twentieth century’ (p. 1). But communication is also widely perceived-‐-‐both within and outside of engineering-‐-‐as a common and particularly thorny problem for engineers. It has also traditionally been one of the only non-‐technical fields that engineering faculty are inspired to teach. It takes no more than a cursory examination of the program of any annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education to recognize communication as a pervasive concern and common interest of the many and diverse divisions and interest groups that make up ASEE. On the other hand, the teaching of communication, especially writing and speaking, is commonly viewed as the domain of English majors. For example, the original name of the ASEE division that is now Liberal Education & Engineering and Society was "Engineering English." From the beginning, people who were involved with the division saw the teaching of communication as something much broader than English grammar and composition, but this broader view has not been easy to convey to people outside of English. This difficulty is reflected in the suggestion, for example, that a humanist or social scientist could be a useful member of a research team because she could edit the documents the group produces. In a similar vein but opposite direction, many engineering educators, including those in the humanities and social sciences, are unaware that written and spoken communication are fields of rigorous research and scholarly publication. From this perspective, one might argue that all academics write and speak, presumably well (or at least adequately), and are thus qualified to teach communication. We are faced with a problem of reconciling the near-‐universal interest in communication within engineering education with a corresponding recognition of communication as both a field of specialization and as the ultimate interdisciplinary subject, that is, a subject to which virtually all disciplines are relevant, though often in ways that are not obvious. Peters reflects this perspective when he argues that the "philosophically richest thinking about communication . . . is often found in those who make little use of the word" (p. 7). This paper will use the history of the idea of communication and the history of the teaching of communication as a concern of the ASEE to develop an approach for understanding communication as both the ultimate interdisciplinary subject and a specialized domain.
Neeley, K. A. (2015, June), Communication as Both the Ultimate Interdisciplinary Subject and a Field of Specialization Encompassing More Than Technical Writing: Communication Instruction Across Divisions Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23704
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