• Translation of Safety Communication for Latino Construction Workers

    Posted on February 23rd, 2014 msmith88 No comments

    Evia and Patriarca’s article, Beyond Compliance: Participatory Translation of Safety Communication for Latino Construction Workers, discusses challenges that Latino construction workers face with workplace safety communication materials. The article explains the construction industry’s standard hierarchy—contractors, subcontractors, and labor specialists. Even with this hierarchy, each specific job title requires unique “communication styles and needs, even with native speakers of the same language” (341).

    When one considers how many different ethnicities are represented in the construction industry, it makes the communication process that much more difficult. The article states that “the most tangible product of these communication problems involving Latino construction workers is the high incidence of workplace injuries and fatalities” (341). Also, Latino’s workplace death risks are “40% to 80% higher than it is for their non-Latino peers” (341). These findings provide enough information to show that technical communicators have difficulty in developing effective workplace safety and risk communication materials for a universal audience. Especially since most of the available materials have “an intended audience of English-speaking natives” (343). Technical Writers are faced with a difficult communication barrier. Thus, it is important for Technical Writers to gather suggestions from Latino workers in order to improve communication in the construction industry.

    Most technical materials and manuals are filled with wordy paragraphs; the content is there, but it is not put into plain terms. In technical writing, simplicity is key; especially when dealing with valuable workplace information. Also, technical writers need to shape their writing style for an intended audience in order for information to be well-received. A key recommendation to improve communication in the construction industry is to include visuals within the accessible materials. Not only are visuals simple, they do not have to be translated for different cultures. As seen in Figure 2 in Evia and Patriarca’s article, Latino workers drew different work hazards that are present in the workplace. These images support the importance of simplicity that is so relevant in technical writing.

    Overall, this article made me think a lot about Project 2. For this project, we are working with the Cranwell International Center to help the office revise forms and handouts for international students at Virginia Tech. As the revisers of these documents, it is important to make sure that natives from over 100 different countries can easily understand each document. Also, we must focus on a large-scale audience; and our audience does not have the same primary language. Keeping Evia and Patriarca’s ideas in mind, it could be very beneficial to add visuals to our revised documents. As a group, we must keep our main audience in mind while we conduct interviews with international students, perform content editing, and test the documents’ usability.

  • White, Middle-Class Student Identity Privileges

    Posted on February 17th, 2014 msmith88 No comments

    As I read McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, I couldn’t help but think about the privileges I have had due to my family’s middle-class economic status. The article also made me think about the privileges I have had as a white, middle-class student in the classroom.

    1.     Each school you attended had up-to-date educational materials (textbooks, computers, chalkboards, etc.) as well as a well-respected faculty.

    2.     Your parents enrolled you into countless sports and/or extra-curricular activities as a child to expand upon your abilities (athletic, artistic, etc.).

    3.     You were encouraged to learn outside of school through reading books at home or even going to local museums/plays with your family.

    4.     Your parents may have paid for a tutor to enhance your academic abilities (SAT/ACT prep tutor).

    5.     After you graduated high school, you were expected to go to college.

    6.     You were expected to attend an academically competitive college (mainly Ivy League).

    7.     If you made the choice to not attend college, your parents would allow you to stay with them (AND continue to pay for your living expenses).

    8.     It is assumed that you will attend graduate school after acquiring an undergraduate degree.

    9.     You may not have student loans to pay off when you graduate.

    10.Your academic ability is never questioned because of your physical appearance/qualities.

    11.You have the ability to walk into a 500-person lecture hall  (or any classroom, for that matter) and “blend in” due to your physical appearance.

    12.You are expected to have a life plan that goes something like this: graduate college, have a successful career, get married, and start a family (especially if you’re a female student).

    The list of privileges as a white, middle-class student that I have compiled has made me realize a key factor in my success as a student: My parents have always had a huge presence in my educational endeavors. My parents have always gone above and beyond to help me succeed in both academics and extra-curricular activities so that I had the opportunity to attend college. Their financial support is something that I have taken for granted, but parental support (financially) is pretty customary in the area where I grew up.

    Not only do these privileges provide overall success to build a life of equal or better economical status as your parents, but these privileges also create pressure to be perfect. In severe instances, you are expected to maintain a 4.0 GPA while balancing three seasonal sports, countless school clubs, and community service activities. There is an automatic pressure to impress your community, your family, and your peers. In my community, this unspoken pressure has lead to many heartbreaking instances of self-harm (drugs, alcohol, suicide). So although the white, middle-class student may seem to have a “charmed life” from the outside, in certain instances it is usually much more complicated than it seems.

  • The Importance of Transmission

    Posted on February 9th, 2014 msmith88 No comments

    In Slack, Miller, and Doak’s The Technical Communicator as Author, the authors define three different views of communication: transmission, translation, and articulation. As I read about transmission, I couldn’t help but to notice how its defining characteristics parallel to storytelling. On page 5, the defining characteristics include:

          -The conception of communication as the transportation of messages

          -The conception of the message—the meaning encoded by a sender and decoded by a receiver—as measurable entity transmitted from one point to another by means of a clearly delineated channel

          -The conception of power as the power of the sender to effect, by means of this message, a desired mental and/or behavioral change in the receiver. This power is the power of the sender over the receiver

    From these defining characteristics, I was able to tell that in a sense, transmission communication acts as transportation. Messages have the ability to “move in a timely manner across space” (5). Today, these messages are able to reach people faster through different mediums. For example, messages can be transferred through radio, television, telephone, computers, etc. When thinking about transmitting messages faster, farther, and much more effectively, I thought about King and the storytelling that occurs in both The Truth About Stories and in Native American culture. How did Native Americans practice the transmission of stories? How did they get the same message across to an audience every time a message or story was told? In King’s novel, each chapter begins in the same fashion; however, certain parts of the story vary every time. The variation parallels to the rendering of stories over the years. The structure remains mostly the same, but some of the information tends to change. Today, transmitting messages comes so easily to our culture; we have so many different mediums that are available for our use. However, none of these were available to the Native Americans who pride a part of their culture on passing down stories.

    In Shannon and Weaver’s conception of communication, they talk how it’s linear. The sender, or the storyteller, wishes “transmit meaning,” but the message has to contain some sort of information. The message is then sent to the receiver, or the listener/audience. The receiver must decode the message for a specific meaning. If the process does not encounter any kind of miscommunication, the receiver will decode the sender’s original message. To put this concept into plain terms, Shannon and Weaver talk about how a message is “packaged” and “unwrapped.”

    After reading King’s The Truth About Stories, I feel that I appreciate the original storytelling process that has been practiced by the Native American culture. Nowadays, we are able to communicate a story or message very easily through the countless resources that our society has access to. Also, King’s novel made me think about how storytelling can be considered an art form; it is interactive and encourages listeners to use their imagination.

  • Literacy, Status, Narrative Representation

    Posted on February 2nd, 2014 msmith88 No comments

    In Powell’s “Literacy, Status, Narrative Representation,” there was a large focus on the how a specific community of people of a “higher status,” government officials, perceive another community of people who are considered to have a “lower status,” Appalachia residents. Many of the Appalachia residents’ stereotypes and identities were based upon literacy. It almost was as if literacy became a tool for defining their identities—mountain residents were not considered the “right kind” of white. According to government officials and other communities, these people lack education and need help from people who thought they knew how to provide it for them. Overall, the article really shows how the “myth of the mountaineer” completely misrepresents the entire group of Appalachia residents.

    An interesting finding that is present in Powell’s work is how the letters reflect both the government officials and mountain residents’ status. For example, most of the letters written by Appalachia residents were handwritten on notepad paper. Also, they were written in pencil; however, their writing seemed to show a lack of education. On the other hand, government officials were typed on a formal paper with a letterhead and its content showed authority. This finding is important to the idea that residents of Appalachia have been misrepresented. It is important to note that the act of writing a letter is one of social participation and an educated gesture. Maybe the letters did not have convincing content, but I think it’s crucial to know that these people are not completely helpless.

    As I think about this finding, I’m trying to figure out how exactly it relates to something in my life. Currently, I can relate this to how people see others who lack education as inferior or people of a lower status. In today’s world, society sees education as a crucial part to success. People are more concerned with money and status, which makes education an important focus for better opportunities. As a college student, I strive to do the best that I can in the field that will one day become my career. However, some people do not have the fortunate opportunity to attend college. This should not mean that somebody without a college degree is “inferior” within the workplace. It is possible that somebody who hasn’t attended college may have much more knowledge than somebody with a degree. This idea that a lack of education makes somebody inferior is something that our society has definitely made a misrepresentation about. In what other ways has our society molded misrepresentations? And why do most people believe them?

    A large part of my own identity is based upon my family’s values, especially my dad’s values. My dad came from what would be considered as a lower class family. He never went to college because my grandparents were unable to afford it, so my dad enlisted in the Navy when he finished high school. After he served our country, my dad began to make his own business in heating and air conditioning. For over thirty years now, my dad has owned a successful business. Without a college degree, my dad made something of himself, which really supports what I talked about earlier. He taught me to work hard, to remain optimistic, and to search for opportunities. My parents also raised me to have a strong faith in God, which is something that remains close to me. I believe that a lot of what makes up my identity is due to how I was raised as a child.