University of Limerick
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Community of practice and professionalization perspectives on technical communication in Ireland

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-09-06, 14:55 authored by YVONNE CLEARYYVONNE CLEARY
Research problem: In Ireland, technical communication has developed as an academic and occupational field since the late 20th century. Research on the field in Ireland is limited. Research questions: (1) To what extent do technical communicators in Ireland operate as a community of practice? (2) What steps are Irish technical communicators taking toward professionalization? Literature review: This study uses a theoretical framework that combines symbolic interactionism and communities of practice theories. While traditional professionalization theory uses a structural functionalist approach to the study of occupations, characterizing disciplines as professions depending on whether they meet certain traits (including autonomy, market closure, license to practice, and service orientation), symbolic interactionism prioritizes interactions among individuals. In this sense, it overlaps with the concerns of communities of practice. A community of practice involves a group of people working together, and creating meaning through their interactions. Studying an occupation through this lens foregrounds individual and community identity, and how that is formed and informed by work. Methodology: Mixed methods—a survey, focus groups, and interviews—were used to explore Irish technical communicators’ perceptions of aspects of their field: practice, education, value and status, and professional and community structures. Results: The findings indicate that Irish technical communicators exhibit traits of communities of practice (such as joint enterprise and shared repertoires). They also identify with their job title and practice. A key finding is that some Irish technical communicators have a keen appetite for community involvement. This enthusiasm notwithstanding, barriers to professionalization include low visibility of the role in Ireland, limited evidence of professionalizing activity, and the potential for career stagnation.



IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication;59 (2), pp. 126-139


IEEE Computer Society




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