Writing Professionals Can Build Bridges
Erin Brock Carlson is an Assistant Professor of English at West Virginia University, where she teaches Professional Writing and Editing courses, including multimedia writing, technical writing, and writing theory and practice. She earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Purdue University, an MA in English from Miami University, and a BA in English and Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication from Transylvania University. Her work rests at the intersections of environmental humanities and digital humanities, focusing on the ways that place, technology, and community are wrapped up in one another. Driven by a commitment to investigate the ways that communities can unexpectedly leverage their resources to address wicked problems, her work often utilizes participatory research methods, including photovoice and participatory mapping.
She is currently focused on how communities in rural Appalachia are grappling with major economic and environmental changes by leaning into place (with all of its physical, social, and cultural trappings) as a strength for community-building. By treating place as a strength, rather than a weakness, we can re-frame conversations that often trail into stereotypes and generalizations, further reifying problems. In her collaborative project focused on pipeline development in West Virginia, she conducted over 30 interviews with rural residents directly affected by pipeline development on their land, finding that pipeline development is a fraught and often stressful experience, riddled with complex processes and protocols.
In this episode of Room 42, we travel the intersection of environmental humanities and digital humanities to discover how technical communicators can be a bridge between divergent perspectives. How we might be able to fill in thick, complex, convoluted scenarios—scenarios like energy development in rural areas, where landowners and energy companies often fail to see eye-to-eye?
Lived experiences are often excluded from the larger conversations about issues like energy development and the residents they are supposed to serve. These conversations are often couched in only environmental or economic discourse. This is where the unique skills of technical and professional communicators can create clear and consistent communication between multiple stakeholders and open up a unique opportunity for technical communicators to do community-engaged, meaningful work.
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