Writing Down the Machine: Enacting Latourian Ethnography to Trace How a Supercomputer Circulates the Halls of Washington, DC as a Report

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Posthuman Praxis in Technical Communication

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As a way of introducing this contribution, I would like to explain its purpose and its value for technical communication. My purpose has been to write, that is, to enact, as a posthuman praxis, a Latourian ethnography that is oriented towards the interests of technical communication scholars, teachers, and practitioners. I have long been compelled by the poetic and the metaphysics of Latour’s ethnographic writing. Certainly, these terms “poetic” and “metaphysics” are not ones often seen in technical communication scholarship, and I would like to briey explain their signicance here. Long ago, as a creative writing student, I was trained to articulate how the craft and language usage of a piece of writing (its poetic) promoted a theory of the world (a worldview), a theory of knowledge (an epistemology), and/or a theory of being (an ontology)— its metaphysics. As a budding writer, I learned how to imitate the poetics of authors who compelled me and to work towards developing my own. In fact, years later, what I have done in this piece is to enact, via equal parts imitation and adaptation, Latour’s poetic of ethnography because of the value that I believe its metaphysics has for technical communication scholars and practitioners.


Chapter 6 in Posthuman Praxis in Technical Communication: How Technical Communicators Work with Things, Kristen Moore and Daniel Richards, Eds. Routledge. 2018.

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