NOTE: this entry is not really for public consumption but I had to back up the text somewhere!
Technical handbooks are an overlooked component of the bibliographic universe. LIS has yet to produce a working theory regarding handbooks. The purpose of this dissertation is to critically explore the technical handbook as a documentary form. The underlying thesis of this dissertation is that the form and appearance of technical handbooks is not driven by the objective reality of the artifacts they represent, but rather by the social conditions of their production. This articulation of technical handbooks is a contribution to the emerging field of documentation.
My decision to study technical handbooks has emerged both from my own interests and recent movements in LIS discourse. As an engineer, I am quite familiar with technical handbooks; they were a crucial part of both education and professional practice. My experience with handbooks, however, seemed to represent a very different epistemic reality from than the one presented by the extensive research on the production of scientific papers and documents. Authors like Bruno Latour and Karin Knorr-Cetina present the production of scientific articles as a confrontation between various parties to stabilize contrasting notions of what is real or true. Engineering-and technology in general-presents very different ideals. Truth isn't as important as functionality. This epistemological difference must transfer to documentary forms.
The second factor in my decision to study technical handbooks comes from the recent movement towards documentation as a field of study. While the term "documentation" has been interpreted in various ways in the recent past, the important consideration is a focus on realism. LIS discourse in general has turned to the use of various constructs to explore the field. Some of these constructs have dubious ontological status. As demonstrated by Frohmann xxx, even "information" may be suspect as a basis for study. In response, there has been a call to refocus our attention to those things solidly within the ken of LIS: collections, classification systems, and-most importantly-documents. Xxx Hjorland's articulation of 11 things. Throughout my academic work I have felt a growing unease with the methodologies and theoretical approaches used in LIS. My own could better be described as anthropology, sociology, or political science. Paying attention to documents represents a way of returning to core LIS principals.
Although I focus on specific documents thereby introducing a realist object of study, I adopt a framework rooted in social epistemology. Xxx MORE RESEARH ON SHERA AND SOCIAL EPISTEMOLOGY.
One of the problems with studying a documentary from as pedestrian as technical handbooks is making them sufficiently strange enough to study. Xxx Foucault? De Certeau? Geertz? Need to ground the study in something that is truly strange. Complicated by lack of background. The letters of the authors aren't maintained, etc.
Chasm of technical handbooks… there is no existing corpus of work devoted to the genre. Like an open crevasse. Ideally we want to go everywhere and do everything. My goal is to throw that first rope across at a narrow point.
Type of documentary forms that have been studied i.e., Yates, or Work Place Studies.
In my investigation of these two eras of technical handbooks, I pose three specific questions:
1. How and images used in technical handbooks?
2. How is the overall structure and order of technical handbooks determined?
3. How to text and image interact in technical handbooks?