Humor and technical communication: the culture, the texts, the implications

Date
1996
Authors
Hurley, Kathleen
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Michael Mendelson
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Altmetrics
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English
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English
Abstract

This study argues that, for both practical and theoretical reasons, scholarly inquiry is needed in the area of humor and professional communication: specifically, the humor that technical writers are incorporating into technical texts. To address this need, the study approaches humor from a social perspective which assumes that discourse is understood within the contextualized activity within which it occurs;Interdisciplinary humor research is explored, and from these studies specific contextual elements which impact discourse are identified: humor stimuli, expectations, values, participant relationships, and group relationships. However, existing research concentrates on the identification of these elements from a serious perspective, and this present study further argues that humor needs to be understood from within the humor context within which humor operates most freely;Drawing upon the writings of Michael Mulkay and, to a greater extent, Mikhail Bakhtin's Rabelais and His World, this study develops a social theory of humor which explains humor from within such a humor context, specifically the office humor culture which is part of the workplace of professional communicators;Finally, this study applies the theory that is developed in four ways: it presents a sampling of office-humor texts, a synthesis of the subject matter in those texts, comparisons of office humor and humor in technical documents, and a single example which produced differing interpretations.

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