Issue 10 (2) of CDQ is the first of two special issues devoted to the theorization and analysis of the infrastructural role writing and design play within larger systems. You can download a PDF of issue 10 (2) here. Below you can find the titles, authors, and abstracts for each article in the issue.

Special issue introduction: Communication and design infrastructures

by Jordan Frith and Sarah Read

Abstract: This article is the introduction of the first of two Communication and Design Quarterly special issues focused on conceptualizations of infrastructure. This introduction explains the inspiration for these two special issues and details the growth of infrastructural research across the humanities and social sciences. This article also explains the structure of the issue and argues that the articles found across these two issues make a strong case for centering infrastructural knowledge in our work going forward.

Infrastructural support of users’ mediated potential

by Nupoor Ranade and Jason Swarts

Abstract: As one kind of designed communication, technical communication is created for readers we assume use the content for some situated purpose. Understanding users and their situations to be varied, communicators rely on simplified models of both to create usable content. In many cases, this approach works, but in some commercial sectors, companies are recognizing a need to engage with users directly and to include them in the production of communication. Including users in the production of communication may ease the burden of communicating in ways that are sufficiently detailed, accurate, inclusive, localized, and timely, but these ventures also create challenges of collaboration that direct attention to how users are situated in infrastructures that allow them to act as effective readers and collaborators. This article presents a model of users, situating them amid infrastructures that extend their ability to take rhetorical action. The authors explain and demonstrate a heuristic for analyzing infrastructure as an extension of a user’s “mediated potential” for rhetorical action.

Automated infrastructures: Participation’s changing role in postindustrial work

by John T. Sherrill and Michael J. Salvo

Abstract: As artificial intelligence (AI) automates technical and dialogic processes, technical communicators produce value through articulating complex problems, facilitating new forms of participation, and managing user-generated content via experience architecture. Automated and intelligent agents are least able to grasp the context of experiences, requiring human input/feedback for maximum performance. The examples we trace both prepare communities to embrace AI as part of the available information infrastructure and create an automated infrastructure of intelligent augmented action. Following Star’s anthropological investigation of infrastructure, we analyze organizational examples where rhetoric entangles AI, automation, generative design, additive manufacturing, gift labor, and assembly lines.

Building ethical distributed teams through sustained attention to infrastructure

by Michelle McMullin, Hadi Riad Banat, Shelton Weech, and Bradley Dilger

Abstract: Building sustainable infrastructure is a core principle of Constructive Distributed Work (CDW), an integrated approach to project management and team building. In this article, we explain the origins of CDW and describe the theory of sustainable infrastructure that underpins our approach to training, supporting, and coordinating work across a diverse and distributed team. We illustrate how mapping strategies can help us make infrastructure more visible, and therefore more available for reflection and iteration, and demonstrate how a participatory approach to developing and sustaining infrastructure helps our team maintain its commitment to more ethical and inclusive research practices.

Writing infrastructure with the Fabric of Digital Life Platform

by Katlynne Davis, Danielle Mollie Stambler, Jessica Lynn Campbell, Daniel L. Hocutt, Ann Hill Duin, and Isabel Pedersen

Abstract: Teaching writing involves helping students develop as critical communicators who use writing to question often-unseen systems of power enabled by infrastructures, including digital spaces and technologies. This article uses Walton, Moore, and Jones’ (2019) 3Ps Framework—positionality, privilege, and power—to explore how, through assignments we developed incorporating the Fabric of Digital Life digital archive, instructors can make visible to students the invisible layers of infrastructure. Using the 3Ps framework, we illustrate how our pedagogical approach encourages students to use writing to interrogate digital infrastructure and the ways it is entangled with positionality, privilege, and power.

Alternate histories and conflicting futures: Git version control as software development infrastructure

by Eric J. York

Abstract: Despite their central importance to a variety of endeavors and despite widespread use in both industry and academia, version control systems (software for tracking versions of files) have not been extensively studied in fields related to technical communication, rhetoric, and communication design. Git, by far the most dominant version control system today, is largely absent. This study theorizes Git as boundary infrastructure—infrastructure used to facilitate collaboration across disciplines and domains. The unique characteristics of boundary infrastructure explain how something as prominent as Git can be so invisible and help identify dangers posed by boundary infrastructure. Drawing on modes of resistance developed in feminist rhetorics, this article concludes with suggestions to ameliorate the negatives effects such infrastructure might have on collaborative knowledge work.