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Jonathan Eisner ENC 1102 Genre Analysis Rough Draft Engineering Blueprints

Introduction to Discourse Communities

Something that many people consciously or subconsciously do is associate certain groups with a kind of generalization about them. These groups could also be called communities specifically, discourse communities. A discourse community is a group of people that, according to a John Swales, a prominent writer on the topic, link together for a common purpose and share certain characteristics. These discourse communities generally follow six guidelines. As described by Swales, each discourse community: A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals; A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members; A discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback; A discourse community utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims; In addition to owning genres, a discourse community has acquired a specific lexis; A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise (Swales, 24-27). An example of this, and also the one that will be focused on throughout this essay, is the engineering discourse community. The engineering discourse community is a rather broad macro-discourse community. This essay will be focusing on the more specific micro-discourse community of aerospace and mechanical engineers. Specifically, this essay will be focused on the genres of aerospace and mechanical engineering discourse communities, why the genres are vital to the communities, and how they are used in them.

Introduction to the term Genre

Prior to discussing the genres of the aerospace and mechanical engineering discourse communities, there should be clarification of the exact implication of the term genre. The term genre is one that has significant debate surrounding it in the literary discourse community. The meaning of the word is going through a critical change. However, most people outside of the literary discourse community only know of its classical meaning. This would be that it is a way of categorizing works into different subjects, such as categorizing music as rock/R&B/classical. The contemporary meaning of genre and how a genre originates is more complex. In Devitt, Bawarshi, and Reiffs article Materiality and Genre in the Study of Discourse Communities, Bawarshi cites Charles Bazermans definition that genres are not just forms. Genres are forms of life, ways of being. They are frames for social action [,. . .] locations within which meaning is constructed. Genres shape the thoughts we form and the communications by which we interact. Genres are the familiar places we go to create intelligible communicative action with each other and the guideposts we use to explore the unfamiliar. (Bazerman quoted in Devitt, Bawarshi, Reiff, 550). This implies that genres are, in a way, standardized means for which discourse communities have evolved to communicate and spread information. Amy Devitt, in her article Generalizing about Genre, references Lloyd Bitzer statement that Due to either the nature of things or convention, or both, some situations recur.... From day to day, year to year, comparable situations occur, prompting comparable responses; hence rhetorical forms are born and a special vocabulary, grammar, and style are established. (Bitzer quoted in Devitt, 576). These repeated situations are what the genres are made to respond to, and the rhetorical forms, specialized vocabulary, grammar, and style are characteristics that make up the genre. Every discourse community has its own unique genres can be easily understood by outsiders or that are

understood by only a select few. For all intents and purpose, this is the definition of genre that will be used throughout this essay.

Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Genres

To investigate the significance of certain genres in the aerospace and mechanical engineering discourse communities, there are three blueprints that will be analyzed in this essay. Blueprints are one of the most well-known genres of the engineering discourse communities. Blueprints are used when there is a completed design of an object and it needs to be visually revealed to those attempting to build or repair the object. The first blueprint is that of a Boeing Saturn V rocket (Appendix A); the second is that of a space shuttle (Appendix B); and the third is of the N.A.S.A. SkyLab Space Station (Appendix C). This essay will look into what is contained in the blueprints, how it is structured, and what those characteristics mean for the genre and its discourse community.

When looking at the content of the blueprints, we see common characteristics within each of the three. The rocket blueprint has a diagram of the rocket itself, the list of parts comprising the rocket, the sizes of each part, and a scale for the diagram. (See Appendix A). The shuttle blueprint too has a diagram of the shuttle and the names of the parts. (See Appendix B). Furthermore, the SkyLab blueprint has a diagram of the SkyLab, the names of the parts, and the names of certain sections of the SkyLab. (See Appendix C). These common characteristics show that the aerospace and mechanical engineering discourse communities live up to a common stereotype that engineers need to visually, mentally, or physically break things down into parts and subsections so that they can see how those objects really work and are comprised. So supports the idea that blueprints are primarily used to break things down so that they can be

understood on a more specific level. The broad aspect of blueprints is useful in allowing outsiders to understand what is being communicated by the engineering discourse community. They can see what the object will look like because of the diagram and can look at how many parts go into the making of it. This is a very superficial level of understanding, however. The more completely understanding of the blueprint will be discussed later in this essay.

Further into analyzing the blueprints, prominent features that can also be seen in all three of them are those concerning the design of the diagrams and the way the parts are named. The rocket diagram is highly shaded in grey and white, 3-dimensional, and examined in a crosssection. (See Appendix A). The shuttle diagram is also shaded in grey in white, is 3dimensional, is transparent, and has magnified images of certain interior parts. (See Appendix B). Lastly, the SkyLab diagram is grey and white shaded, is 3-dimensional, and is partially transparent. (See Appendix C). The transparency, cross sections, and magnified images all help to provide secondary blueprints for the interior of the designs. The 3-dimensional, shaded, and transparent, and cross-sectioned features reveal that the engineers that make the blueprints might be required to have sufficient knowledge of shaded sketching or computer 3-D designing. Also, the detail put into the diagrams show that the diagram is vital to an engineering using the blueprint. If one were to look at the specific names of the rocket parts, they would see a part called the LH2 Recirculation System 5 Places. (See Appendix A). Similarly, if one were to look at the shuttle blueprint, they would see a part with the label TYPICAL WING CARRYTHRU FRAME (INTEGRALLY MACHINED WITH BORON/ALUMINUM TRUSS MEMBERS); and if one were to look at the SkyLab blueprint, they would notice a part that says TACS Spheres (22), Pneumatic Sphere). (See Appendix B, Appendix C). The names of the parts are such that someone not educated in the topic or accustomed to working with the

blueprint would have a hard time understanding what the parts actually were. So is where the genre requires previous knowledge of technical parts. This has also helped to create the notion that engineers have their own language revolving around tools, structures, and physics.

The way in which the blueprints are structured and formed further reveals traits of the aerospace and mechanical engineering communities and their genres. The structure of the blueprint genres emphasizes the fact that the engineering discourse community is very hands-on, practical, logical, and applied. This is especially evident in the rocket blueprint and the SkyLab blueprint. The parts in the rocket blueprint are placed under categories and have their sizes placed next to them. (See Appendix A). The SkyLab blueprints parts are also placed into categories such as airlock module and orbital workshop. (See Appendix C). In the rocket and shuttle blueprints are arrows connecting the parts to their location on the diagrams, which are centrally located on the blueprints. In the SkyLab blueprint, the parts are labeled numerically so that a number can be placed on each parts respective location in the centrally located diagram. These parts being categorized and their locations being shown in the diagram help prove that the engineering genres of blueprints are meant to explain things in a simple and logical manner. However, if an outsider were to attempt to apply their broad understanding of the genre to life and follow the blueprint to build the object in it, they would most likely have difficulty. This is because the applied understanding of a blueprint requires previous engineering skill.

Closing Comments

The blueprint genre of aerospace and mechanical engineering discourse communities is one that is basic and easy to understand when it comes to the broad layout. However, that is a more superficial understanding. The true understanding of it requires one to understand the

layout, the content, and how to apply what the genre states to life. In many cases though, people with only a broad understanding of the genre are encouraged to use it. Examples of this could include a company looking to purchase the design for a spacecraft from an engineering and designing firm and want to see the basic structure and parts of that spacecraft. Those engineers that use these genres as instructions to build or repair an object must have a thorough understanding of the form, content, and application of the genre. In many cases, blueprints for certain designs are difficult to recover. This is due to the fact that the designer might not want others to be able to recreate their designs. However, the three blueprints I used are of spacecraft that is no longer being used today and no longer need to be kept confidential. The blueprints helped to show the significance/important genres have to their discourse communities and how one can find out a lot about a discourse community from its genre.

Citations: Galbraitha, David. "Boeing Saturn 5 Configuration Drawing." Oobject RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://www.oobject.com/12-nasa-blueprints/boeingsaturn-5-configuration-drawing/8344/>. "Space-modelers 2010 Vault Archive." Ninfinger Productions: Space Modelers Email List 2010 Vault. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://www.ninfinger.org/models/vault2010/FusStructISO2000.gif> United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Untitled Document. By Kipp Teague. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <http://history.nasa.gov/diagrams/skylab.html>. Swales, John M. The Concept of Discourse Community. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP 1990, pg.21-32. Print. Devitt, Amy J., Anis Bawarshi, and Mary Jo Reiff. Materiality and Genre in the Study of Discourse Communities. 65.5 (2003): 541-557. Web. 16 Sept. 2013 Devitt, A.J.,(1993). Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 44 (4) pp.575-584

Appendix A

App

Appendix B

Appendix C

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