Carol S. Johnson, PhD, an associate professor in NJIT's Department of Humanities, has won the 2010 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award in Technical and Scientific Communication in the category of Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication for The Language of Work: Technical Communication at Lukens Steel, 1810-1925 (Baywood Publishing Company, Inc., 2009). The award will be announced at the 2011 Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) meeting in Atlanta in March. She is a resident of Oak Ridge.
Lukens Steel was an extraordinary business that spanned two centuries of American history. The firm rolled the first boiler plate in 1818 and operated the largest rolling mills in America in 1890, 1903, and 1918. Later it worked on the Manhattan Project and built the steel beams for the base of the World Trade Center. The company stayed in the family for 188 years, and they kept the majority of their business papers.
The Language of Work traces the evolution of written forms of communication at Lukens Steel from 1810 to 1925. As standards for iron and steel emerged and industrial processes became more complex, foremen, mechanics, and managers began to use drawing and writing to solve problems, transfer ideas, and develop new technology. This shift in communication methods—from "prediscursive" (oral) communication to "chirographic" (written) communication—occurred as technology became more complex and knowledge had to span space and time.
This richly illustrated volume begins with a theoretical overview linking technical communication to literature and describing the historical context. The analysis is separated into four time periods: 1810 to 1870, when little writing was used; 1870-1900, when Lukens Steel began to use record keeping to track product from furnace, through production, to the shipping dock; 1900-1915, when written and drawn communication spread throughout the plant and literacy became more common on the factory floor; and 1915-1925, when stenographer typists took over the majority of the written work. Over time, writing—and literacy—became an essential part of the industrial process.
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Johnson’s research draws from her interests in art, science, technology, and writing. She has published articles on the history of technical communication and the relationship of art and science. As director of the required technical communication course at NJIT, she helped develop an online portfolio assessment that meets the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology standards. She holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College in studio art and PhD from City University of New York in English. Her dissertation was a biography of Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.