Stories and Maps: Postmodernism and Professional Communication

Johndan Johnson-Eilola

From Stories to Maps

Communication used to be about telling stories, about listening to narratives of discovery, learning, redemption, and war. Not just little stories, but big stories: heaven, hell, utopia.

Relatively recently, though, the map has started to replace the story as our fundamental way of knowing. The new emphasis on spatial rather than temporal or historical concerns goes by a number of titles—postcapitalism, networked workplaces, nonhierarchical management—but the most popular (and often misunderstood) is postmodernism.

In this text, I sketch out some of the ways that postmodernist tendencies affect the careers and possibilities for business and technical communicators. Briefly, I see the potential for increased responsibility, prestige, and influence for business and technical communicators, but only if we are able to reconceive what we think of as the value of our work; that is, we must reposition ourselves as mapmakers rather than authors.

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