Abstract of “A Technical Perspective on Creative Arts” by Michelle Gorges. For those of us who have ever taken a Gen Ed class that we found uninteresting, challenging, or irrelevant (which, I don’t doubt, includes just about every university attendee since the academy’s creation), we have likely found ourselves asking “Why do I even need to take this class?” In my own English Comp classroom, Automotive Technology students capable of rebuilding an engine panic when asked to write a personal narrative; Engineering students who can comfortably design new technologies roll their eyes when assigned to analyze a satirical story; and Graphic Design students proficient in website creation avoid eye contact in the hope that I will not call on them for literary interpretation. Creative Arts classes often bring out this reaction in students of “non-creative” majors. Students who have been trained to exemplify modem marketable skills (critical thinking, problem-solving, even written communication) frequently struggle to apply those same skills to assignments labeled “Creative Arts.” Instead, they try to alter their work approach in order to emulate teachers or students within the unfamiliar field. Although this emulation strategy often results in a passing grade, it also frequently results in mild disinterest or worst-full-on boredom.
For those of us who have attended dependent Technical Writing programs (that is, Technical Writing programs within larger English programs), we have likely encountered a similar feeling of frustration in mandatory Literature courses. Assignments like poetic interpretations, literary analysis, and fiction writing feel unfamiliar after our training with technical material and our professors’ incessant reminders to leave as little room for interpretation (and therefore miscommunication) as possible. Like our peers in Technology courses (Auto Tech, Engineering, Graphic Design), we have been trained to think “mechanically” –to break down and rebuild complex materials for the benefit of our audience. Just as my Technology majors grow frustrated when I assign a personal narrative, Tech Writing students struggle to relinquish their mechanical approach to writing and analyzing when given Creative Arts assignments. Rather than continuing with these apathetic attempts to emulate our Creative Arts classmates, I propose that we embrace our technical training and apply it to those same assignments. In other words, I propose that we implement what the academy has so persistently reminded us to market as “critical thinking skills” and approach Creative Arts courses as another problem-solving exercise. The problem: we do not see the connection between Creative Arts and our Technology degrees; the solution: we make that connection ourselves.
In order to better explain this approach to technical-creative study, I will be analyzing the Literature assignment that led me to implement it in the first place. The assignment, which was assigned to me in yet another mandatory Literature class, was certainly not unwelcome. I enjoyed the professor, my classmates, and even the course content. However, once again I could hear a small voice in the back of my mind asking, “But what does this have to do with Technical Writing?” It was this question that prompted me to complete the assignment in a technical creative-fashion, and it was the resulting technical-literary analysis that prompted me to share my approach with the greater Technology student body. And so I have elected to write this essay in the hope that other “non-creative” majors may benefit from my findings.
Gorges, Michelle and McDaniel, Jamie, "A Technical Perspective on Creative Art" (2015). Paper Presentations. 16.