University of Houston Downtown Communications Discussion

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Each question should be at least 150 words and please number the answers of the questions.

1) On October 19, 2021, Activision Blizzard, a rather large gaming company, published the following “Creating A More Accountable Workplace” document:

For context, AB has increasingly faced widespread accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination, leading to walkouts and at least one large lawsuit:

Activision Blizzard Employees Walk Out After Allegations of Rampant Sexism: “We love our jobs, but our jobs don’t love us back,” one worker told WIRED. “So we’re trying to change that.”

Also, see this earlier letter by AB’s CEO:

There’s more – Activision is a bit of a train wreck – but what do you make of how these two documents attempt to change or alter the situation? Explain.

2) You may have heard about NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission. NASA maintains several websites concerning it:

DART in the News

DART NASA’s First Planetary Defense Test Mission

I’ve heard NASA’s web resources described before as having a primary audience of grade-school students doing short essays. There’s some truth to that. However, that’s not all that’s going on here, rhetorically speaknig. Examine the press kit, the fact sheet, and the overall collection of materials. There is, perhaps, a general bland goal of “inform the public” here, but what other goals does NASA have for DART, from the perspective of technical communication, that you can glean from these documents?

3) This 1985 memo written by Roger Boisjoly is probably the most studied business memo in the English language. The situation is not quite ancient history, but since many of you were not born when the Challenger disaster happened, here’s an overview.

The memo did not prevent the launch. Boisjoly lost his job. The blame is quite easy to spread around as dozens of people collectively made the decision to proceed with the launch.

Wikipedia, of all places, has a great breakdown of how various individuals at NASA, including Sally Ride, gradually – and anonymously – fed evidence to the committee, notably its most famous member, Richard Feynman, that would have gotten them axed, too, before the launch. This led to Feynman demonstrating the weakness of the O-rings to Congress… with a glass of cold water.

I’ve often wondered if some of the genres of technical communication are simply not forceful enough to communicate serious messages – if, indeed, they are better suited to obfuscation than explanation. But Boisjoly did not have Congress and the nation as an audience or the sweeping authority of the commission, and Feynman had people leading him to the truth well after the fact with no risk to himself. Could Boisjoly have done any better than he did?

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