Friday, April 11, 2008

Larval Subjects on Bureaucracies

Larval Subjects, a site I have only recently discovered, has an excellent post on bureaucracy - here!

The rant is anything but incoherent.

It seems to me that, over the past decade, public sector bureaucracies have left their traditional vocation as a group of professionals charged with doing the public good to become a part of the service sector. Broader public sector workers are no longer there to provide advice in a dialectical relationship with those in power, rather, they are there to provide value-added services to their diverse set of clients (my god, that all rolls off the keyboard so easily...).

The evidence for this is everywhere. Isn't this what the CBC is doing to Radio Two?

The chilling thing is that I do not doubt the sincerity of the bureaucrats responsible for dismantling an orchestra and attempting to make CBC Radio Two more "inviting". Indeed, I suspect many of them believe they're fighting the good fight, the good fight being whatever it is they've been told to fight for. They are serving their client. That is all that matters.

In the comments, Larval Subjects makes another important point, this time about writing. These words should be given to each and every bureaucrat instead of the rules foisted upon everyone by plain/clear language industry:

...teaching writing is not simply a matter of transmitting information that the student can then replicate and reproduce as in the case of an assembly line. Rather, it is an art where the student learns an entirely new way of relating to language, thought, arguments, etc. As such, it is not the sort of thing that can be mechanized or easily standardized, though there are certainly techniques for developing these skills and improving them.

Why is this so difficult to grasp in an institutional setting? Because it's so difficult to quantify, it's labour intensive, and it's slow and painful. A rule about avoiding the passive voice is much simpler to enforce than teaching people how to use it best, to give people a feel for their own language.

It requires institutions to make a committment to better writing on an individual level, instead of a corporate communications strategy to demonstrate what "proven steps" bureaucracies are taking to communicate to the people.

The grand irony of all this "quality control" is that most participants in the system know that there is little actual quality, indeed, that it is a virtual quality, a quality on paper instead of a quality in practice.

Serve your client, show your superiors that they've been served in a quantifiable way, and you are good.

But this is not good, is it?

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