Robert R. Johnson

Robert R. Johnson


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  • Professor of Rhetoric, Composition, and Technical Communication, Humanities
  • PhD, Rhetoric, Composition, and Technical Communication, Purdue University


Dr. Robert R. Johnson has been at Michigan Tech since 1999, and served as Chair of the Department of Humanities for nine years. His research interests include technical communication theory and history, rhetoric history, usability research, and the variety of relationships humans have established historically (and continue to develop) with science and technology. His book, User-centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts, was awarded the 1999 Best Book Award in Technical and Scientific Communication from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). His most recent book, Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima, was awarded the 2014 NCTE Best Book Award in Technical and Scientific Communication.

Prior to working at Michigan Tech, Johnson was a professor at Miami University–Ohio, where he served as a graduate program director. He has also consulted with a number of corporations, including Microsoft, Lenscrafters, and General Foods. In his spare time, Johnson enjoys exploring the many back-woods areas of the Upper Peninsula.

Links of Interest


  • Writing historical nonfiction and cultural histories
  • Developing technical communication theory
  • Teaching usability theory and methods
  • Rhetorical criticism
  • Technical writing


  • Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima. Praeger Press, 2012
  • Johnson, Robert R. User-centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. Print.

Recent Publications

  • (Co-authored with P. Zemliansky and H. McKee) "Challenges and Opportunities Facing Programs: A Continuation of the CPTSC Plenary Conversation." Programmatic Perspectives, Spring 2014 (in press)
  • “For the Love of Pretty Things: Remembering the Radium Girls.” The Believer/McSweeney’s Press. September 2010, pp. 27-31
  • “Craft-Knowledge: Of Disciplinarity in Writing Studies." College Composition and Communication, June 2010, 673-90
  • Rhetoric Programs Expand While Humanities Decline.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 9, 2010.
  • “Out of Proportion: Toward a Balance Among Science, Technology, Humanities, and the Arts.” The Pantaneto Forum, Spring 2010
  • “Balancing Acts: A Case for Confronting the Tyranny of STEM.” Programmatic Perspectives, March 2010, pp. 86-92.
  • "The Ubiquity Paradox: Further Thinking on the User-centered Concept." Technical Communication Quarterly, Vol. 19/4, 2009 335-51
  • "Romancing the Atom: Uranium Prospecting, Once and Again." The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society, Summer 2009, pp. 95-100
  • “Trajectories, Kairos, and Tulips: A Personal Reflection and Meditation on Programs in Rhetoric, Technical, Professional and Scientific Communication.” Programmatic Perspectives, February 2009, pp. 46-58