“Technically, it’s all communication” (p. 20)
Hi all and welcome to week 5!
Are you still wondering what exactly Technical Communication is? Well, lucky for you, I am a fan of the google-machine! I found this great (and somewhat short) video presentation on Technical Communication. Let me know what you think!
The past two weeks, we’ve been reading part 1 of Solving Problems in Technical Communication.
Here are a few of the takeaways:
Technical communication involves a variety of practitioners, researchers, and theorists in a range of activities. Some may describe technical communication as identifying the topics and issues that provide a focus for investigations and studies.
Technical communication mapping has fallen into three fields: (1) maps that focus on the history of technical communication; (2) maps that describe the research of technical communication; and (3) maps that identify the skills and understandings needed in the workplace.
- The history of technical communication: What are the boundaries, artifacts, and identities of technical communication?
This involves tracing the roots of technical communication and creating a map – often in the form of a collection of works – that focuses on the historical emergence of the field as we know it. The strength of historical maps lies in the way that they capture the social, political, economic, and institutional contexts. With the information provided, we can trace how and why certain genres emerged and learn more about the role technical communication played in larger social and cultural movements.
However, because technical communication can suffer from “limited detail,” the historical pieces may not provide accurate representations of social, cultural, and economic factors that some may want included in historical recollections.
- The history of technical communication: Maps of technical communication
Another common approach to mapping the boundaries, artifacts, and identities of technical communication focuses on landmarks associated with research studies. The maps focus on investigating text (documentation, online exchanges, reports), textual practices (editing, writing, revising), textual environments (digital spaces, workplaces, organizations), and intellectual approaches (theoretical frames, disciplinary perspectives, research methods) all associated with the work of technical communication. The strengths of mapping lies in being able to direct our attention to the questions that have structured the study of technical communication.
- The history of technical communication: Maps that identify the skills needed in the workplace
A third approach to mapping the field of technical communication attempts to describe the skills and understandings needed by practicing technical communication in the workplace. Skill maps can be understood as direct reflections of larger social, cultural, economic, and ideological movements that influence technical communication. Because skills maps are predicted on basic responsiveness to contemporary trends, they also offer a timely description of boundaries, artifacts, and identities of technical communication. Skills maps are usually formulated in words, like book chapters, journal articles, or magazine stories. Audiences must often read from beginning to end to comprehend specifics. Visual maps can present information economically and ways easier for the audience to understand. Visual maps may not be the best to present ideas in linear logic, but they utilize quick visual examinations which audiences can apprehend quickly – similar to looking at a graph or picture.
“Technical communication is more than just writing” (p.50). Technical communicators create videos, diagrams, websites, and other informational resources. Technical communicators are advocates for the users and ensure that the users’ needs are met. They oversee writing and editing, ultimately helping their teams communicate more effectively.
Changing work patters in technical communication include: (1) working as information designers, (2) serve as user advocates, and (3) oversee the writing activity in organizations. There is a great deal of overlap in these patterns as they run day-to-day.
“Know your audience” – perhaps the oldest rule in the book when it comes to being a good writer (p. 54). When you are writing and creating information to guide someone through a task, you must know your reader – your audience – and write accordingly. New technologies have also affected the way technical communicators work in that computers, phones, hand-held devices, etc. are used by almost everyone, so “usable” isn’t good enough. Systems must be “useful.” “Usability is a minimal requirement: necessary, but insufficient. Usefulness is a higher bar and the one that users who have a choice will demand (p. 55).