ADDICTED TO MEANINGHOW GOOD TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION     IS LIKE BAD MAGIC TRICKS              Kai Weber            @techwr...
PROGRAM  Intro: Who am I and what do I know?1. What is meaning…   … and why should technical communicators care?2. How doe...
WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I KNOW?
WHAT IS MEANING?         Wisdom       Nothing lasts...        Knowledge     Used to be File menu        Information   Open...
WHAT IS MEANING?            Wisdom       Nothing lasts... MEANING           Knowledge     Used to be File menu           I...
WHAT IS MEANING?   Can be in information, more valuable in knowledge   Allows us to “connect the dots”   Answers “why s...
WHY SHOULD TECHNICAL COMMUNICATORS CARE?It’s what we do:Turn information into relevant & applicable knowledgeProof in tech...
HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION         Omits meaning!   Shannon & Weaver (1949) – process theory
HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATIONCommunication: Production and exchange of meanings… … by people interacting with messa...
HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION                   Message: “Signs”                 Conventions: “Codes”Sender          ...
HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION                             Semiotics                Tech Comm                         ...
WHY DOES MEANING FAIL IN TECH COMM?   Aren’t message, conventions, and media clear?   There is no meaning    but the one...
HOW WE CREATE MEANINGWe combine our current situation…… with past experience…… by matching mental models.   Semi-consciou...
HOW WE CREATE MEANING
HOW WE CREATE MEANING
HOW WE CREATE MEANINGImage credit: jwarletta
HOW WE CREATE MEANING
HOW WE CREATE MEANINGMental models Flexible and adaptable, within limits Support meaningful knowledge       How we appr...
HOW WE CREATE MEANINGMental models Flexible and adaptable, within limits Support meaningful knowledge       How we appr...
WHY WE CREATE MEANINGWe are addicted to meaning!   Conspiracy theories   Pop lyrics, “mondegreens”   Logos       Janof...
WHY WE CREATE MEANINGWe are addicted to meaning!   Because we want to understand and do stuff:    What does this mean? Ho...
WHAT IS MEANINGFUL USER ASSISTANCE?1. Relevant to user, applicable to stituation2. Or a way ahead, a workaround3. Or an ex...
HOW TO CREATE MEANINGFUL USER ASSISTANCE1. Understand how we create meaning2. Adjust to mental models of users    Observe...
FURTHER READING AND SOURCES1.   DIKW Pyramid2.   Shannon & Weaver’s process theory (1949)3.   Fiske on semiotics (1990) (c...
THANK YOU! KEEP IN TOUCH!@techwriterkai                            kaiweber.wordpress.com
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Kai Weber - Addicted to meaning - tcworld 121023 public

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Transcript of "Kai Weber - Addicted to meaning - tcworld 121023 public"

  1. 1. ADDICTED TO MEANINGHOW GOOD TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION IS LIKE BAD MAGIC TRICKS Kai Weber @techwriterkai #tcworld12 - 23 October 2012
  2. 2. PROGRAM Intro: Who am I and what do I know?1. What is meaning… … and why should technical communicators care?2. How does meaning work in communication… … and why does it still fail in tech comm? Semiotics3. How and why we create meaning… … and how to create meaningful documentation? Mental models
  3. 3. WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I KNOW?
  4. 4. WHAT IS MEANING? Wisdom Nothing lasts... Knowledge Used to be File menu Information Open, Save, Print Data Office 2007
  5. 5. WHAT IS MEANING? Wisdom Nothing lasts... MEANING Knowledge Used to be File menu Information Open, Save, Print Data Office 2007
  6. 6. WHAT IS MEANING? Can be in information, more valuable in knowledge Allows us to “connect the dots” Answers “why should I care?” and “what do I do?” Turns information into relevant & applicable knowledge
  7. 7. WHY SHOULD TECHNICAL COMMUNICATORS CARE?It’s what we do:Turn information into relevant & applicable knowledgeProof in tech comm principles & methods: Know your audience! … so documentation is relevant to reader Task-oriented documentation …so documentation is applicable in situation
  8. 8. HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION Omits meaning! Shannon & Weaver (1949) – process theory
  9. 9. HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATIONCommunication: Production and exchange of meanings… … by people interacting with messages… … in cultural contexts. Fiske (1990) – semiotics
  10. 10. HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION Message: “Signs” Conventions: “Codes”Sender Receiver Media: “Channels” Culture: “Context” Fiske (1990) – semiotics
  11. 11. HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION Semiotics Tech Comm diagnoses problems offers solutions Represent “stuff” Definitions clarify withMessage: “Signs” arbitrarily images and glossaries Include or exclude Language standardsConventions: “Codes” social or ethnic groups ensure accessibility Allow or restrict Social media inviteMedia: “Channels” feedback collaboration
  12. 12. WHY DOES MEANING FAIL IN TECH COMM? Aren’t message, conventions, and media clear? There is no meaning but the one created by the reader. > TC: Sometimes “meaningless” Each individual situation is a new beginning, another page one. > TC: FAQs rarely work von Foerster (1949ff.) – radical constructivism
  13. 13. HOW WE CREATE MEANINGWe combine our current situation…… with past experience…… by matching mental models. Semi-consciously selected, incomplete images What (we think) we understand of the world Shape how we face the world  What (we think) our options are  How we try to solve problems  How confident we are in what we do
  14. 14. HOW WE CREATE MEANING
  15. 15. HOW WE CREATE MEANING
  16. 16. HOW WE CREATE MEANINGImage credit: jwarletta
  17. 17. HOW WE CREATE MEANING
  18. 18. HOW WE CREATE MEANINGMental models Flexible and adaptable, within limits Support meaningful knowledge  How we approach a task  How we react to a problem  How we look for help Inert, uncontrollable
  19. 19. HOW WE CREATE MEANINGMental models Flexible and adaptable, within limits Support meaningful knowledge  How we approach a task  How we react to a problem  How we look for help Inert, uncontrollable In tech comm: Designer vs. user  Norman (1988)
  20. 20. WHY WE CREATE MEANINGWe are addicted to meaning! Conspiracy theories Pop lyrics, “mondegreens” Logos  Janoff (1977) Image credit: Marcin Wichary
  21. 21. WHY WE CREATE MEANINGWe are addicted to meaning! Because we want to understand and do stuff: What does this mean? How does this work? Because we seek order: How does this hang together? How to connect the dots?
  22. 22. WHAT IS MEANINGFUL USER ASSISTANCE?1. Relevant to user, applicable to stituation2. Or a way ahead, a workaround3. Or an explanation4. Or understanding and sympathy
  23. 23. HOW TO CREATE MEANINGFUL USER ASSISTANCE1. Understand how we create meaning2. Adjust to mental models of users  Observe user behaviour  Offer several paths: Tasks and roles/personas  Serve inertia3. Apply minimalism  Assist users in connecting the dots  Focus on process and outcome, not product  Encourage skills and experimentation
  24. 24. FURTHER READING AND SOURCES1. DIKW Pyramid2. Shannon & Weaver’s process theory (1949)3. Fiske on semiotics (1990) (chapters 3 & 4)4. von Foerster on radical constructivism (interviews in German)5. Mental models  in user interfaces  Norman: The Design of Everyday Things (1988)6. Mondegreens in pop lyrics7. Creating meaning in Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight”8. Janoff, designing the Apple logo (1977)9. Carroll on minimalism (1998), (esp. chapter 2)
  25. 25. THANK YOU! KEEP IN TOUCH!@techwriterkai kaiweber.wordpress.com
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