Transcript of "Kai Weber - Addicted to meaning - tcworld 121023 public"
ADDICTED TO MEANINGHOW GOOD TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION IS LIKE BAD MAGIC TRICKS Kai Weber @techwriterkai #tcworld12 - 23 October 2012
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
WHAT IS MEANING? Wisdom Nothing lasts... Knowledge Used to be File menu Information Open, Save, Print Data Office 2007
WHAT IS MEANING? Wisdom Nothing lasts... MEANING Knowledge Used to be File menu Information Open, Save, Print Data Office 2007
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
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
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 messages… … in cultural contexts. Fiske (1990) – semiotics
HOW MEANING WORKS IN COMMUNICATION Message: “Signs” Conventions: “Codes”Sender Receiver Media: “Channels” Culture: “Context” Fiske (1990) – semiotics
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
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
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
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
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)
WHY WE CREATE MEANINGWe are addicted to meaning! Conspiracy theories Pop lyrics, “mondegreens” Logos Janoff (1977) Image credit: Marcin Wichary
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?
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
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
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)
THANK YOU! KEEP IN TOUCH!@techwriterkai kaiweber.wordpress.com
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