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From Multimedia to Social Media to Augmented and Virtual Reality April 2019


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From Multimedia to Social Media to Augmented and Virtual Reality: Changing Technologies and their Use in Technical Communication presented by Jeremy Merritt on 24 April 2019

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From Multimedia to Social Media to Augmented and Virtual Reality April 2019

  1. 1. From Multimedia to Social Media to Augmented and Virtual Reality Changing Technologies and their Use in Technical Communication Jeremy R. Merritt, MTSC For STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter April 24, 2019
  2. 2. Outline • Technical Communication and Technology • The Academy-Industry Gap • Social/Networked Technologies • Augmented and Virtual Reality • Technological Literacy • Implications for Tech Comm Practice • Thinking about the Future of Our Field
  3. 3. Technical Communication and Technology A Symbiotic Relationship
  4. 4. A Long Relationship • Technical communication as a parallel to scientific and technological developments dates back to at least the 1950s (Durack, 2003) • “The tools we use are intimately connected with our roles as technical communication professionals and as teachers of technical communication. They affect expectations about our productivity in the workplace and about the nature of our work itself. They affect expectations about our roles and capabilities, about our autonomy.” (p. 571) • Technology makes technical communication distinctive (Dobrin, 1983) • A definition for technical writing: “Writing that accommodates technology to the user” (Dobrin, 1983, p. 118)
  5. 5. Software and Technologies Used in Tech Comm Today • “Software for software” • Coding, Structured authoring, Code commenting • Content creation and management • Graphic design and layout/DTP, Video editing, Audio editing, CMS, DMS • Usability and UX • Examples: Eye-tracking and video recording devices • Other tools • Project management, Presentation tools
  6. 6. Workplace Expectations for Technical Communicators • Competency (baseline) • Educability • Adaptability
  7. 7. The Academy-Industry Gap Challenges and Opportunities
  8. 8. Challenges • A gap between academic and practical tech comm (Albers, 2016) • “[a]cademics’ research is poorly communicated to practitioners. An unsurprising but disconcerting statement, considering that technical communication is inherently practical” . . . “Simultaneously, there is a gulf of communicating practitioner needs to the academics” (p. 293) • Lack of research question alignment (St. Amant & Melonçon, 2016) • Differences in expectations, reward structures (Blakeslee & Spilka, 2004)
  9. 9. Opportunities • Academy-industry collaborations • Research questions aligned with industry needs • Regular conversations • Organizational partnerships (e.g., STC)
  10. 10. Examples of Research Spaces • Emerging Technologies Research Collaboratory (ETRC) - University of Minnesota ( • Writing, Information, and Digital Experience (WIDE) - Michigan State University ( • Digital Writing and Research Lab (DWRL) - University of Texas at Austin (
  11. 11. Social/Networked Technologies Web 2.0 and Beyond
  12. 12. Growth of Web 2.0 and Social Media • Technology and user experience are … • Social • Participatory • Iterative • “We are all technical communicators” (Kimball, 2017) • Social web usability (Breuch, 2019)
  13. 13. Virtual Workspaces • “Traditional views” of workspaces no longer suffice • Workspaces, like technology and user experience, are social and networked • Example - Pigg (2014): Social media’s role in distributed work • Workspace and technology are inseparable • “People” (audiences) are networked, ethereal • Technical communicators must continually adapt to these changing realities
  14. 14. Example 1. First thing: Check email; review calendar. 2. Meet with field sales reps in Malaysia via WebEx. 3. Conduct a focus group UX session in a makeshift lab. 4. Communicate with users via Facebook about product issues (recently added to your responsibilities list). 5. Create a product information video using recently developed skills in Adobe Premiere. 6. Check email again (because you didn’t have time to do it since first thing this morning).
  15. 15. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) New Frontiers in User Experience and Technical Communication
  16. 16. Definitions • Augmented reality: an element of user experience layered upon an existing reality • Examples: ZapWorks, Google Sky Map, Pokemon Go • Virtual reality: a technologically mediated reality in which the parameters of user experience may be independent from the user’s schema • Examples: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR
  17. 17. Image courtesy of Ann Hill Duin. Forthcoming in Duin, Armfield, & Pedersen.
  18. 18. AR/VR in UX and Tech Comm • User expectations • The example of AR (Duin, Armfield, & Pedersen, in press) • One way to think about and study content development and content strategy in augmented reality is to consider the role of the designer and the designer’s participation in that design as both the designer and the audience. To understand the participatory design approach to content development, we focus on empathy, accessibility, usability, and universal design, where ‘pragmatic interpretations [of participatory design] have focused increasingly on effective design and participation as a means for matching user needs with the affordances of new technologies’ (Frauenberger, et al., 2015, p. 93).” -- Bold added for emphasis
  19. 19. Image courtesy of Ann Hill Duin. Forthcoming in Duin, Armfield, & Pedersen.
  20. 20. “Therefore, human-centered content design for augmented reality is about designing for this total experience, this augmented journey. As content designers, we move beyond document design and usability of a product toward embracing the total experience. Human-centered content design for augmented reality requires intense focus on seeing audience as immersed in journeys.” (Duin, Armfield, & Pedersen, in press) AR/VR in UX and Tech Comm
  21. 21. AR/VR in UX and Tech Comm 1. Authenticity -- What is my audience’s point of view? Is it controlled by the user or independent of the user? Is it meaningful? Is it credible (ethos?) 2. Embodiment -- How might I position the audience in this augmented place? 3. Empathy -- Why does my audience think or feel in certain ways? 4. Accessibility -- Can my audience access or experience the augmented environment? 5. Usability -- Is the environment usable for various audiences? 6. Experience -- What journeys does my audience seek and how might I augment each experience? 7. Immersion -- How might the augmentation allow me to create experiences not possible in the physical world? How might I stretch and magnify the audience’s role? (Duin, Armfield, & Pedersen, in press)
  22. 22. Technological Literacy its Importance in Technical Communication
  23. 23. Literacies in Technical Communication • Basic • Rhetorical • Social • Technological • Ethical • Critical Layered Literacies (Cargile Cook, 2002) • Functional • Rhetorical • Critical Multiliteracies (Selber, 2004) • Digital (Spilka, 2009)
  24. 24. Technological Literacy in Tech Comm • A working knowledge of technologies that helps professional communicators to produce communications, documents, or products; • An awareness of how these technologies promote social interactions and collaboration; • An ability to research how users work with technologies; and • An ability to critique this research and act upon it to make decisions and produce documents designed with and for users (Cargile Cook, 2002, p. 13) Technological literacy becomes part of, but not the only one of, important components in coordinating UX, content design, and the technologies that underlie them.
  25. 25. Implications for Tech Comm Practice Making Technology Relevant to What We Do
  26. 26. Reflections on the Status of Technology in Tech Comm Dr. Lisa Melonçon, University of South Florida “[T]he basic tenets of tech comm have not changed . . . and we can't lose focus of these primary skills, particularly audience analysis, and our use of words, images, etc. Actually, audience analysis becomes even more important in these new spaces.” “[We need to continue] building a technological literacy that moves across tools and platforms; this is done through listening to SMEs or being unafraid to play and practice and experiment.” (Communication with Lisa Melonçon, April 20, 2019)
  27. 27. Expectations and Realities • Competency (baseline) • Educability • Adaptability • Question: How do these expectations and realities bear out in (a) today’s workplace and (b) the “larger picture” of our work as technical communicators?
  28. 28. Thinking about the Future of Our Field
  29. 29. Questions to Consider • As technical communicators, how do we stay current with (and ahead of) technological change? • How do we anticipate and respond to user expectations? • How do we anticipate and respond to employer expectations? • How do we utilize technology to improve our own experiences as technical communicators?
  30. 30. Acknowledgements For contributing, thematically and conceptually, to this session: • Dr. Ann Hill Duin, University of Minnesota • Dr. Lisa Melonçon, University of South Florida • Dr. Jason Tham, University of Minnesota / Texas Tech University For helping to make this session possible: • Karen Levine, STC - Philadelphia Metro Chapter • Joan Blumberg, Drexel University
  31. 31. Thank You Jeremy R. Merritt, MTSC PhD Candidate and Graduate Instructor Department of Writing Studies University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Email: LinkedIn: jeremymerritt
  32. 32. References Albers, M. J. (2016). Improving research communication. Technical Communication, 63(4), 293-297. Blakeslee, A. M., & Spilka, R. (2004). The state of research in technical communication. Technical Communication Quarterly, 13(1), 73-92. Cargile Cook, K. (2002). Layered literacies: A theoretical frame for technical communication pedagogy. Technical Communication Quarterly, 11(1), 5-29. Dobrin, D. N. (1983). What’s technical about technical writing?. In P. V. Anderson, R. J. Brockman, & C. R. Miller (Eds.), New essays in technical and scientific communication: Research, theory, practice (vol. 2) (pp. 227-250). New York: Routledge. Duin, A.H., Armfield, D., & Pedersen, I. (in press). Human-centered content design in augmented reality. In G. Getto, N. Franklin, S. Ruszkiewicz, and J. Labriola (Eds.), Context is everything: Teaching content strategy. ATTW Book Series in Technical and Professional Communication. Breuch, L.. K. (2019). Involving the audience: A rhetorical perspective on using social media to improve websites. Routledge. Durack, K. (2003). From the moon to the microchip: Fifty years of Technical Communication. Technical Communication, 50(4), 571-584. Kimball, M. A. (2017). The golden age of technical communication. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 47(3), 330-358. Pigg, S. (2014). Coordinating constant invention: Social media's role in distributed work. Technical Communication Quarterly, 23(2), 69-87. Selber, S. A. (2004). Multiliteracies for a digital age. SIU Press. Spilka, R. (Ed.). (2009). Digital literacy for technical communication: 21st century theory and practice. Routledge. St. Amant, K., & Meloncon, L. (2016b). Reflections on research: Examining practitioner perspectives on the state of research in technical communication. Technical Communication, 63(4), 346-364.