Ethical Deception: Student Perceptions of Diversity in College Recruitment Materials

by Chris Dayley.
The use of images of students from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds in college recruitment materials presents a seemingly difficult dilemma. Should colleges and universities use diversity in recruitment materials to try and attract students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds even if those images do not accurately represent the amount of diversity at the university? To discover student perceptions relating to this question, I used a mixed-methods approach in which I surveyed 117 students and then interviewed 10 survey participants. Survey and interview questions were based on utilitarian versus deontological ethics with an emphasis on whether exaggerating diversity in recruitment materials is ethl. The results of this exploratory study showed that most students believe using a disproportionate amount of diversity in recruitment materials is unethical. Student participants who identified as a person from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group indicated that it is unethical to exaggerate diversity in recruitment materials at a higher percentage than their white counterparts. This is likely because people from underrepresented backgrounds face a much higher risk of harm from misleading recruitment materials than their white peers.

Digital Humanities and Technical Communication Pedagogy: A Case and a Course for Cross-Program Opportunities

by Brian Ballentine
Technical communication instructors, especially those with expertise in visual rhetoric, information design, or multimedia writing are well-suited to teach an introductory Digital Humanities (DH) course. Offering a DH course provides an opportunity to reach extrafield audiences and work with students from a variety of humanities disciplines who may not have the option of taking such a course in their home department. The article advocates for a DH course that offers a methods-driven pedagogy that engages students with active learning by requiring them to research, dissect, and report on existing DH projects, as well as work with existing datasets and methods from prior student research projects or existing DH tools. The sample student project reviewed here uses the data visualization software ImagePlot, and discussion includes how the student used the tool to examine changes in brightness, hue, and color saturation, as well as calculate the total number of distinct shapes from 397 comic book covers. Ultimately, the students are tasked with developing a research question and moving to an articulated methods-driven approach for exploring the question. The student project along with the tools and sample datasets available with them are treated as a module that may be included in an introductory DH course syllabus or training session.

Experience Report: Streamlining Complex Website Design Using a Content Audit Selection Heuristic

by Amanda Altamirano and Sonia H. Stephens.
In this project experience report, we describe our experience working as researchers specializing in technical communication that informed the risk communication decisions for an interdisciplinary, grant-funded, risk communication website called HazardAware. We first discuss how content audits serve as a website design research method. Next, we provide our Content Audit Selection heuristic in a process flowchart format to enable communicators to understand how practical application of content audits serve as a formative tool to streamline the decision-making processes for complex website design content. Finally, we describe how we used the Content Audit Selection heuristic to inform the risk communication decisions for HazardAware.

Investigating Disembodied University Crisis Communications during COVID-19

by Erika Sparby and Courtney Cox.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us many weaknesses in crisis communication, especially at universities where campus communities are often rendered as disembodied monoliths. In this article, we select a case example from our own institution to show that when bodies are erased from university crisis communication, power imbalances are reinscribed that render campus community members powerless. Using a critical feminist methodology, we end with several suggestions for more inclusive embodied institutional crisis messaging.

Experience Report: Unlikely Allies in Preventing Sexual Misconduct: Student Led Prevention Efforts in a Technical Communication Classroom

by Avery Edenfield, Hailey Judd, Emmalee Fishburn, and Felicia Gallegos.
Students’ participation in relevant service learning can have a unique impact on their institution of higher education, if provided the opportunity. This article explores student-designed sexual misconduct prevention efforts taking place in an undergraduate project management course at one institution of higher education. We found that involving students in particular kinds of campus communication design and implementation simultaneously improved those efforts and offered students the opportunity to participate in impactful civic projects. In our article, we first examine the most common approach to sexual misconduct prevention, while considering its limitations. We then introduce a nontraditional collaboration—technical communication student involvement within prevention work—which resulted in new efforts. Finally, we illustrate how instructors can integrate similar collaborations.

Rewriting Sexual Violence Prevention: A Comparative Rhetorical Analysis of Online Prevention Courses in the United States and New Zealand

by Angela Myers
As part of a larger research project on the rhetoric of sexual violence prevention in online university courses, the researcher conducted rhetorical analyses of two prevention courses from the United States and New Zealand. This study analyzed the rhetorical strategies used in two courses with attention to five subcategories: content genres, ways the content addresses the audience, messaging strategies, levels of prevention, and sentence-level choices. From the analyses, the researcher recommends rhetorical considerations for prevention courses. While the New Zealand course had more effective language choices, the US course had a better overall narrative structure.

Outcomes of Training in Smart Home Technology Adoption: A living laboratory study

by David Wright, Daniel B. Shank, and Thomas Yarbrough.
While various forms of smart home technology have been available for decades, they have yet to achieve widespread adoption. Although they have risen in popularity during recent years, the general public continue to rate smart home devices as overly complex compared to their benefits. This article reports the results of an eight-month study into the effects of training on smart home technology adoption. Building upon the results of a previous study, and using the same living laboratory approach, we studied the effects of training on the attitudes of a group of residents toward use of smart home technology. Results show that training influences those attitudes toward smart home technology, including increased confidence in future use, and increased actual use of more complex smart home features. Results also indicate that users tended to seek out other users rather than training materials for advice, and that privacy concerns were not a deterrent to using smart home devices.

Experience Report: Using a Hybrid Card Sorting-Affinity Diagramming Method to Teach Content Analysis

by Kristin Marie Bivens & Candice A. Welhausen.
In this teaching experience report, we describe a research experience for undergraduates (REUs) designed to cognitively support the work of two student research assistants (RAs) from a two-year college (2YC) on a funded project that involved analyzing user-generated content for an mHealth app. First, we suggest partnerships between two- and four-year institutions as a move toward REU equity because students from 2YCs are not typically afforded these opportunities. We then review the role of research in undergraduate learning and posit the importance of scaffolding to sequence cognitive leaps. Finally, we present the cognitive scaffolding we created and connect it to our hybrid card sorting affinity diagramming content analysis method.

Experience Report: Technical Content Marketing Along the Technology Adoption Lifecycle

by Scott A. Mogull.
This article provides an overview of technical content marketing and examines the audiences and messaging for technical product messaging, which differ from general consumer products. Notably, technical products, particularly those in innovative categories, require a varying marketing strategy throughout the technology adoption lifecycle as products appeal to customers with different attitudes towards technologies. Especially, content marketing for innovative technologies requires an understanding of the technical consumers’ (or audiences’) psychological motivations and needs, which have yet to be reviewed in the technical communication literature. In this article, the foundations of marketing innovative technical products are explored, with a specific focus on the messaging strategies as it changes to educate and persuade different categories of technology consumers during different phases of the technology adoption lifecycle. For new technical products and categories of products, the messages and channels of information evolve as the technical innovation progresses from the early market to a mainstream market, with both requiring adaptation to different audience segments and in response to emerging competitive pressures. For the majority of technical innovations, the technical content marketing strategy and messaging is a long-term investment for change to reach different consumer groups at the appropriate stage of the technical product life cycle.

Rhetorical Hedonism and Gray Genres

by Jimmy Butts and Josephine Walwema.
As technical genres continue to grow and morph in promising new directions, we attempt an analysis of what are typically viewed as mundane genres. We use the term gray genres, which we find useful for interrogating texts that tend to fall in categories that tend toward a blandness that is invariably difficult to quantify. We use hedonism, along with a historical accounting for this value from its classical rhetorical lineage and run it up to contemporary applications. We posit that playful stylistic choices—while typically discouraged in more technical spaces—actually improves the rhetorical canon of delivery for informative documents. We close with case studies that offer close readings of a few attempts at employing hedonistic tactics within typical gray genres.