Along the Cow Path: Technical Communication Within a Jewish Cemetery

by Alexander Slotkin
Technical communication and user experience studies traditionally uphold Western onto-epistemological distinctions between technical users and objects. Recent calls for the inclusion of cultural approaches to technical communication, however, have asked scholars to consider the influence cultural knowledge has on communication design. This article takes up these calls by reading technical documentation through new materialist and Indigenous ways of knowing. Using a prominent Jewish cemetery in Gainesville, Florida as a case study, this article treats technical artifacts and subjects as co-constitutive, arguing for the cultural and material agency of technical documentation design in mediating and shaping user experience.

Implementing a transactional design model to ensure the mindful development of public-facing science communication projects

by Claire Lauer.
This paper introduces the concept of transactional design—integrating Druschke’s “transactional” model of rhetoric and science and Kinsella’s model of “public expertise”—to demonstrate how technical communication and user experience (UX) designers and researchers can play an essential role in helping scientists cultivate meaningful relationships with members of the public toward the goal of making scientific content more accessible and actionable. This paper reports on the challenges that arose when a water modeling system built for experts was adapted for a public museum audience. It discusses specific issues the UX team had in contending with outdated “deficit” and “conduit” models of communication when working with scientists to adapt the system; it provides a checklist for steps that technical communication and UX designers and researchers—as those who best understand audiences and work directly with users—can champion the idea of transactional design to setup knowledge-making partnerships toward the co-construction of public-facing scientific communication projects.

Prototyping and Public Art: Design and Field Studies in Locative Media

by Brett Oppegaard
This experience report shares lessons learned from a multi-staged prototyping process, over a five-year period, that involved the creation and iterative development of a mobile platform and dozens of prototype examples of interactive locative-media artifacts, including locative journalism. Thematically linked to a public art collection, the mobile app was designed as a research instrument aimed at an external audience of passersby, actively using smartphones. This paper documents and outlines key decisions made about the platform and content in response to observed experiences. It also identifies emergent areas of research potential intertwined in the undertaking of such a prototyping process.

Using Bayesian Induction Methods in Risk Assessment and Communication

by J.D. Applen
Bayes’s theorem allows us to use subjective thinking to find numerical values to formulate assessments of risk. It is more than a mathematical formula; it can be thought of as an iterative process that challenges us to imagine the potential for “unknown, unknowns.” The heuristics involved in this process can be enhanced if they take into consideration some of the established risk assessment and communication models used today in technical communication that are concerned with the social construction of meaning and the kairos involved in rhetorical situations. Understanding the connection between Bayesian analysis and risk communication will allow us to better convey the potential for risk that is based on probabilistic assumptions.

Social Media in Professional, Technical, and Scientific Communication Programs: A Heuristic to Guide Future Use

by Jennifer Roth Miller, Brandy Dieterle, Jennifer deWinter, and Stephanie Vie
This article reports on the results of a research study supported by a CPTSC research grant that analyzed programmatic use of social media in professional, technical, and scientific communication programs (TPCs). This mixed-methods study included a survey of TPC program administrators (n = 29), an inventory of TPCs’ social media account use (n = 70), and an inventory of TPCs’ course offerings that included social media (n = 27). Results showed that programmatic use of social media requires strategic consideration, particularly in order to generate two-way communication, a goal of many of the TPCs studied. To that end, our article generates questions and guiding suggestions (drawn from our three-part study) to guide administrators who wish to include social media in their TPC.

Story Mapping and Sea Level Rise: Listening to Global Risks at Street Level

by Sonia H. Stephens and Daniel P. Richards
While interactive maps are important tools for risk communication, most maps omit the lived experiences and personal stories of the community members who are most at risk. We describe a project to develop an interactive tool that juxtaposes coastal residents’ video- recorded stories about sea level rise and coastal flooding with an interactive map that shows future sea level rise projections. We outline project development including digital platform selection, project design, participant recruitment, and narrative framing, and tie our design decisions to rhetorical and ethical considerations of interest for others developing interactive tools with community participation.

Humanistic Communication in Information Centric Workplaces

by Nupoor Ranade and Jason Swarts
Professional writers adapt their skills to suit expanded professional roles that involve production and management of information, but preparation through mere skill-based training is problematic because that communication work is messy in ways that are not addressable through simple skills training. We must understand how skills “influence and shape the discursive activities surrounding their use” (Selber, 1994). This paper reports the results of a study of people trained in humanities disciplines like communication, English, writing studies, technical communication, etc., on how they have found means to employ their training in their workplace and keep what is humanistic about writing and communicating at the foreground of their interactions with information technologies. Instead of focusing on technology alone, this research encourages a unified approach to preparing students for the workplace.

Toward a Heuristic for Teaching the Visual Rhetoric of Pitch Decks: A Pedagogical Approach in Entrepreneurship Communication

by Sean Williams, Clay Spinuzzi, and Curtis Newbold
This study examined how three successful entrepreneurs/investors assessed the visual rhetoric of actual pitch decks from novice entrepreneurs. We compare their evaluations to the result of a heuristic for assessing visual rhetoric, Color CRAYONTIP. While the pitch deck is recognized as a key artifact in entrepreneurship, no studies have specifically addressed the visual design of the deck nor the key design skills novice entrepreneurs should implement to effectively persuade potential investors of the idea’s promise. This preliminary and exploratory case study begins a dialogue on this topic by performing a visual analysis of seven novice decks which were deemed successful by experienced angel investors. The analysis revealed five key skills that appear to account for the success of these decks with the reviewers: rhetorical awareness, typography, color, photography, and contrast.

Usability Testing for Oppression

This study examines a document produced by the United States Department of Homeland Security handed out to immigrant parents during the “Family Separation Policy” crisis of 2018. The article examines whether such a document could be ethically tested for usability. Ultimately, the text argues that by the standards of the Belmont Report and the best practices in usability research, such a document would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to test ethically. It argues that, while usability testing is an excellent tool for exploring how users interact with texts that can have life- changing consequences, it may also be used as a tool to perpetuate injustice and marginalize potential users.

Game Design Documentation: Four Perspectives from Independent Game Studios

by Richard Colby and Rebekah Shultz Colby
Changes in technology, development philosophy, and scale have required game designers to change how they communicate and mediate design decisions. Traditional game design studios used an extensive game design document (GDD), a meta-genre that described most of the game before it was developed. Current studies suggest that this is no longer the case. We conducted interviews at four independent game studios in order to share their game design documentation processes, revealing that, while an exhaustive GDD is rare, the meta-genre functions are preserved in a variety of mediated ways.