The English Department is excited to offer the elective EH 440/540: Instructional Technology this summer. EH 440-540 is an introduction to the field of instructional technology and the theory and practice of instructional design. This course will address the processes involved in planning, creating, and evaluating instructional materials for a professional delivery. Learners, working individually and in groups, will utilize various technological resources and apply instructional design principles to produce a professional training module. The course, taught by Dr. Bobbi Jo Carter, will meet on Wednesdays from 5:30-8:20 from May 20-July 26. This course counts as a technical elective for undergraduate students and an English elective for graduate students. For more information, email Dr. Weber at email@example.com.
Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
Not so long ago, my desktop computer took a turn for the worst. It crashed shortly thereafter, taking with it many of my past documents, photos, projects, music and....my only copy of Photoshop CS. It was a sad day, but it didn't really hit me until I got about waist-deep into a project and realized that I no longer had a decent photo/graphics editing program at my disposal.
Tags: techncial writing, Technical Communication, technical communication jobs, video games
As a gamer, I have been wondering about the job outlook for technical communicators within the video game development industry. This seems like a fantastically exciting industry to work in if one is a technical communicator who just so happens to be a gamer and passionate about gaming. After completing an exhaustive search on the internet for technical communication jobs within the gaming industry, I found that it seems like they are either hard to find or are slim to none. So I figured that these jobs must be titled something else other than the usual technical communicator or technical writer.
According to a whitepaper on the gaming industry by Laura Hamilton, there are four common job titles for technical communicators in the gaming industry which include, “instruction manual writer, web content writer, strategy guide writer and game designer.” (Hamilton)
The instruction manual writer writes the small instructional booklet that comes with the game inside the case. This booklet lists rules, controls and other important information needed for a user to get started playing the game. The web content writers write technical content for the development company website.
The strategy guide writers write books which help users complete and win the game. In some cases, these books can be referred to as a “walk-through” of the game. A good example of a strategy guide would be the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Official Strategy Guide by David Hodgson.
Game designers write the game design document. According to gamasutra.com, a major website for game developers, it says, “the purpose of documentation is to communicate the vision in sufficient detail to implement it.” So the game designers would come up with an idea for the game and put it on paper which would act as a guide for further creation of the game. Next, the designer would use this document to make a technical design document. According to Sloper, this is, “a document that describes the process they will use; what engine or other technology, and will identify the challenges (of designing the game) and address how to handle them.” Lastly, the game designer would create a game proposal. According to gamasutra.com this document should include, “the revised game concept, market analysis, technical analysis, legal analysis, and cost and revenue projections.” After the game designers have gotten everything about the new game on paper, they will work with the programmers and other team members to make the game come to life.
There are many video game development companies in the United States. One of the most prominent ones is called 343 Industries which is owned by Microsoft Studios. 343 developed Halo 4 which came out about three weeks ago. 343 industries is now in control of all things Halo related. Halo was once controlled by Bungie, until they broke off from Microsoft and became independent. Afterward, Microsoft created 343 Industries to take control of Halo. 343 Industries is based out of Washington.
Another popular video game development company is Bethesda which is owned by ZeniMax Media. Bethesda is both a developer and a publisher and they are based in Maryland. They have released games such as the popular Fallout 3 and the entire Elder Scrolls series including the award-winning Skyrim.
A third popular video game development company is Epic Games. They have made games like Gears of War and the Unreal Series. They are based in North Carolina. A fourth popular development company is Gear Box Software. They made the Borderlands series and the Brothers in Arms series. Gear Box Software is based out of Texas.
The last two popular development companies I researched were Infinity Ward and Treyarch. Both companies have worked on and developed games in the Call of Duty series. These two companies are both owned by Activision Blizzard, which publishes their games. Infinity Ward made the first Call of Duty as well as four other games in the Call of Duty franchise. Treyarch has made Black Ops, Spiderman 3 and Quantum of Solace. Infinity Ward and Treyarch are both located in California.
It seems like there are technical communication jobs in the game development industry, but they are hard to find. I am glad I did the search early enough to know what I am in for when I do start job hunting. If anyone has any other information on this topic, please let me know.
Ruby A. Stevens
Tags: communication, Franck Frommer, PowerPoint
Not something that I would normally characterize myself as, but this was my initial thought after coming across a book by French journalist Franck Frommer entitled, How PowerPoint Makes You Stupid: The Faulty Causality, Sloppy Logic, Decontextualized Data, and Seductive Showmanship That Have Taken Over Our Thinking. Whew. So I decided to read the book and although I am not a fan, (a future book review will further delve into my opinion), there were some interesting observations made.
The man credited with inventing PowerPoint, Robert Gaskins, initially created the software for office meetings or the presentation of products and services. For all the negative attributes of PowerPoint, there is a general consensus that PowerPoint transformed the concept of the meeting. As Frommer points out, it is in fact almost impossible to contemplate a meeting without a presentation device.
But why is PowerPoint so popular? The use of PowerPoint does not cease outside the Boardroom. Its users run the gamut from students and teachers to advertisers and engineers. PowerPoint has a universal appeal. But why?
- You can present material quickly
- You can present material at a low cost
- The presentations are accessible and reasonable for everyone
- It allows even the most technical people to display their creative esthetic
(See what I did here?)
As an employee, student, and teacher, PowerPoint is almost an everyday part of my life …..Picture it:
You’ve been called to a meeting. As you make your way into the room with your pen and pad, you see someone in the front of the room fumbling with a projector and laptop. You immediately kick yourself for not bringing that report you need to read (or in my case that stack of papers that need to be graded). You find a seat and resign yourself to the newest, most boring meeting of your life.
This is precisely the fault Franck Frommer and others find with PowerPoint. He cited a study which renamed PowerPoint presentations “corporate sleeping pills” (106). Frommer feels that when PowerPoint is in use, the speaker is in direct competition with the presentation for the audiences’ attention. Honestly, how many times have you gone through all the bullet points on a slide and began the descent into your lackadaisical stupor, all before the presenter finishes discussing the first bullet point? Ironically, Frommer found that the very things used to bolster the effectiveness of presentations, such as bullet points, obtrude on the concentration of the audience and causes them to forget the material.
An elderly woman’s husband recently died. He was a World War II veteran and an eccentric in militaria. She decided to clean out his work shed located behind their suburban home. In a worn wooden box she found an item she surmised to be a bomb. She called the police and reported that there was a bomb in her backyard. A news reporter overheard the call and notified his bullpen to dispatch a team to the site. The police ordered an evacuation of nearby homes. A nervous neighbor at the cordon line exclaimed that the exclusion zone could not possibly be big enough as her son had served in Iraq and told her about bombs. Someone else pondered aloud if the “coot” was working with anthrax. Another wondered if the bomb was on a timer.
The situation creates many communication issues found in areas involving risk, or “the sum of hazard plus outrage” as defined by Peter Sandman. The populace doesn’t know the actual risk and outrage has been built by a series of incomplete messages. Dr.
Beverly Sauer’s Risk and Rhetoric addressed these notions in the
technical and bureaucratic entanglements of coal mining disasters. Mine collapses and fires tend to leave few living witnesses and no single source of engineering knowledge, experience, or political
expertise to create a solution. Instead, the written answers and related regulations are developed by vying interests like unions and corporations, hard and political scientists, and engineers laboring against internalized miner hunches. She stresses the value of decoding witnesses’ mimetic or analytic recreations, non-verbal cueing, and dissecting their frame of reference to discover the true nature of risk.
Let’s go back to the bomb. The team from a distant Army base arrives two hours after the call. They gather initial data from the only witness and make an approach. They identify the item in Army Technical Manual 43-0001-29 as the Mk 2 fragmentary hand grenade. It weighs 21 oz, is 4.5 inches tall, and has a diameter of 2.25 inches. It is filled with 2 oz of TNT, flaked or granular. Affixed to the grenade is a M204A1 pyro delay-detonating fuse with a M42 primer and lead azide detonator. The hazard area is 15 meters but partially mitigated by the stout work shed. The safety pin is a bit loose so the team leader places a piece of tape over the top to secure it. He braces the grenade in a firm metal container, placards his truck for transportation, and leaves the site with the grenade for eventual disposal. The hazard is now gone.The bomb disposal team would “define and evaluate levels of risk different from non-experts” per Scwartzman, et al. The stated solution is not to “dumb down” the issue nor expect local expertise. Instead experts need to recognize stakeholder demands, in this situation property and life, and address the populace. Sauer recommends that responders and investigators learn about the facets of human communication. I recommend expanding explosives identification education to the families of elderly veterans. The seemingly disparate areas of hazard awareness and rhetoric do have a common ground.
For further reading check out Schwartzman, Ross, & Berubes’ article “Rhetoric and and Risk” and Sauer’s book, The Rhetoric of Risk, both available from fine scholarly online databases.
Plug “bomb squad” into a Google news feed see the frequency of similar events.
Who is “the regulated public” in the Plain Regulations Act of 2012? How does “the regulated public” link to a “technical communicator”?—Hint neither of them have yet to really be defined by our government.Published September 28, 2012 Uncategorized Leave a Comment
Tags: " "technical communicator, " "the regulated public", "Plain Regulation Act of 2012, "Plain Regulations Act of 2012"
Hello! I’m Danielle, a student here at UAH working towards my Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication, and as a proud, new student member of the Society for Technical Communication I was recently browsing the STC website. The news section caught my eye with the heading “STC Supports the Plain Regulations Act of 2012.” I read the entry as well as a letter submitted by former STC President Hillary Hart earlier this year. She states:
“Regulations that people do not understand are onerous and are less likely to be followed. When people do not understand and do not follow regulations correctly, we all suffer unintended negative effects. Unclear regulations cause unnecessary expenses for both the government and its citizens.”
I had to read further! The Plain Regulations Act of 2012 H. R. 3786 pledges:
“To ensure clarity of regulations to improve the effectiveness of Federal regulatory programs while decreasing burdens on the regulated public.”
Sec. 2 states:
“The purpose of this Act is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear regulations that are easier for the Government to implement and for the public to comply with.”
Who is “the regulated public” this specific Act first addresses? I had to dig in here. Upon searching The Library of Congress website, it pulled “the regulated public” up in 55 bills from 1989 to current. Of my randomly selected documents to search from these pulls, several pertained to regulated public utilities and a couple of bills did not even pull up any text in the PDF file search box for the phrase. H.R. 926 was passed by the House and H.R. 2586 was passed by both the House and Senate, thus becoming a Bill. This Act and Bill both use “the regulated public” in the same context used by the Act being examined.
I am stunned there appears to be no definition of the phrase that stands alone. Nope, I found it was not listed in the Oxford English Dictionary Online and didn’t pull anything in either the Google or Yahoo search engines. The main use I found put the phrase “regulated public” in front of utilities, access, or transport. I would like to note that the purpose section of the Plains Regulation Act of 2012 uses the term “public” twice. I am confused! Are we considered “the regulated public,” the “public,” or both? Further clarification is needed.
The government also needs to examine and clarify what it considers a “technical communicator” to be. I question when the government is going to attempt to comprehensively define the role. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupation Outlook Handbook does notion the subject as technical writers are “also called technical communicators,” therefore recognizing existence of the occupation. Please realize I am not discrediting the BLS as it was only in December of 2009 that a technical writer chapter was added to the handbook (STC Chicago Blog), but this is a limited interpretation as the technical communication field is rapidly evolving.
The STC website provides an accurate definition of technical communication and ends with “What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone’s life easier and more productive.” Is this not the whole idea of the Plain Regulations Act of 2012? In fact, it is!
The governing entities have not provided “the regulated public” or the “technical communicator” with accurate definitions as to who they are. Please ponder the idea that four members of the House potentially seem to aim at influencing further progression of a culture by changing their own previous methods of communication, thus acknowledging and placing themselves in the mindset of both unidentified roles. Interesting!
The Business and Technical Writing Program at UAHuntsville and the Society for Technical Communication Huntsville/North Alabama present a lecture by Dr. Jeff Bacha, a technical communication professor from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. The lecture will be held at 6:30 on October 23 in Frank Franz Hall Room 138 on the UAHuntsville campus. The lecture is free and open to the public; technical communicators, web designers, usability specialists, computer programmers, and students are encouraged to attend.
In this lecture, Dr. Bacha addresses usability expert Robert Johnson’s 2010 claim that the term “user-centered” had “become ubiquitous and is in danger of being rendered meaningless” (335). Dr. Bacha argues that technical communication specialists and web designers can rhetorically respond to Johnson’s claim by adopting “In-Context” usability studies founded on observing actual users perform work-related activities inside their own natural workplace environment.
Dr. Bacha received his Ph.D from Purdue University in 2012. At Purdue, he served as the webmaster of the Purdue OWL. His scholarship has been published in The Journal of Technical Writing and Communication and in the collection Content Management: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice.
Tags: Journals, Technical Communication Scholarship
As part of a talk I gave at April’s Rocket City Technical Communication Conference, I presented the results of a short research project I conducted on the topics of technical communication scholarship in 2011. The results show some interesting trends in the scholarship, so I wanted to make the graphs available to a wider audience.
In order to get a snapshot of the trends in technical communication scholarship in 2011, I looked at the topics for every article and/or abstract published online in these five journals:
- IEEE: Transactions in Professional Communication
- Journal of Business and Technical Communication
- Journal of Technical Writing and Communication
- Technical Communication
- Technical Communication Quarterly
Within these five journals, four special issues were published in 2011:
- Open Source (JTWC Fall 2011)
- Professionalization (TC Fall 2011)
- Technical Communication and the Law (TCQ Winter 2011)
- Itexts (JBTC Summer 2011)
All of the articles available online were classified based on their topics. To determine the topic of the article, I examined the title, journal keywords, and abstracts, looking for categories that could be used to group the articles. Naturally, some slippages occur whenever classifications are created. Other researchers may have chosen to classify certain articles differently. Topics that some scholars might consider widely divergent were classified together. For instance, articles dealing with social media and iText were classified under “Social Media/Online Texts” while Open Source Software articles were classified separately. Some articles ended up getting counted twice; for instance, the article “Visualizing Banking and Financial Products: A Comparative Study of Chinese and American Practices” by Han Yu in Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 41.3 was classified under both “cross cultural technical communication” and “visual rhetoric.” (This means that the numbers on the graph add up to more articles than were actually published in 2011.) And it appears that some articles haven’t been posted online yet as either full texts or abstracts, so the data is certainly incomplete.
Still, the graphs show some clear trends that provide a helpful insight into the field. Here they are (with one graph broken into two pieces for better readability):
Article Topics in 2011 Technical Communication Journals
The results show some definite and expected trends in technical communication scholarship. Clearly, scholars are putting a strong emphasis on cross-cultural communication, which emerged as the dominant interest even without a special issue devoted to the topic. Some of these articles focused on general translation or World Englishes issues. Others focused on specific communication practices or pedagogy in non-US countries, most notably in China, which was the focus of at least seven articles (other articles focused on Japan, Holland, the U.K., and Caribbean nations.)
The prominence of pedagogy and visual rhetoric comes as no surprise, as both have been longstanding interests in technical communication research. Four of the visual rhetoric articles dealt with visuals in scientific communication, including “Insights from Illustrators: The Rhetorical Invention of Paleontology Illustrations” in TCQ 20.3 and “Toward a Taxonomy of Visuals in Science Communication” in TC 58.1.
The real surprise is what was underrepresented. I expected more articles in medical communication, risk rhetoric, and usability, given the seeming prominence of these topics recently in journals, book publications, and conference presentations. However, one year’s worth of data is not enough to determine whether these topics are really in decline.
Overall, the field continues to produce a wide variety of relevant scholarship, and the graphs here reflect the diverse interests of technical communication. Hopefully, this can become a longitudinal project that catalogs the interests of the field as they develop over time.
Tags: courses, Engineering
The English Department and the Business and Technical Writing Program are pleased to offer English 649: Writing in Engineering during the Fall 2012 semester. This course uses technical communication and rhetorical principles to teach students how to analyze and create effective engineering texts and graphics. In this course, students will
- explore rhetorical principles of writing and how they apply in engineering disciplines
- connect technical communication concepts and principles to engineering writing
- look deeply at engineering texts (reports particularly but also theses, dissertations) and consider how words and graphics combine to create accurate, effective documents
- consider other engineering communication (e.g., correspondence, briefings, presentations)
- learn and use techniques for identifying and analyzing readers
- investigate the use and design of graphics in engineering
The course is discussion based (rather than lecture based) with discussion material drawn from articles and engineering documents. Assignments may include article or book reviews, discussion board contributions, analysis of a technical report, a technical report or draft of thesis.
The course, taught by Dr. Cynthia McPherson, meets on Thursday nights from 5:30-8:20 and is open to graduate students from any discipline. Technical communication certificate students who plan to work at engineering firms and students from engineering fields are especially encourage to enroll.