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Creating Procedural Discourse and Knowledge for Software Users: Beyond Translation and Transmission

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Abstract

Although most theorists agree that discourse creates meaning, they have not adequately described how this process emerges within the creation of procedural knowledge. This article explores how technical communicators in diverse settings based discourse decisions on their knowledge of (a) users, (b) organizational image and constraints, (c) software structure and features, and (d) genre conventions in order to create communication artifacts designed to help users develop procedural knowledge. The transformations in which they engaged indicated that these technical communicators were skilled in forming images in these four areas and then using these images as they created meaning in procedural discourse. In this process, they moved beyond merely translating or transmitting technical knowledge.

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... The peer-reviewed literature describes differences in the range of authority that technical communication groups have. For example, in her study of the production of technical communication products in four organizations, Hovde (2010) contrasts one organization whose technical communication staff consists of a part-time university student whose authority is limited to production issues with the operations of other groups. One of those other groups is a department of full-time and experienced technical writers who propose the structure and content of their documents but do not have final approval of their work. ...
... This model describes organizations in which technical communicators work with groups that provide technical services to their organizations, such as Information Systems (IS) and Information Technology (IT) groups. Typically, technical communicators working under the Technical Support Model provide ongoing training to users, prepare documentation about all internal applications (whether or not those applications are strategic), maintain an internal knowledge base for the help-line desk, and prepare specifications and other internal documents (Hovde, 2010). Although groups operating under this model usually support an IT/IS group, sometimes, they support other groups, like repair teams (Carliner, 2012). ...
... To read the literature on technical communication, especially the literature on usability and information design, one might get the impression that information designers and developers operate under the Design Model (such as Albers 2002, Ames 2001, and Dykstra 2001. But case studies (such as Hovde, 2010 andKain, 2006) and surveys of actual management practice (such as Carliner 2004;Carliner, Qayyum, & Sanchez Lozano, 2012) suggest that, in reality, most information design and development groups operate under the Development, Technical Support, and Contracting Models. ...
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Introduction: Richard McKeon and the renaissance of discourse
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Studies of elaboration in procedural texts
  • D H Charney
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Man-Text-Technology: Technical manuals as a means of communication
  • K Mardsjo
Text and action: The operator’s manual in context and in court
  • J Paradis
Reinventing expertise: Experienced writers in the workplace encounter a new genre
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Issues in internationalization of documentation: Quality control
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Social construction theory and technical communication
  • M Subbiah
Quality or usability? Quality writing provokes quality reading
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Jürgen Habermas, communicative competence, and the teaching of technical discourse
  • S Wells