About 44 minutes into his presentation, Michael Wesch talked about network size and the effect it traditionally has on the ways teachers communicate information to students. He said as the audience size increases, teachers have found they’ve had to get their students to participate less and follow more.
He argued educators should and could move back to the more interactive and effective “network model”, by using Web 2.0 technologies.
Technical Communicators – people producing online Help and user manuals – use the Hierarchy or Mass models. We get users to follow, and to return to the Support Desk or Help file, in order to be told what to do next.
A change to a participative approach could be a major cultural shift for them and their employers, so it’s unclear whether this shift will occur in technical communication. Do we want users to do more than follow?
The truth is, in the future, it’s likely all three models will be employed by technical communicators at different times. This means technical writers need to create content that can be used in all three models. This is easiest with re-usable chunks of content, often using the DITA XML schema. Whether the the DITA schema suffciently accomodates participative content, remains to be seen.