Which model of communication will technical communicators employ in the future?

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.

One Comment

Paul Sholar

I think that the deliverables from technical communicators should include goal statements and that each statements should acknowledge that the deliverable as a limited goal. And each deliverable should be identified as to its place/role among other deliverables of similar subject matter.

I think that the economics that rule the products about which TCers communicate are the driving force that determines the key characteristics of TC deliverables. Those deliverables are most likely intended to have a limited lifespan, just like the product being described, especially for parts of the technology business that are newest. The deliverables should not be wasting the reader’s time, neither by offering irrelevant or poorly organized information nor by encouraging the reader’s interaction with a wiki or website that is likely to be discarded or deemed irrelevant/obsolete around the time of the product’s next release.

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