A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan

12 found.

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After Hypertext

The final decade of the last century witnessed the dramatic rise of hypertext as a literary, technical, social, and intellectual phenomenon. Today, despite the fact that hypertext provides the conceptual underpinnings for the World Wide Web (among other things), 'hypertext' remains a relatively peripheral term. In this talk, I'll track some of the ways that 'hypertext' has been articulated during the last five decades, describing how the social construction of hypertext inscribed the technology(ies) in limiting and ultimately self-defeating ways. I'll then attempt to track (and construct) some possible futures for a dramatically redefined hypertext, one constructed as an 'ethic of reference' within and among social communities rather than a technical practice.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Clarkson University (2001). Articles>Information Design>Hypertext


Constructing the Flattened Self: After Postmodernism in Computer Interfaces   (PowerPoint)

Since this is going to be a wild ride across a some disciplines that don’t normally talk to each other, let me start with a short, structural overview to get everyone situated. I’m going to begin by defining some terms. They’re all relatively simple, common terms, but I’m going to attempt to bring them together in a particular configuration; in order for that configuration to make sense, I need to settle on some loose definitions and, at the same time, make the terms relevant to our discussion. Next--and this is probably the bulk of the talk--I’ll be outlining a geneaology of work, particularly as it relates to interface design. In this history, I’m interested in understanding, from a critical perspective, what happens to work as it increasingly takes place within the computer interface. I’ll say here that the end of this history is where the terms “postmodernism,” “work,” and “interface” come together. Finally, I’ll offer some suggestions—and examples—of ways that we -- as teachers, researchers, designers, communicators -- can begin to deal productively with some of the problems I see with how interfaces are currently being designed and used.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Clarkson University (2000). Articles>Information Design>Hypertext>Theory


Copyright Matters Online   (PowerPoint)

A PowerPoint presentation on recent developments in intellectual property law, and their cultural significance to content producers and consumers.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Clarkson University (2001). Articles>Intellectual Property>Copyright


Datacloud: Expanding the Roles and Locations of Information   (PDF)

This presentation traces the locations and roles of computer documentation over the latter half of the 20th century in order to construct a model of information/knowledge space as it relates to different forms of work. The paper then provides suggestions about future forms of documentation and interface based on ethnographic research of workers in recently emerging forms of work, including nonlinear audio/video production and videogame playing. The final section of the paper provides concrete suggestions about forms of documentation and interface that will be required to support these new forms of work.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Clarkson University (2001). Articles>Information Design>Hypertext


IText: Future Directions for Research on the Relationship between Information Technology and Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The vast majority of people who use information technology (IT) every day use IT in textcentered interactions. In e-mail, we compose and read texts. On the Web, we read (and often compose) texts. And when we create and refer to the appointments and notes in our personal digital assistants, we use texts. Texts, as already a technology in themselves, are deeply embedded in cultural, cognitive, and material arrangements that go back thousands of years. Information technologies with texts at their core — the blend of IT and texts that we call ITexts — are, by contrast, a relatively recent development. To participate with other information researchers in shaping the evolution of these ITexts, researchers and scholars concerned with the production and reception of text must build on a knowledge base and articulate issues, a task undertaken in this article. We begin by reviewing the existing foundations for a research program in IText, then go on to scope out issues for research over the next five to seven years. We direct particular attention to the evolving character of ITexts and to their impact on society. By undertaking this research, we urge ourselves and others to play a part in the continuing evolution of technologies of text.

Geisler, Cheryl, Charles Bazerman, Stephen Doheny-Farina, Laura J. Gurak, Christina Haas, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, David S. Kaufer, Andrea Lunsford, Carolyn R. Miller, Dorothy Winsor and JoAnne Yates. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2001). Articles>Writing>Online


Little Machines: Rearticulating Hypertext Users

In recognizing ourselves as computer users, we are also articulated (at least partially) as the used, the variable piece of the machine that closes the circuit, like a key in the ignition of a car. We are happiest when our technologies when they work automatically, when the machine appears to anticipate our every desire. The machine is never completely absent from our attention, but it is becoming increasingly difficult--pointless, it seems--to think critically about the operations of the machine and our position within it. We don't think often about the ways in which the technology (and the larger, social technical system) construct users in ways that presuppose a simple, mechanistic model of efficiency and value. If the programmers have done their work well, we reason, then we shouldn't have to think. Functional hypertexts (online documention, references, tutorials) are defined, socially and politically, in this politics of amnesia.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Clarkson University (1995). Articles>Rhetoric>Hypertext


Little Machines: Understanding Users Understanding Interfaces   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This paper questions the ubiquitous practice of supplying minimalist information to users, of making that information functional only, of assuming that the Shannon-Weaver communication model should govern online systems, and of ignoring the social implications of such a stance. Help systems that provide fast, temporary solutions without providing any background information lead to the danger of users completing tasks that they do not understand at all. (Word will help us write a legal pleading, even if we have no idea what one is.) As a result, we have help systems that attempt to be invisible and to provide tool instruction but not conceptual instruction. Such a system presents itself as a neutral tool, but it is actually an incomplete environment, denying both the complexity and alternative (and possibly improved) modes of thinking about the subject at hand.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Journal of Computer Documentation (2001). Articles>Documentation>User Centered Design>Usability


Relocating the Value of Work: Technical Communication in a Post-Industrial Age   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article analyzes the location of “value” in technical communication contexts, arguing that current models of technical communication embrace an outdated, self-deprecating, industrial approach subordinating information to concrete technological products. By rethinking technical communication in terms of Reich's “symbolic-analytic work”, technical communicators and educators can move into a post-industrial model of work that prioritizes information and communication, with benefits to both technical communicators and users.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Technical Communication Quarterly (1996). Articles>TC>Assessment>Theory


Sketching a Framework for Graduate Education in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Graduate education in technical communication should provide students with an expansive view of the field. Toward that end, we offer a three-dimensional framework that represents technical communication as a robust, diverse, complex whole. Although the framework aims towards coherence, it embraces contradiction. That is, the framework represents a totality but does not purport to be the only possible representation. Key to the framework is our belief that the gap between theory and practice can actually be productive. Almost all binaries encourage overly simplistic understandings. But we should not allow the goal of remediating the binary to close off the important tensions that can allow the field to advance. This very gap is actually one of the few sites in which new ideas and approaches can be forged.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. Technical Communication Quarterly (2001). Articles>Education>TC


Space | Action | Movement: Understanding Composition as Architecture

We have long understood the term writing as simultaneously an object and an event. We do writing, we are writing texts, we are reading a piece of writing, we are talking about a writer's writing, things that were written and are also, simultaneously, writing. But while the term 'writing' seems to do a wonderful job of capturing both object and action--what Louise Phelps once termed both the dancer and the dance--we still continue to treat those artifacts--the objects of writing, as relatively inert and external objects. In other words, we have succeeded in articulating the term 'writing' as either an action or an object, we have done less well in thinking about writing as a space in which action takes place. We have done less well in teaching our students (and ourselves) to think about writing as spaces for collaborative action. We have done less well at replacing the either/or with the and/and/and, as Deleuze and Guattari (among others) put it.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Clarkson University (1999). Articles>Writing>Design


Stories and Maps: Postmodernism and Professional Communication   (peer-reviewed)

Communication used to be about telling stories, about listening to narratives of discovery, learning, redemption, and war. Not just little stories, but big stories: heaven, hell, utopia. Relatively recently, though, the map has started to replace the story as our fundamental way of knowing. The new emphasis on spatial rather than temporal or historical concerns goes by a number of titles -- postcapitalism, networked workplaces, nonhierarchical management -- but the most popular (and often misunderstood) is postmodernism. In this text, I sketch out some of the ways that postmodernist tendencies affect the careers and possibilities for business and technical communicators. Briefly, I see the potential for increased responsibility, prestige, and influence for business and technical communicators, but only if we are able to reconceive what we think of as the value of our work; that is, we must reposition ourselves as mapmakers rather than authors.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Kairos (1995). Articles>TC>Rhetoric


Writing at the End of Text: Rethinking Production in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)

Technical Communication, as a discipline and as a practice, has always held an odd relationship to writing: We practice a subordinate for of writing, one step or more removed from those our cultures value most highly. We are not, admittedly, authors in the sense in which Foucault once defined the term. The writing that technical communicators do is of a different status than the writing that authors do. Although we could say that manuals and instructions and online help are the fuel that increasingly powers our economy, we would have to admit that our texts do not receive the esteem given to literature. But we might, instead, arrange the issue differently: what if technical communication rejects writing? Not merely in the sense that 'communication' is about multiple media, but in the more fundamental sense that technical communication is about a different order of production, more like the database than the essay. Rephrasing the question of value this way presents a different set of approaches to technical communication curricula, among other things, allowing us to take new perspectives on a set of issues that have haunted our field from the beginning.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. CPTSC Proceedings (2000). Articles>TC>Theory

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