A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Spinuzzi, Clay

17 found.

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Analyzing Computer-Mediated Communication in Professional Environments: An Activity Theory Approach

CMC is not an end in itself, but a way to accomplish cyclical work objectives. CMC genres are part of an ecology of genres, providing additional ways to communicate, ways that interact with other genres. To understand how these ecologies of genres work in professional environments, we must understand the activities they mediate. To investigate, I (and many others in professional communication) have turned to field studies.

Spinuzzi, Clay. SlideShare (2012). Presentations>Research>Workplace>Activity Theory


Are Automated Genres Still Genres?

Clay Spinuzzi's Genre 2012 presentation on genre development in partially-automated environments.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Slideshare (2012). Presentations>Rhetoric>Genre>Information Design


Audience Analysis and the Rhetoric of User-Centered Design

This online course packet, along with the texts and lectures, should provide all the information you need for completing RHE 330C/TLC 331. It includes conventional information, such as a syllabus and course schedule, as well as links to articles and examples. See the navigation bar above for more information.

Spinuzzi, Clay. University of Texas (2004). Academic>Courses>Undergraduate


Compound Mediation in Software Development: Using Genre Ecologies to Study Textual Artifacts

Traditionally, technical communicators have seen the texts that they produce -- manuals, references, instructions -- as 'bridging' or mediating between a worker and her tool. But field studies of workers indicate that the mediational relationship is much more complicated: Workers often draw simultaneously upon many different textual artifacts to mediate their work, including not only the official genres produced by technical communicators manuals but also ad hoc notes, comments, and improvisational drawings produced by the workers themselves. In this chapter, I theorize these instances of compound mediatiation by drawing on activity theory and genre theory. I describe an analytical framework, that of genre ecologies, that can be used to systematically investigate compound mediation within and across groups of workers. Unlike other analytical frameworks that have been used in studies of technology (such as distributed cognition's functional systems and contextual design's work models), the genre ecology framework highlights the interpretive and cultural-historical aspects of compound mediation that are so important in understanding the use of textual artifacts. The analytical framework is illustrated by an observational study of how 22 software developers in a global corporation used various textual artifacts to mediate their software development work.

Spinuzzi, Clay. WAC Clearinghouse (2002). Design>Collaboration>Software


Exploring the Blind Spot: Audience, Purpose, and Context in "Product, Process, and Profit"

Technical communicators have longed turned to audience, purpose, and context as they analyze situations. But Mirel's article demonstrates that audience-purpose-context is too weak a framework to handle the job of detailed sociopolitical analysis: not only is it inadequate for analyzing the needs of end users, it is also inadequate for analyzing situations within the writer's organization. In this response, this paper explores the weakness of audience-purpose-context and points to alternative sociopolitical frameworks.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Computer Documentation (2000). Articles>Rhetoric>TC


Full Text Available Documentation, Participatory Citizenship, and the Web: the Potential of Open Systems   (peer-reviewed)

Technical communicators have become increasingly interested in how to 'open up' the documentation process - to encourage workers to participate in developing documentation that closely fits their needs. This goal has led technical communicators to engage in usability testing, user-centered design approaches, and, more recently, open source documentation. Although these approaches have all had some success, there are other ways to encourage the participatory citizenship that is implied in these approaches. One way is through an open systems approach in which workers can consensually modify a given system and add their own contributions to the system.

Spinuzzi, Clay. ACM SIGDOC (2002). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>Open Source


Genre Ecologies: An Open-System Approach to Understanding and Constructing Documentation   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Arguing that current approaches to understanding and constructing computer documentation are based on the flawed assumption that documentation works as a closed system, the authors present an alternative way of thinking about the texts that make computer technologies usable for people. Using two historical case studies, the authors describe how a genre ecologies framework provides new insights into the complex ways that people use texts to make sense of computer technologies. The framework is designed to help researchers and documentors account for contingency, decentralization, and stability in the multiple texts the people use while working with computers. The authors conclude by proposing three heuristic tools to support the work of technical communicators engaged in developing documentation today: exploratory questions, genre ecology diagrams, and organic engineering.

Spinuzzi, Clay and Mark Zachry. Journal of Computer Documentation (2000). Articles>Documentation>Rhetoric


Grappling with Distributed Usability: A Cultural-Historical Examination of Documentation Genres Over Four Decades   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Traditional models of usability assume that usability is a quality that can be designed into a particular artifact. Yet constructivist theory implies that usability cannot be located in a single artifact; rather, it must be conceived as a quality of the entire activity in which the artifact is used. This article describes a distributed approach to usability, based on activity theory and genre theory. It then illustrates the approach with a four-decade examination of a traffic accident location and analysis system (ALAS). Using the theoretical framework of genre ecologies, the article demonstrates how usability is distributed across the many official and unofficial (ad hoc) genres employed by ALAS users.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Documentation>Usability>History


How Not to Write Fiction

I have never fabricated or fictionalized research data. Besides being completely unethical, that would have missed the point. It would have taken all the fun out of it! How easy and how boring that would have been.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Blogspot (2009). Articles>Writing>Research>Ethnographies


Information Design and Usability Testing

This online course packet, along with the texts and lectures, should provide all the information you need for completing RHE 379C/TLC 331. It includes conventional information, such as a syllabus and course schedule, as well as links to articles and examples. See the navigation bar for more information.

Spinuzzi, Clay. University of Texas (2002). Academic>Courses>Undergraduate


Introduction to Technology, Learning, and Culture

This class is an interdisciplinary course that examines some of the shared principles and approaches of the disciplines that make up the liberal arts. In this course we will explore the ways that changes in the technologies of communication and human interaction are transforming the environments for teaching and learning, and for the culture in general.

Spinuzzi, Clay. University of Texas (2000). Academic>Courses>Undergraduate


The Methodology of Participatory Design   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Technical communicators have lately become interested in participatory design as a way to structure and guide their research and development efforts, particularly in online media. But attempts to use participatory design - in technical communication and elsewhere - have been hampered because participatory design has typically been seen as an orientation or field rather than a methodology with its own methods, techniques, and acceptable range of research designs. In this article, I work with a range of participatory design sources to describe it as a methodology useful for technical communicators. After providing the historical and methodological grounding for understanding participatory design as a methodology, I describe its research designs, methods, criteria, and limitations. Finally, I provide guidance for applying it to technical communication research.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Technical Communication Online (2005). Articles>Collaboration>Methods>Participatory Design


Principles of Technical Writing

Technical writing is nonfiction writing meant to make the complex simple. It informs, instructs, and persuades. And it can take many forms -- manuals, references, instructions, correspondence, reports, and proposals, among others. Whatever form is used, technical writing's focus is to ensure that readers can make informed choices, understand complex information, and follow complex procedures. In this class, technical writing is treated rhetorically: We will build on lessons of rhetorical analysis, organization, and style learned in previous classes, but we will apply those lessons to concrete real-world problems.

Spinuzzi, Clay. University of Texas (2009). Academic>Courses>Writing>Technical Writing


Toward Integrating Our Research Scope: A Sociocultural Field Methodology   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Technical communicators have recently become interested in user-centered design (UCD) for designing and evaluating technical genres. Yet, a critical examination of the field methods of UCD suggests that they suffer from unintegrated scope: an undesirably limiting focus on a particular level of scope (either the macroscopic level of human activity or the mesoscopic level of goal-directed action) in their theoretical underpinnings and data collection and analysis. This focus is often paired with the assumption that this particular level of scope causally affects what happens at the other levels. Both the focus and the assumption are at odds with sociocultural theories of human activity. This article lays out the problem of unintegrated scope and examines it through critical analyses of two field methods used in UCD research. It concludes by proposing an integrated-scope research methodology for UCD research, with roots in both sociocultural theory and the central issues of technical communication.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2001). Articles>Usability>Methods>User Centered Design


What Coworking Tells Us About the Future of Work

Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.

Spinuzzi, Clay. SXSW (2010). Presentations>Collaboration>Workplace>Ethnographies


Working Alone Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Mobile professionals can choose to work in offices, executive suites, home offices, or other spaces. But some have instead chosen to work at coworking spaces: open-plan office environments in which they work alongside other unaffiliated professionals for a fee of approximately $250 a month. But what service are they actually purchasing with that monthly fee? How do they describe that service? From an activity theory perspective, what are its object, outcome, and actors? This article reports on a 20-month study that answers such questions.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2012). Articles>Collaboration>Workplace


Toward a Typology of Activities: Understanding Internal Contradictions in Multiperspectival Activities   (peer-reviewed)   (members only) new!

Professional writing scholars have often turned to activity theory (AT) as a rich framework for describing and theorizing human activity. But AT-based studies typically emphasize the uniqueness of activities rather than examin- ing how certain types of activities share configurations. Consequently, these analyses often miss the chance to examine activities’ internal contradictions that are a result of interference between different configurations of activity. This article argues that a typology of activities can deepen our understand- ing of these internal contradictions. Drawing from a range of literature, it describes the general characteristics of different types of activities, provid- ing examples from other AT-based studies. It concludes by discussing how this typology can help such studies to better analyze internal contradictions in activities.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2015). Articles>Business Communication>Ethnographies>Activity Theory

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