A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

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Activity Theory

Activity theory was developed in the Soviet Union. The philosophical underpinnings of this theory include the ideas of Hegel and Kant, as well as the theory of dialectical materialism developed by Marx and Engels. The theory evolved from the work of Vygotsky as he formulated a new method of studying thought and consciousness. Vygotsky was working on this theory at a time when the prevalent dominant psychological theories were based on reflexology (stimulus-response - which was later developed into behaviorism) and psychoanalysis. Reflexology attempted to ban consciousness by reducing all psychological phenomena to a series of stimulus-response chains.

Mappin, David, Michele Kelly, Bonnie Skaalid and Sharon Bratt. University of Alberta. Academic>Course Materials>Theory>Rhetoric


Collaborative Design Thinking   (PDF)

The purpose of this presentation today is to introduce a collaborative design model, to describe the kinds of knowledge resources that can be found in each part of the model, and to introduce a few principles of design thinking that I believe can help us to effectively recognize, create and use knowledge resources in our design activities.

Robertson, Bob. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Collaboration


The Content Expert as Designer - Empowering the Novice to Develop Effective Interactive Media   (PDF)

The field of visual communication design has the capacity and the responsibility of establishing effective communication tools for the untrained. This article will address the widening gap in the sophistication of design and content creation in the digital realm. The benefit of improving the online communicational space will be discussed along with the role of the creative professional. Finally, I will propose two solutions to the problem.

Bertsch, Blaine. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Education>Interactive


Conversation by Blog: Expanding Personal Technology into the Academic Community   (PDF)

In the last two years, individuals on the Web have begun to maintain personal Web sites which are referred to as Weblogs (blogs). A blog is distinct from other forms of electronic documentation in that it functions as a public, electronic diary, consisting of short, frequently-updated personal reflections and reports of activity. A typical blog is composed of daily entries of no more than a paragraph. Blogs are often accompanied by and supplemented with image galleries, curricula vitae, and archives of past postings. Blogs are also subject to trends: for example, many blogs in December include Christmas wish lists. Like e-mail and unlike other traditional forms of publication, blogs often include a comments feature which allows the reader to engage in discussion with the blog's writer and other readers by directly attaching a posting to the daily or topical entry. Although this approach to Web site design has been widely adopted by technophiles under the age of thirty, it also holds promise as a mechanism for a conversational form of knowledge development that previous technologies have not readily facilitated. This paper outlines the potential expansion of the blog as a venue for professional and philosophical discussion by the visual communication design community and other similar professional groups.

Radzikowska, Milena. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Writing>Online>Blogging


Design-Driven Innovation   (PDF)

The object of this contribution is to investigate how the design practice could promote and guide convergence dynamics amongst a plurality of stakeholders.

Maschi, Simona. University of Alberta (2003). Design>User Centered Design>Methods>Personas


El Diseño Estratégico de Competencias   (PDF)

Sería necio de mi parte pensar que yo inicio aquí lo dicho con mis palabras. Esta charla ha empezado en ustedes mucho antes que mi intervención. Existe ya en el reconocimiento del formato 'Congreso' sentidos asociados, y por todos nosotros sostenidos, y expectativas en relación a lo que es, o debe ser, una 'ponencia' en general y en este medio ámbito en particular. Estructuras y estilos asociadas a 'Ser ponencia en Congreso de diseño' en las que todos nos incluimos, para confirmar, una vez más, aquella promesa de que este espacio social es lo que todos nosotros esperamos.

Pujol, Mónica. University of Alberta (2003). (Spanish) Design>User Centered Design>International


Extending the Boundaries of Graphic Communication   (PDF)

This article is more about bridging a communication abyss than creating a communication space. It concerns a system of interactive iconic communication to help people who have lost the power of speech.

Sassoon, Rosemarie. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Graphic Design>Communication


Games: A Transactional Context   (PDF)

Communication was not a theorized space until after World War II, it was just something we did. Both Claude Shannon’s seminal model of communication and Norbert Wiener’s model of feedback dealt with the technical transmission space for communication. From the beginning of communication theory, attention focused on technical aspects and broadcast models in which the recipient of the communication was presumed to be passive. All that was necessary was to use understandable codes (language, symbols, images) with which the recipient was familiar. Since those early days, a wealth of communication models have been developed that deal with various perspectives on communication including discourse models that seek to establish rapport; gratification models that attempt to sustain interest; innovation models that promote behavior change; and context models that seek to recognize and plan for the specific conditions in which a communication occurs. With these models the varieties of ways in which communication was received and interpreted came to the foreground, but the variables that influence any particular person’s interpretation remain daunting and undiscoverable in their totality.

Poggenpohl, Sharon. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Communication>Theory>Games


Identity in Sheep's Clothing   (PDF)

Can an identity exude moral or ethical attitudes? In the past, product and business identities that functioned well were bound to a person or family that over long periods delivered quality and dependable goods or services. However, in these times of runaway and rollover mergers, restructuring, and reengineering, there is no time for anyone to assess the real characteristics that make up these newly emerging companies and conglomerates. What are they? Who is behind them? Corporate wolves or sheep in Gucci clothing?

Winkler, Dietmar. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Graphic Design>Visual Rhetoric


Information Landscapes of Ordinary Spaces in Ordinary Time   (Word)

Communication designers undergo passages of the familiar, that is, the daily engagement with a milieu of spaces: rooms, corridors, intersections, tunnels, bridges, byways, etc. These are ordinary spaces in ordinary time. Such spaces are at the core of everyday life, for they are a constant presence. This fact makes such spaces conducive to oversight, passing over as opposed to passing through. However, their familiarity does not negate their importance.

Burgos, Nate. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Information Design


Intent as a Factor in Designing the Hypermediated Narrative   (PDF)

The potential for combining images, graphics, video, and sound with traditional text in an interactive environment allowed narrative to move into new areas of expression.

Madej, Krystina. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Web Design>Hypertext


Reading Minds: The Book as a Communicational Space (Practice + Pedagogy)   (PDF)

Book designers research, compile and interpret information that helps them to determine the various formal attributes of the book. What size should it be? What format should it have? What should be the approach to the cover design, the typography, and the structure of the layout? The selected attributes may make certain impressions, on the potential reader, about the nature of the content. These impressions are interpretations of meaning which may create expectations about the character of the book, its content and style of writing. In other words, the formal attributes give the book a certain 'visual identity' which is intended to represent to the reading public, in a carefully selected visual language, the 'essence' of the author’s work.

Colberg, Susan. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Typography>Visual Rhetoric


Seeing and Using Theories for Design   (PDF)

In recent years, the subject of research has attracted much attention within the field of design. In this discussion, suggestion has been made about the importance of descriptive/explanatory theory for the practice of design. Given that design is prescriptive by nature, between description and prescription, there is a gap. The gap suggests that the function and value of theory in design practice and thus its evaluation require further examination, clarification and demonstration. The practical value of theory in scientific inquiry is unquestionable. Theory is often referred as the foundation of sciences. Since the immediate goal of scientific practice is different from that of design practice, can the same be said about theory for design? Taking a perspective of a designer, my starting point is that theory, like any information, needs to be brought to life by our way of seeing and using it. Through reflecting on how I have evaluated and used developmental theories for a conceptual design of HIV prevention communication. I will bring up the issue of user in theory evaluation, attempt to demonstrate theory is (made) useful (by)/to designing and put into perspective the value of descriptive/explanatory theory to designing.

Chow, Rosan. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Document Design>Theory>Visual Rhetoric


Sensory-Based Communication   (Word)

From birth we learn what these sensory experiences mean and how society expects us to respond to them. This sensory language is highly contextual and inherently dynamic.

Satterfield, Debra. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Communication


Techno-Experiential Design Assessment   (PDF)

Techno-Experiential Design Assessment (TEDA) is a method for systematically studying the effects of a specific technology or service on user experience and identify the opportunities and constraints for design.

Hsieh, Angie, Ryan Semeniuk, Dan Schick and Roman Onufrijchuk. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Technology>Assessment


Traces of Previous Use: The Communicational Possibilities of Interaction Histories

In the digital environment, human presence leaves no trace; every user of an electronic collection is in effect an isolated user. Some researchers in computer interface design have suggested that a useful strategy for reducing this isolation might be to provide a means for a collection to retain an interaction history. If the system creates and makes accessible a record of activity, subsequent users may be able to derive meaning from the record. One well-known implementation of this strategy is in the amazon.com lists of books that were also bought by people who bought the book currently shown. This strategy holds promise for a wider implementation, and is particularly promising as a tool for interfaces designed for information browsing, where user structuring of the items represented can be a significant indication of how they have interpreted the collection. Issues include the role of intention in communication – clearly purchasers at amazon.com are not buying books primarily to create a message for subsequent users – and the significant effects of presuppositions in any communication process – subsequent users must assume that previous buyers were not collecting a set of "worst books" on the topic. Drawing on previous research on interaction histories, as well as Suchman's ideas on situated activity and the phenomenological approach to interface design proposed by Winograd and Flores, this paper examines the means by which interaction histories might be designed specifically to play a role as a communication tool between users of full-prospect browsing interfaces to electronic document collections.

Ruecker, Stan. University of Alberta (2003). Design>Web Design>Personalization>Interaction Design


Visual Information about Medicines for Patients

In Europe, when someone gets ill, it is common to visit a doctor. Most consultations end when a doctor prescribes a medicine that can be obtained from a pharmacy. After collecting the medicine a patient has to decide if the use of this medicine is more beneficial than not taking it. In order to make this decision, and in order to take medicines effectively, information is essential. Not only the instructions about how much to take and at what times, but also the potential risks caused by interactions with other medicines and common behaviour (eating, smoking, drinking, sleeping, exercising). It also becomes necessary to know how to recognize that a medicine does what it supposes to do. Historical developments have led to a tightly regulated situation in which the patient gets a clear message that health care providers (pharmaceutical industry, pharmacists, prescribers, etc) do not care very much about informed patients.

van der Waarde, Karel. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Communication>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Welcoming "Joe Canadian" into our Living Rooms: the Spaces of Canadian Advertising   (PDF)

The question of space has been a preoccupation of writers in critical theory for some decades. From the reconsideration of architectural practice which focuses on the user, to a broader interest in the physical locations of the production and consumption of culture, writers are paying increasing attention to the effects of the spatial on our engagements with cultural forms as a means of expanding our understanding of the meanings of those forms themselves.

Whitelaw, Anne. University of Alberta (2003). Articles>Communication>Marketing>Canada

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