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Shaping thought through action: A study of the use and design of technical information
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation. Excosoft. (Information design research group)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5611-9583
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation deals with the design of technical information, such as a user manual for an industrial device, based on the searching and reading behaviour of process operators and maintenance technicians. Such industrial professionals, who use tools like measuring equipment, are sometimes unable to get the support they need from searching and reading in a text- and image-based tool manual in order to perform work tasks. If such a manual is the only available source of information, the user will either give up or attempt a workaround which ends up compromising the safety, quality, satisfaction, efficiency or effectiveness of the work task. Research within technical communication and human-computer interaction suggests how manuals can be designed to support users in accomplishing tasks. These suggestions are based upon studies of how users approach the use of tools and tool manuals, as well as how the design of procedural and declarative information supports users. However, there is limited knowledge about how users search and read manuals, and how manuals can be designed to support such searching and reading behaviour. This dissertation aims to contribute knowledge to technical communicators about how technical information can be designed to support industrial professionals in accomplishing their work tasks. An ethnographic research method was selected to study the behaviour exhibited by process operators and maintenance technicians’ while they search and read sources of information in order to perform work tasks with tools. The results show that some participants were unable to perform a task after searching and reading the manual. The empirical material has been analysed using Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. This was to gain a deeper understanding of how thought and language influence—and are influenced by—searching and reading behaviours, as well as the task behaviours during tool use. This dissertation's contribution is a design method for technical communicators that will enable them to support users in the shaping of mental representations about what results are possible to accomplish with a tool. The method involves the design of tangible tokens that signify the results and components of a tool. As the end-user arranges these symbols into a result model they are supported in their process of shaping a mental representation.

Abstract [sv]

Avhandlingen handlar om hur operatörer och underhållstekniker i industrin söker och läser i information för att utföra arbetsuppgifter, samt hur teknikinformation kan designas utifrån deras sök- och läsbeteenden. Yrkesverksamma i industrin, som använder verktyg i form av exempelvis mätutrustning, upplever ibland att de inte får stöd i att utföra sina arbetsuppgifter genom att söka och läsa i en text- och bildbaserad verktygsmanual. Om en sådan manual är den enda tillgängliga informationskällan kommer de antingen att ge upp eller försöka med en tillfällig lösning vilket äventyrar säkerheten, kvaliteten, tillfredsställelsen, eller effektiviteten för arbetsuppgiften. Forskning inom teknikinformation och människa-datorinteraktion föreslår hur manualer kan designas för att stötta användare i att utföra arbetsuppgifter. Dessa förslag baseras på studier om hur användare går tillväga när de använder ett verktyg och dess manual, samt hur utformningen av instruktioner och beskrivningar stöttar användare. Dock finns begränsad kunskap om hur en användare söker och läser i manualer och hur de kan designas utifrån användarens sök- och läsbeteende. Syftet med avhandlingen är att bidra med kunskap till teknikinformatörer om hur teknikinformation kan designas för att stötta yrkesverksamma i industrin i att utföra sina arbetsuppgifter. En etnografisk metod valdes för att studera hur operatörer och underhållstekniker söker och läser i informationskällor när de utför arbetsuppgifter med olika verktyg. Resultaten visar bland annat att vissa deltagare inte kunde utföra en arbetsuppgift efter att ha sökt och läst i manualen. De observerade beteendena analyseras utifrån Vygotskys sociokulturella teori. Detta för få fördjupad kunskap om hur tanke och språk påverkar—och påverkas av—sök- och läsbeteenden samt hur verktyget användes. Avhandlingens bidrag är en designmetod som vänder sig till teknikinformatörer för hur de kan stötta användare i att forma en mental representation om vilka resultat som går att uppnå med ett verktyg. Metoden innebär att teknikinformatören designar symboler som representerar resultat och komponenter i ett verktyg. När användarna arrangerar dessa symboler till en resultatmodell, stöttas de i att forma en mental representation om de resultat som går att uppnå med verktyget.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2020. , p. 110
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 307
National Category
Humanities and the Arts Design
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-46561ISBN: 978-91-7485-455-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-46561DiVA, id: diva2:1379527
Public defence
2020-01-31, Filen, Verktyget, Mälardalens högskola, Eskilstuna, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2019-12-17 Created: 2019-12-17 Last updated: 2019-12-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Designing technical information from a sociocultural theoretical perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Designing technical information from a sociocultural theoretical perspective
2019 (English)In: Proceedings of the 2nd SIG conference on human behaviour in design (HBiD 2019) / [ed] Eriksson, Y. & Paetzold, K., 2019, p. 75-87Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In the workplace, professionals use various tools, such as software, to perform work tasks. If they don’t know how to use a tool, they may seek and read the technical information that was designed by a technical communicator during product development. It is of interest for technical communicators to under-stand how technical information can be designed to provide users with the best support possible. There is currently a gap of knowledge in the technical com-munication community when it comes to identifying professionals’ information needs. By drawing upon sociocultural theory, the aim of this paper is to outline a view on what information needs might be and when and why they arise. The aim is also to illuminate how such a view can provide insights related to the design of technical information.

Keywords
Technical Communication, Sociocultural Theory, Information Need
National Category
Humanities and the Arts Design
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-46560 (URN)10.18726/2019_2 (DOI)978-3-943207-37-8 (ISBN)
Conference
HBiD 2019
Available from: 2019-12-17 Created: 2019-12-17 Last updated: 2019-12-18Bibliographically approved
2. Interaction with user documentation: A preliminary study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Interaction with user documentation: A preliminary study
2013 (English)In: ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 2013, 2013, p. 41-46Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

An exploratory study was conducted into the interaction with documentation displayed by users of an unknown software tool. Five adult men were observed during their work with a software simulation of a fictitious machine for the production of liquorice. Their only source of information on the machine's functioning was its printed user manual. The log data from the observations was analyzed with a view to pinpointing interesting patterns of behaviour that deserve further, more formal, research.

Series
ACM International Conference Proceeding Series
Keywords
documentation behaviour, documentation design, documentation interaction, end-user documentation, manuals, user manuals
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-21611 (URN)10.1145/2503859.2503866 (DOI)2-s2.0-84883693965 (Scopus ID)9781450322997 (ISBN)
Conference
2013 International Conference on Information Systems and Design of Communication, ISDOC 2013, 11 July 2013 through 12 July 2013, Lisbon
Note

Sponsors: ACM/SIGDOC European Chapter (EuroSIGDOC)

Available from: 2013-09-20 Created: 2013-09-20 Last updated: 2019-12-17Bibliographically approved
3. Towards a normative conceptual framework for information-seeking studies in technical communication
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards a normative conceptual framework for information-seeking studies in technical communication
2014 (English)In: ISDOC '14: Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems and Design of Communication, 2014, p. 15-19Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The article proposes a conceptual framework supporting researchers in technical communication when using participant observation to collect data on users' information-seeking behaviors, such as what type of information users need in a work task context. The proposed framework is a synthesis, combining and integrating systemic-structural theory of activity and Byström and Hansen conceptual framework.

Series
ACM International Conference Proceeding Series 2014
Keywords
Information Search and Retrieval - Query formulation, search process, selection process.
National Category
Computer Engineering Computer Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25190 (URN)10.1145/2618168.2618171 (DOI)000380993900003 ()2-s2.0-84903644101 (Scopus ID)978-145032713-8 (ISBN)
Conference
International Conference on Information Systems and Design of Communication ISDOC2014, 16-17 May 2014, Lisboa, Portugal
Available from: 2014-06-05 Created: 2014-06-05 Last updated: 2019-12-17Bibliographically approved
4. Design challenges for technical communicators
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Design challenges for technical communicators
2016 (English)In: SIGDOC 2016 - 34th ACM International Conference on the Design of Communication, 2016Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Based on participant observation conducted for a total of 85 hours spread across two months, this paper investigates the different types of information maintenance technicians seek, and discusses which of those types are relevant and challenging for a technical communicator to design. In order to design useful technical information, the technical communicator must not only understand the information needs of a user, but also understand the various aspects of the user context. This paper highlights a gap that exists between the type of information maintenance technicians seek, and what is relevant for a technical communicator to design. Information about the construction of a machine and work task instructions are relevant for a technical communicator to design. However, information regarding business identities and numbers, the cause of errors, placement of equipment and tools, as well as information related to various aspects of task execution seem very challenging\- or even impossible\- for a technical communicator to design during product development. This paper contributes knowledge to user behavior research within the technical communication research field. The results provide technical communicators with an understanding of what type of information maintenance technicians seek and select in order to satisfy an expressed information need. This discussion enables technical communication practitioners and researchers to gain a better understanding of what type of information is relevant to design and which information is a challenge to design, thus which types of expressed information needs are suitable to focus on, and why.

Keywords
Information design, Information need, Information-seeking, Maintenance technicians, Technical communication, Behavioral research, Information science, Maintenance, Information seeking, Participant observations, Technical communication research, Technical communications, Technical communicators, Technical information, Product design
National Category
Computer and Information Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-34531 (URN)10.1145/2987592.2987598 (DOI)2-s2.0-85003550933 (Scopus ID)9781450344951 (ISBN)
Conference
34th ACM International Conference on the Design of Communication, SIGDOC 2016, 23 September 2016 through 24 September 2016
Available from: 2016-12-22 Created: 2016-12-22 Last updated: 2019-12-17Bibliographically approved
5. What is an Information Source? Information Design Based on Information Source Selection Behavior
Open this publication in new window or tab >>What is an Information Source? Information Design Based on Information Source Selection Behavior
2016 (English)In: Communication Design Quarterly Review, ISSN 2166-1200, Vol. 4, no 3, p. 12-19Article, book review (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines information source selection behavior among maintenance technicians and how this behavior might infl uence the design of technical information. For this entry, “maintenance technicians” are individuals who maintain machine equipment (e.g., generators or bearings) in industrial enterprises, and this process includes the troubleshooting of problems and the repairing of machine equipment. In this entry, the authors use a review of the literature on information source selection behavior to discuss core concepts within the fi eld of source selection behavior. Three of the main concepts examined are “information,” “information source,” and “source preference criteria.” These core concepts function as a frame of reference for discussing how maintenance technicians might select information sources to perform maintenance activities. The authors also use these concepts to review why certain sources are selected for use over others. The results tentatively suggest maintenance technicians prefer information sources that can be adapted to specifi c workplace contexts.

National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-35470 (URN)10.1145/3071078.3071081 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-05-31 Created: 2017-05-31 Last updated: 2019-12-17Bibliographically approved
6. An Investigation of Maintenance Technicians' Information-Seeking Behavior in a Repair Center
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Investigation of Maintenance Technicians' Information-Seeking Behavior in a Repair Center
2018 (English)In: IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, ISSN 0361-1434, E-ISSN 1558-1500, Vol. 61, no 3, p. 257-274Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research problem: When it comes to understanding certain aspects of a maintenance technician's information-seeking behavior, knowledge is lacking. For instance, little is known about what kinds of information needs that maintenance technicians exhibit while performing work tasks and what types of sources they employ to satisfy those needs. Understanding such information-seeking behavior is especially essential for technical communicators who endeavor to design useful and relevant technical information. Research questions: 1. What information needs do maintenance technicians show evidence of while performing maintenance work tasks? 2. Where do they go to satisfy these information needs? Literature review: Current knowledge on maintenance technicians' information-seeking behavior is very limited. The literature reviewed for this study covers the task-based information-seeking behavior of different types of engineers and is mainly found within the field of library and information science research. This literature was selected because maintenance technicians and engineers share many characteristics. One information-seeking characteristic exhibited by engineers is the tendency to rely on internal company information, such as colleagues and self-created sources, before external information sources are consulted. Methodology: This study utilized an ethnographic research approach where empirical data were collected, analyzed, and interpreted from a theoretical viewpoint-a synthesis of Bystrom and Hansen's conceptual framework and the Systemic-Structural Theory of Activity. Seven in-house aftermarket maintenance technicians were observed via participant observation at a repair center in Sweden while they performed maintenance tasks on machines that had been taken out of service. Results and conclusions: The results-based on empirical data collected over the course of 12 days, spread over 12 weeks in the autumn of 2012-reveal that the observed maintenance technicians exhibited 50 different types of information needs. They seldom sought instructions covering an entire work task. Instead, to satisfy their information needs, the maintenance technicians consulted four types of sources that, in the present study, have been designated as information source hosts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IEEE-INST ELECTRICAL ELECTRONICS ENGINEERS INC, 2018
Keywords
Documentation, information retrieval, information science, manuals, professional communication, search methods
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-40935 (URN)10.1109/TPC.2018.2826087 (DOI)000443049000003 ()2-s2.0-85047011374 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-09-13 Created: 2018-09-13 Last updated: 2019-12-17Bibliographically approved

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