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Design challenges for technical communicators
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5611-9583
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation.
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9057-0063
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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
Keywords [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-34531DOI: 10.1145/2987592.2987598Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85003550933ISBN: 9781450344951 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-34531DiVA, id: diva2:1059205
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
In thesis
1. Shaping thought through action: A study of the use and design of technical information
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Shaping thought through action: A study of the use and design of technical information
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:nbn:se:mdh:diva-46561 (URN)978-91-7485-455-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-01-31, Filen, Verktyget, Mälardalens högskola, Eskilstuna, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2019-12-17 Created: 2019-12-17 Last updated: 2019-12-30Bibliographically approved

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