Saturday, November 21, 2009

IPCC 2010 Communication in a Self-Service Society

Communication in a Self-Service Society

New Communication Practices
Among the many changes computer technology has brought us in the past decades, the drastic changes in our ways of communicating are the most noticeable. E-mail has taken the place of traditional mail and telegrams. Web sites take the place of corporate brochures and product catalogues, electronic forms are starting to make traditional paper forms obsolete. Traditional printed reports lose their primary in corporate communication;PowerPoint presentations, wikis, and blogs take their place. Formal one-way communication structures are replaced by more informal network structures.

These changes have increased the possibilities for the general public to get engaged in activities that traditionally belonged to the responsibility of specialists. The Internet enables us to become our own travel agents, bankers, or even our own physicians. wikipedia is a striking example of the way members of the public co-create a source of information that matches or surpasses the well-respected Encyclopedia Britannica and its counterparts in other countries. Our society is changing from service to self-service.

The move to self-service has important consequences for technical and professional communication. To mention only a few: Web 2.0 features enable the public to contribute to or amend (technical) documentation. User forums, weblogs (blogs), and wikis have become important sources of information about almost every conceivable topic. The roles of information creator and information user are becoming interchangeable. Administrative organizations such as banks, insurance companies, and government agencies increasingly use the Internet as the channel for transactions with their public. Health organizations are using the Internet for communication purposes, from health advice and consultation to remote monitoring of patients.

New Questions
This raises important questions for technical and professional communicators. what are the social and economic implications of the self-service world? Who will profit, and who runs the risk of being excluded? What are the consequences of the "digital divide" if everyone is expected to "help themselves?" How can technical communication and usability specialists support the development of self-service environments that make sense and empower the public to put them to good use? How can we teach our students to effectively create and use information in self-service environments?

We hope to explore these questions and other issues at IPCC 2010.

IPCC 2010 Conference Threads


•How to help users conduct transactions, find their way in complex information systems.
•The effectiveness of wizards, cue cards, instructions, etc.
•Effect on self-confidence, perceived ease of use, acceptance of systems (which factors are good predictors of acceptance and usability).
•Ethical aspects of self-service.

Access and Accessibility

•Create information and services for people with limited prior knowledge, language skills, and digital skills.
•Giving people with disabilities of any kind access to information and services.
•Technical communication and the Digital Divide.
•Mobile or ubiquitous access to information.

Web 2.0 for Technical Communicators

•Wikis, blogs, forums: How can technical and professional communicators put them to good use?
•Chat, text messaging, Twitter, and their applications in professional and organizational communication.
•Facebook, LinkedIn, and their impact on the engineering and technical communication community.
•New roles for tech support.
•User-generated content (instructions, support, etc.).
•Web 2.0 in the engineering context.

Visualization of Location, Space, and Direction

•Uses, usability, and accessibility of geo-spatial information in applications like Google Maps and Streetview.
•Usability of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for lay audiences.
•Innovative applicaitons of geospatial information in technical communication.
•Design considerations for navigation and other GPS systems.
•Location-aware information systems.

Engineering Communication, Communicating Engineering

•Typical genres for engineering communication.
•Development of new genres.
•Education and life-long learning.
•Service learning.
•Communication courses.
•Visualization skills.
•Communicating numbers or statistics.
•Proposal writing.
•Oral presentations for and by engineers.
•Video instructions.

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