2017 May Special Issue of Technical Communication: Globalizing/Localizing User Experience

The 2017 May issue of Technical Communication focuses on the theme of “Globalizing/Localizing User Experience: Strategies, Practices, and Techniques for Culturally Sensitive Design.” This special issue, guest edited by Guiseppe Getto of East Carolina University and Huatong Sun of University of Washington Tacoma, includes five articles that will change the way you think about the teaching and practice of the field.

“Crossing the Divide: Implications for Technical Communication User Advocates,” by Rachel Tofteland-Trampe, examines how tutors at a community center teach inexperienced individuals about digital technologies.  You will enjoy reading this article if you are looking for answers to the following questions: Why and how do inexperienced users strain to operate software and hardware?  Why and how are available information resources insufficient?  What are effective methods of cultivating the necessary confidence and cultural knowledge for digital proficiency?

“Designing for a Culturally Inclusive Democracy: A Case Study of Voter Registration Outreach Postcards in Latino Communities,” by Lindsay Pryor examines the effectiveness of two different messages—personal convenience versus public responsibility—communicated in English and Spanish. Issues addressed in this provocative article include the following: How important are multilingual materials in the building of inclusive societies?  How important is the “user friendliness” of voter registration instructions to voting-eligible citizens? How might culturally sensitive UX practices be adapted to serve civic ideals?

“Converging Fields, Expanding Outcomes:  Technical Communication, Translation, and Design at a Non-Profit Organization” by Laura Gonzales and Heather Noel Turner, reports the results of a two-year study of four bilingual (English/Spanish) translators of official records as well as resources for information and education.  Using screen shots, interviews, field notes, and video recordings, the article answers a wide array of practical questions about translation processes, such as: How do translators make use of digital materials (e.g., online dictionaries)? How does the mission of the translator’s organization influence the translation process?  How do translation activities intersect with user experience design?

“Localizing Communities, Goals, Communication, and Inclusion: A Collaborative Approach,” by Ann Shivers-McNair and Clarissa San Diego examines a localization project from the perspective of its two key contributors—a researcher and a community strategist—to address a series of important questions related to effective localization practices, such as: How does localization intersect with cross-cultural communication and user experience?  How do technical communicators localize their definitions of “user” or “community” to achieve responsive and responsible information design?  How does localization contribute to sensitivity to diversity and to social justice?

“Of Scripts and Prototypes: A Two-Part Approach to User Experience Design for International Contexts,” by Kirk St.Amant integrates script theory from cognitive psychology and prototype theory from linguistics to develop a step-by-step process for identifying user expectations across cultures. Here you will find answers to the following questions: What are the salient variables of user experience?  How does the representation of these variables differ across cultures and contexts of use?  How does theory contribute to more effective practice in user experience design?

And introducing the five articles is a perceptive essay by Huatong Sun and Guiseppe Getto, “Localizing User Experience: Strategies, Practices, and Techniques for Culturally Sensitive Design,” which includes a review of existing research on the topic.

Also in this issue are 22 book reviews as well as summaries of 31 articles from related journals in the field.  And you are sure to appreciate the striking cover illustration on the subject of globalizing/localizing user experience by Kennesaw State University student Makenzie Maddox.

This issue of STC’s quarterly research journal is likely to be a lively subject of conversation at the 2017 STC Summit.

Villegas Views: Festival of (Tech Comm) Lights

I live in a highly multi-cultural neighborhood. As the year goes by, one can see home decorations going up that celebrate a variety of holidays. I know that the winter holidays are coming when I see the first Diwali lights going up around late October to November. The first time I saw them, I thought, “Why are those homes putting Christmas lights up so early?” Over the years, I’ve learned to welcome Diwali lights, menorahs, and kinaras on display alongside Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

While Diwali, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas happen during the winter—and I’m sure there are other cultural and religious holidays as well—I realized that most of these holidays during this time of year are festivals of light. Light is the predominant theme in these celebrations, rejoicing the light either emerging from or entering the darkness of winter.

What does this have to do with technical communication? It occurred to me that since most cultures have this common celebration of light during this time of year, what else do so many cultures have in common? How does one, especially a technical communicator, help to bridge those gaps between cultural and language differences? The concept that is trending these days in technical communication is personalization of content—but it’s not only that. More specifically, it’s localization. This doesn’t mean that content is only translated from one language to another. It’s also keeping in mind what is understood culturally as well. Americans often forget that the world is not dominated by the English language or forget that exported American culture has not permeated the rest of world society. Heck, even within the English language, there are contextual differences between Canada, Great Britain, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and India—the most predominant English-speaking countries! It’s looking beyond the word-for-word translation of content to include the contextual translation of content.

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