59.3, August 2012

Recent & Relevant

The following articles on technical communication have appeared recently in other journals. The abstracts are prepared by volunteer journal monitors. If you would like to contribute, contact Lyn Gattis at LynGattis@MissouriState.edu.

“Recent & Relevant” does not supply copies of cited articles. However, most publishers supply reprints, tear sheets, or copies at nominal cost. Lists of publishers’ addresses, covering nearly all the articles we have cited, appear in Ulrich’s international periodicals directory.

Thanks to Katherine Wertz who helped assemble the manuscript for “Recent & Relevant.”


Collaboration in art and in science: Approaches to attribution, authorship, and acknowledgment

Cronin, B. (2012). Information and Culture, 47, 18-37. doi: 10.1353/lac.2012.0005

What does it mean to author or coauthor a scholarly paper or a painting? What conditions have to be fulfilled for authorship status to be granted? Must every researcher on a massively coauthored, high-energy physics paper have penned at least n words to warrant the appellation ‘coauthor’? Is the touch of the artist necessary for authorship to be granted, or is conceiving and superintending the production of the work sufficient? What kinds and scale of contributions warrant acknowledgment? This article explores authorship and attribution practices in the sciences and in the world of art.”

Edward Malone

An examination of deception in virtual teams: Effects of deception on task performance, mutuality, and trust

Fuller, C. M., Marett, K., & Twitchell, D. P. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 20-35. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2011.2172731

“. . . This study investigates the impact of deception on the performance of tasks in virtual teams. While the advantages of virtual teams in organizations have been well-studied, as the use of these teams expands, organizations must acknowledge the potential for negative consequences of team member actions.” In this study, researchers “developed a model of the impact of deception on outcomes in virtual teams” that suggested task performance, perceived deception, and perceived trustworthiness and mutuality during a group decision-making task would be affected negatively by deceptive communication. Results indicated “[d]eception has a negative impact on task performance by virtual teams. Participants perceived deception when it was present. Perceived deception led to decreased mutuality and trust among team members. These findings suggest that organizations that utilize virtual teams must be aware of and prepared to deal with negative behaviors, such as deception. . . .”

Katherine Wertz

Too early, too bad: Uncovering and understanding the initial participation paradox in technology-mediated learning teams

Koh, E., & Lim, J. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 55-84. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2011.2172122

This study analyzes the impact of the initial participation (IP), or “the contributions of team members during the first half of the team’s lifespan” on project outcomes. The study addresses the following research questions: “Does IP affect outcomes of technology-mediated teams? Do team size and task type affect IP in technology-mediated teams? . . . A quantitative field experiment with 49 technology-mediated learning teams that involved 245 participants was conducted. These teams used a wiki to complete a task in a course in higher education. Data were collected from a pretest survey, posttest survey, and electronic records of the wiki (editcount and wordcount). Qualitative data from participants were also sought for the sake of triangulation. . . . The results show that higher IP amount and equality decreased task performance and outcome satisfaction as predicted. However, higher IP amount did not significantly affect team learning although this was significant in the hypothesized direction for IP equality. . . . [T]he findings support the notion that higher IP leads to detrimental outcomes. This suggests the importance of coordination mechanisms in the initial period especially in time-limited teams. . . .”

Katherine Wertz


Attributions for inconsistencies between online and offline self-presentations

DeAndrea, D. C., & Walther, J. B. (2011). Communication Research, 38, 805-825. doi: 10.1177/0093650210385340

“This study investigated how people make sense of self-portrayals in social media that are inconsistent with impressions formed through other interpersonal interactions. The research focused on how inconsistent online information affects interpersonal impressions and how motivation to manage impressions influences the types of attributions that actors and observers make for the misleading online behavior. Results show that the relationship between observer and the target influences evaluations of online/offline inconsistencies: Subjects rated the inconsistencies of acquaintances as more intentionally misleading, more hypocritical, and less trustworthy relative to the inconsistencies of friends. In addition, the types of attributions people made for online behavior depended on the perspective of the person providing the explanation: People explained their own online behavior more favorably than the online behavior of both friends and acquaintances.”

Katherine Wertz

Free interactions, hierarchical structure: Factors explaining replies attraction in online discussions

Himelboim, I., & McCreery, S. (2012). First Monday, 17(3). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3533/3172

“Given the opportunity to interact freely, individuals conform to a structure, in which a few actors attract a large and disproportionate number of ties or relationships. Drawing from literature on preferential attachment and scholarship about online discussions, this study examines patterns of replies, which are one aspect of the disproportionate attraction of replies in forums, as predicted by two factors: number of existing replies and content of posted messages. In two 2×2 experimental designs conducted via a custom developed online discussion platform, 198 subjects participated. Findings show an interaction, where the number of replies increased replies attraction only for the high-interest messages, illustrating the balance between the individual and group dynamics levels in evoking discussions.”

Anita Ford

Maintaining workplace friendships: Perceived politeness and predictors of maintenance tactic choice

Sias, P. M., Gallagher, E. B., Kopaneva, I., & Pedersen, H. (2012). Communication Research, 39, 239-268. doi: 10.1177/0093650210396869

“Workplace friendships are linked to many important processes and outcomes such as employee satisfaction, career development, creativity, and decision-making influence (Sias, 2009). Research has examined how workplace peer friendships develop and deteriorate, but largely ignored their maintenance. The studies reported here addressed this void. Study 1 identified communicative tactics individuals use to maintain friendships with peer coworkers. Study 2 assessed the perceived politeness/positive face threat of the tactics. Study 3 examined the extent to which perceived politeness, task interdependence and individual attachment style predict the likelihood an individual will use specific maintenance tactics.”

Katherine Wertz

Supervisor-subordinate communication: Hierarchical mum effect meets organization learning

Bisel, R. S., Messersmith, A. S., & Kelley, K. M. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 128-147. doi: 10.1177/0021943612436972

“The authors provide nine propositions regarding the function and effects of supervisor-subordinate communication to encourage business communication researchers to go beyond a unidimensional view of this workplace relationship. Taken together, these propositions represent an argument that connects and clarifies the associations between micro-level supervisor-subordinate communication behaviors and macro-level organizational learning. We explain how command structures produce relational contexts that create consequences for communication behaviors between subordinates and their supervisors. Specifically, we explain how subordinates’ reluctance to disagree with supervisors results in silence or equivocation—what the authors label the hierarchical mum effect. In turn, we describe how this organizational suppression of dissent produces a barrier to organizational learning and adaptation.”

Katherine Wertz


Accommodating scientific illiteracy: Award-winning visualizations on the covers of Science

Gigante, M. E. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 21-38. doi: 10.2190/TW.42.1.c

“The International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, recently established by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is an alleged attempt at public outreach. The NSF encourages scientists to submit visualizations that would appeal to non-expert audiences by displaying their work in an annual ‘special feature’ in Science magazine, and each year they present the winning image on the cover of Science as the ultimate reward. Although the NSF advertizes the competition as an attempt to educate non-scientists, the visualizations lack sufficient textual explanation in the Science special feature articles and do not demonstrate clear significance for current issues in science. This article assesses the actual motivations behind the NSF’s ‘Visualization Challenge’, given the lack of accompanying textual information, and it explores the consequences of allowing ‘scientific’ visualizations to float into the public sphere unexplained. It will be shown that the spirit of this competition exemplifies the current shift from ‘public understanding of science’ to ‘public appreciation of science’ in the growing field of Science Communication, particularly through the technique of ‘framing’ devices. This shift in objective, accentuated in the realm of visual communication, reinforces the public’s view of science as a mythic authority.”

Lyn Gattis

The beauty of anatomy: Visual displays and surgical education in early-nineteenth-century London

Berkowitz, C. (2011). Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 85, 248-278. doi: 10.1353/bhm.2011.0030

“The early-nineteenth-century artist, anatomist, and teacher Sir Charles Bell saw anatomy and art as closely related subjects. He taught anatomy to artists and surgeons, illustrated his own anatomical texts, and wrote a treatise on the use of anatomy in art. The author explores the connections among visual displays representing human anatomy, aesthetics, and pedagogical practices for Bell and a particular group of British surgeon-anatomists. Creating anatomical models and drawings was thought to discipline the surgeon’s hand, while the study of anatomy and comparative anatomy would discipline the artist’s eye. And for Bell, beauty made drawings into better pedagogical tools.”

Edward A. Malone

Illustrating medicine: Line, luminance and the lessons from J. C. B. Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy (1943)

Sawchuk, K., Woolridge, N., & Jenkinson, J. (2011.) Visual Communication, 10, 442-464. doi: 10.1177/1470357211408816

“The onset of the Second World War created a temporary crisis in the North American medical community when the supply of medical textbooks from Europe, used to train physicians and surgeons, was threatened. In 1941, Dr. J. C. B. Grant of the University of Toronto proposed a new anatomical atlas, comprising both tonal and line drawings, to address this need. In this visual essay, the authors briefly illustrate Grant’s method for creating these drawings, and his systematic and deliberate use of photography in the process. They explain the reasons for Grant’s use of black and white images, and examine the specific illustration techniques used by these artists. A series of close-ups of the original drawings produced for the Atlas in the 1940s highlight [sic] the visual communication strategies deployed by these skilled illustrators. In so doing, [the authors] make an argument for the importance of examining how images are produced for medical publication, and not merely examining what is produced.”

Edward A. Malone

Images of liberation? Visual framing, humanitarianism and British press photography during the 2003 Iraq invasion

Parry, K. (2011). Media, Culture & Society, 33, 1185-1202. doi: 10.1177/0163443711418274

Parry uses “framing analysis” of wartime photos to examine the importance of visual content in narratives of events. “Although the 2003 Iraq invasion was not wholly framed as a ‘humanitarian intervention’, the rhetoric of bringing liberation, democratization and human rights to the Iraqi people was widely advanced by the coalition and supporters as a legitimating reason for war. This article assesses the role played by press photography in legitimizing or challenging this crucial framing during the invasion across a range of UK national newspapers. . . . [T]he study presents selected results from a comprehensive content and framing analysis of press photography during the invasion period (March–April 2003), specifically examining the prominence and treatment of photographs in the humanitarian-related visual coverage, along with the accompanying words used to define, support or detract from the events depicted. While finding that the rationale of humanitarianism generally played well for the coalition during this study period, this article explores the problematic nature of the narrative of liberation.” The methodological notes provide a useful overview of visual communication theory relevant to any study of visual media.

Zachary Dixon

Shooting disabled soldiers: Medicine and photography in World War I America

Linker, B. (2011). Journal of the History of Medicine, 66, 313-346. doi: 10.1093/jhmas/jrq039

“This article challenges conventional theories about the role of medical photography in the early twentieth century. . . . Hoping to persuade a skeptical public that the Army’s new programs in medical rehabilitation for disabled soldiers provided the best means of veteran welfare, the editorial officials at Carry On: A Magazine on the Reconstruction of Disabled Soldiers and Sailors [the Army Surgeon General’s World War I rehabilitation journal], photographed patients fully clothed, wounds hidden, engaged in everyday activities in order to give the impression that the medical sciences of the day could cure permanent disabilities. In the end, Carry On shows us that medical doctors could, and did, use photography to conceal as well as reveal the reality faced by injured soldiers. In doing so, they (like other Progressive reformers at the time) hoped to persuade the public that rehabilitation had the power to make the wounds of war disappear.”

Edward A. Malone


Assessing the impact of student peer review in writing instruction by using the normalized compression distance

Yoshizawa, S., Terano, T., & Yoshikawa, A. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 85-96. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2011.2172833

“. . . Studies identify peer review as an effective instructional method to improve student writing. Some teachers, however, avoid peer review, perhaps due to the workload required for assessing and correcting peer reviews. Previous studies have not proposed any method to reduce teacher workload by using an objective means to analyze the effects of peer review. . . . This study assesses the degree of similarity between student essay drafts using normalized compression distance (NCD), a compression-based classification algorithm. How does peer review affect student essays, as measured by the NCD? What were the changes in essay length and holistic scores? How did students respond to peer essays? How did peer review affect students during revision? What were the NCD results? How did holistic scoring correspond to NCD results? . . . The researchers conducted the study with 35 student volunteers at a pharmaceutical university in Tokyo, Japan. The students had at least nine years of previous English instruction and previous peer-review experience. In class, students wrote an essay, anonymously reviewed a peer’s essay according to instructions, then revised their own essays based on peer comments. An assessor graded the two drafts using a holistic scoring rubric. The researchers used NCD to quantify the change between drafts. . . . Sixty percent of revisions contained more words than the originals. 51% percent of revisions received higher scores, 40% had no change, and 8.5% percent had reduced scores. Eleven percent of reviewers with low English proficiency did not identify obvious errors. Three revised essays had lower grades because the writers did not know how to incorporate peer comments. Anonymous peer review could lead to poor results where students had poor reviewing skills or did not know how to use peer comments. NCD helps teachers identify which revised essays to re-evaluate after peer review by indicating those with large quantities of changes . . . . ”

Katherine Wertz

How many “friends” do you need? Teaching students how to network using social media

Sacks, M. A., & Graves, N. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 80-88. doi: 10.1177/1080569911433326

“Student reliance on social media is undeniable. However, while we largely regard social media as a new phenomenon, the concepts underlying it come directly from social network theory in sociology and organizational behavior. In this article, the authors examine how the social network concepts of size, quality, complexity, diffusion, and distance determine the situational usefulness of social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The authors also provide in-class and out-of-class teaching assignments that help students recognize the specific ways in which social networks can aid or hinder their professional endeavors.”

Katherine Wertz

Incorporating Facebook and Twitter in a service-learning project in a business communication course

Crews, T. B., & Stitt-Gohdes, W. L. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 76-79. doi: 10.1177/1080569911431881

“Implementing real-world business writing situations and service learning into business communication courses are not new concepts. Business communication students work through a service-learning project with nonprofit organizations to create communication documents to improve the nonprofit’s communication with the public. Writing for social networking sites is also included in the project. Students are asked to create a Facebook slogan for the nonprofit as well as various other Facebook announcements. Students also write tweets to encourage people to donate and to promote various activities. These activities help students write more concisely and think critically about the key elements of writing and of the nonprofit’s mission.”

Katherine Wertz

Process, product, and potential: The archaeological assessment of collaborative, wiki-based student projects in the technical communication classroom

Barton, M. D., & Heiman, J. R. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 46-60. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626391

“Wikis enable large, diverse groups of writers to effectively collaborate online. Although Wikipedia is the best-known wiki, businesses are increasingly using wikis to build documents and resources for internal use. Although many teachers of technical communication are interested in integrating wikis into their syllabi, assessment is difficult. Assessments based on traditional assignments fail because they do not focus on the social nature of wikis. This article introduces an ‘archaeological’ assessment framework focused on this discourse.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Sharing an assessment ecology: Digital media, wikis, and the social work of knowledge

Manion, C. E., & Selfe, R. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 25-45. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626756

“Through a retrospective examination of three case studies, this article argues for an open, contextualized approach to evaluating student learning using wikis. First, the project should be grounded in habits of thought appropriate for the field. Next, the class activity should give students the responsibility for putting these habits into practice. Finally, assessment should be distributed among a range of stakeholders and should be contextualized to give value to students’ work beyond the classroom.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Students’ ways of experiencing human-centered design

Zoltowski, C. B., Oakes, W. C., & Cardella, M. E. (2012). Journal of Engineering Education, 101, 28-59.

“Design is a central and distinguishing activity of engineering and one of the core criteria for evaluating and accrediting engineering programs. Design is also a subject area that poses many challenges for faculty, and incorporating human-centered design approaches—approaches in which designers have as a focus the people they are designing for—poses additional challenges. Human-centered approaches to design contribute to innovations in engineering design and have been shown to increase productivity, improve quality, reduce errors, improve acceptance of new products, and reduce development costs. In today’s globally competitive economy, it is more important than ever to develop effective design skills within the undergraduate years.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Teaching materials and the fate of dynamic biology in American classrooms after Sputnik

Rudolph, J. L. (2012). Technology and Culture, 53, 1-36. doi: 10.1353/tech.2012.0037

“The technologies of classroom instruction have received scant attention from historians of technology. Yet schools, in particular science classrooms, abound with laboratory and instructional apparatus that play an important role in how students (and ultimately members of the public at large) learn about how science and scientists generate knowledge in a given disciplinary field. This article uses the post-Sputnik reforms in United States high school biology education as a case study to examine the way that the materials and technologies of biology teaching shaped ideas about the epistemology of life-science research during the cold war. It compares the experimental vision and materials produced by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, a National Science Foundation-funded, scientist-led reform project, with the materials developed by Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, a longstanding scientific supply company with deep roots in the more established, natural history epistemological tradition.”

Edward A. Malone

Which ABET competencies do engineering graduates find most important in their work?

Passow, H. J. (2012). Journal of Engineering Education, 101, 95-118.

“ABET-accredited engineering programs must help students develop specific outcomes (i.e., competencies). Faculty must determine the relative emphasis among the competencies. Yet, information is sparse about the relative importance of each competency for professional practice.” This article examines a survey of more than 4,000 engineering graduates from a single institution in an attempt to find out what competencies were most important for working engineers. The study indicated that “top cluster” competencies included written and oral communication skills, regardless of work environment or branch of engineering. Communication competency was ranked higher than “math, science and engineering skills” in terms of value to employment. The goal of the study is to better inform curriculum focus in engineering education.

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Information management

Communicating revision changes in a high reuse DITA environment

Park, S. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 1-12. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Despite all the progress we’ve made solving key business workflow issues by implementing a DITA-based documentation system, communicating and indicating changes between two releases of a document rendition is still a challenge that is largely unaddressed by the DITA community.” Two important facets include differentiating between changes to files and changes in content, and “building revision histories in a semiautomated way. . . .The Technical Communications Subcommittee of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee has taken the lead in crafting technical solutions to address these needs, even though this issue impacts nearly all DITA users. The result of this work may be implemented in the DITA 1.3 standard.” For more information on “use cases and other working information around change control” see the public wiki at .

Lyn Gattis

Migrating to DITA: How automated content conversion works and why it matters to you

Baker, P. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 65-70. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“An unavoidable part of moving to DITA, or any other structured authoring system, is converting your existing content into the new format. . . . [U]nderstanding how automated conversion works will help you form a more reasonable expectation about how your own conversion project is going to go and what you can do to make it go more smoothly.” According to the author, three mechanisms are essential for efficient content conversion: (1) patterns software can recognize in content and file format; (2) context enabling “the intelligent application of semantic markup”; and (3) guided conversion, or a mechanism allowing “the content owner to easily express what the correct context is for any document content.” The author recommends working with “a conversion service provider who understands the importance of patterns, context, and knowledge of the content in the conversion process and who will work with you to define the conversion rules that will greatly improve the quality of your conversion output, thus saving you weeks or months of cleanup effort.”

Lyn Gattis

Moving information development from a push system to a pull system

Mydlowski, E. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 17-20. [Center for Information-Development Management]

This article describes the shift in one information development department “away from a push system and into a pull system to help [the department] produce high-quality content Just-in-Time” for customers. The author defines a push system as “one that schedules services based on projected need and is worked on whenever material becomes available regardless of the actual requirements of the next process or whether the downstream resources will have capacity to begin the work.” By contrast, a pull system “controls the flow of work by starting a service as the customer needs them and when the materials to produce those needs are available.” The article identifies three important stages in shifting to a pull system: (1) collecting baseline data such as project durations, backlog time, and customer feedback; (2) eliminating any multitasking that prolongs a task; and (3) adding capacity “to accommodate variations in the system.” In this organization the shift to a pull system “enhanced the team’s performance” and “increased the usability and flexibility” of distributing content to customers.

Lyn Gattis

Intercultural communication

At the origin of a global industry: The TV format trade as an Anglo-American invention

Chalaby, J. K. (2012). Media, Culture & Society, 34, 36-52. doi: 10.1177/0163443711427198

The primary source material in this article (“broadcasters’ written archives and interviews with past TV executives”) exemplifies one way professional writing creates business realities. “Many of today’s popular TV programmes are formats that are adapted for local audiences as they travel from country to country. It is an industry that was transformed in the late 1990s by four ‘super-formats’ (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Survivor, Big Brother and Idols) and that is today worth an estimated £3.1 billion per year. This article focuses on the evolution that explains the emergence of these super-formats in the late 1990s. It traces the origins of the trade, uncovers the world’s first deals and identifies the first TV formats that aired in the UK, France, Spain and Italy. It shows that the two key principles of the TV format trade were established by the early 1950s and argues that the TV format trade is an Anglo-American invention because the first format licences of US shows were acquired by British broadcasters. The second part explains those factors that led to the emergence of the super-formats and argues that the truly pivotal decade was the 1990s. This is the time when the forces that unleashed the super-formats gathered speed, when the format trade expanded beyond game shows and embraced emerging genres that have since become the bedrock of the TV industry, when British TV production companies emerged as leading format creators and producers, and when the world’s two format powerhouses formed.” Chalaby illustrates the back-channel of communication leading to the development of programming ready for a globalized television economy.

Zachary Dixon

The influence of power distance and communication on Mexican workers

Madlock, P. E. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 169-184. doi: 10.1177/0021943612436973

“This study extended communication scholarship by examining the influence of cultural congruency between micro- and macro-cultures regarding power distance on Mexican employees’ communication behaviors, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. Included were the responses from 168 full-time nonmanagement working adults of Mexican origin working in Mexican organizations. The current study was grounded by the theory of independent mindedness. The findings offered support for the value of cultural congruency between the societal culture (macro) and the organizational culture (micro). Additional findings indicated that power distance, avoidance messages, communication apprehension, and communication satisfaction, were all positively related to the job satisfaction and organizational commitment of Mexican employees.”

Katherine Wertz


A discursive approach to leadership: Doing assessments and managing organizational meanings

Clifton, J. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 148-168. doi: 10.1177/0021943612437762

“Despite the recent interest in discursive approaches to leadership, relatively little research actually provides fine-grained analyses of how leadership is dialogically achieved in interaction. Taking a social constructionist approach to leadership and using discursive constructionism as a research methodology to analyze transcripts of naturally occurring talk-in-interaction, this article explicates the doing of leadership as a member’s accomplishment. It defines leadership in terms of being able to influence the management of meaning through the way in which decisions are framed using assessments. In this way, certain meanings are privileged over others and so meaning is managed. Findings support current theories of leadership that show it to be a distributed process rather than the possession of any one person. Furthermore, it is argued that by highlighting discursive techniques by which leadership is achieved, the results of this research can benefit practitioners.”

Katherine Wertz

Measuring productivity

Swanwick, P., & Leckenby, J. W. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 53-60. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Metrics are a necessary part of a manager’s job. We need to be able to identify high- and low-performing writers, realistically balance workloads, prove our productivity to upper management, and justify requests for additional headcount.” This article describes a method of “measuring current team capacity and productivity” that also “provides objective metrics to better estimate future project capacity and to support performance evaluations for individual writers.” Data points entered into the system’s tracking spreadsheet include the number of topics or pages in a document; the deliverable’s complexity on a scale of 1 to 3; the amount of new or substantially revised content in the document; and time each writer spends on special projects. The system also accounts for each writer’s job grade. Managers “have used the resulting metrics to successfully identify and cull low performers, set reasonable workload expectations for all writers, and identify and promote top performers.”

Lyn Gattis

Professional issues

Instant messaging and interruption in organizational settings: A social presence’s perspective

Chang, H. J., & Ian, W. Z. (2012). First Monday, 17(3). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3741/3180

This study approaches “conflicting views regarding IM interruption by examining the social presence of IM and its relationship to the level of interruption experienced in organizational settings. Data was gathered via convenience and snowball sampling of computer-using workers in Taiwan. The results indicate that all four dimensions of IM’s social presence (copresence, social richness, self-reported involvement/partner involvement, social attraction) account significantly for the level of IM interruption at work. Among them, self-reported involvement is the best predictor of the level of IM interruption.”

Anita Ford

Making waves at work: Perceived effectiveness and appropriateness of organizational dissent messages

Garner, J. T. (2012). Management Communication Quarterly, 26, 224-240. doi: 10.1177/0893318911431803

“The way in which an employee communicates organizational dissent is partially responsible for the outcomes of that dissent conversation. Previous research has examined such outcomes in limited ways, but employees’ perceptions of the general effectiveness and appropriateness of their dissent expressions have been neglected. The current study fills that gap, finding that participants recalled solution presentation, circumvention, and repetition as effective whereas coalition-building messages were ineffective. Participants also report that solution presentation and direct factual appeals were appropriate whereas pressure tactics and humor messages were inappropriate. These results make important contributions and extend previous research by demonstrating connections between dissent messages and conversational outcomes and offering a practical understanding for dissenters about what types of dissent messages may be perceived as more effective and appropriate than others.”

Lyn Gattis

Multiple conversations during organizational meetings: Development of the multicommunicating scale

Stephens, K. K. (2012). Management Communication Quarterly, 26, 195-223. doi: 10.1177/0893318911431802

“People are increasingly using their mobile devices to multitask and carry on multiple conversations in organizations. This study contributes to the growing work in multicommunication—communication practices involving technology where people conduct multiple, nearly simultaneous conversations. Through quantification of the communicative behaviors involved in the practice of multicommunicating, this study helps to operationalize this construct and, by refining measurement, contributes directly to theory development. The resulting model suggests that multicommunication in meetings consists of five major factors. While the factors of Informing, Influencing, and Supporting Others might be the most obvious functions of multicommunicating, the other two factors, Participating In Parallel Meetings and Being Available, provide additional insight into the influential role that others have in the practice of multicommunicating. Future directions and implications for using this scale are also discussed.”

Lyn Gattis

Socialization and the acquisition of professional discourse: A case study in the PR industry

Bremner, S. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 7-32. doi: 10.1177/0741088311424866

This article tracks the socialization of a Chinese intern into a Hong Kong PR company and considers the factors that enabled her to move toward acquiring the discourse of the profession. Taking a case study approach, the research is based on a detailed daily journal written by the intern during her internship, and two interviews. Over the 3-month period of the internship, her written discourse changed considerably, revealing the extent of her socialization into the organization. Specifically, the intern’s writing changed from detailed general descriptions of her activity to discourse resembling that of PR practitioners. The study demonstrates the power of the workplace as a context for learning, yet data show that the academy, by providing tools for understanding and reflecting on organizational culture, also has a role to play in socialization processes.”

Lyn Gattis

Public relations

Emotions matter in crisis: The role of anger and sadness in the publics’ response to crisis news framing and corporate crisis response

Kim, H. J., & Cameron, G. T. (2011). Communication Research, 38, 826-855. doi: 10.1177/0093650210385813

When writing press releases and other documents to inform the public of crises, choosing the correct emotional frame (or tone) is important to achieve the desired public reaction. “This experiment revealed that emotional news frames (anger-inducing vs. sadness-inducing) affect people’s emotional response to a corporate crisis such as a cell phone battery explosion accident. The distinct emotions induced by different news frames influenced individuals’ information processing (i.e., heuristic vs. systematic processing) and the evaluation of the company differently. Participants exposed to anger-inducing crisis news read the news less closely and had more negative attitudes toward the company than those exposed to sadness-inducing news. Also, emotional frames affected how individuals perceived the different types of corporate responses (relief-focused message vs. punishment-focused message; emotional appeal vs. no emotional appeal). The advantage of emotional appeals was found contingent on how the crisis was previously framed by the media. Findings demonstrate a potential for developing effective corporate response strategies in a given crisis situation, considering the type of crisis, how it has been framed by the media, the publics’ emotional responses, and the use of emotional appeals.”

Katherine Wertz

Telling the story of Danisco’s annual reports (1935 through 2007-2008) from a communicative perspective

Ditlevsen, M. G. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 92-115. doi: 10.1177/1050651911421132

“This article documents the evolution of the annual reports of the Danish company Danisco A/S from 1935 through 2007-2008. Compared to previous diachronic studies of annual reports, this study offers a finer grained description from a communicative perspective over a long period of time. Using genre theory as a framework, it analyzes the macrostructure and visual elements of these reports from a communicative standpoint paying equal attention to both of the genre’s subordinate communicative purposes: to give a true and fair view of the state of the company and to provide a positive image of the company. The findings indicate that the annual reports have four distinctive phases (1935 through 1958, 1959 through 1988, 1989-1990 through 2005-2006, and 2006-2007 through 2007-2008) that serve different communicative purposes. The study clearly shows that the annual report is primarily a statutory document and reveals that changes within organizations have a much greater and more immediate impact on changes in the annual reports than do other contextual factors.”

Katherine Wertz


An analysis of the information behaviors, goals, and intentions of frequent Internet users: Findings from online activity diaries

St. Jean, B., Rieh, S., Kim, Y., & Yang, J. (2012). First Monday, 17(2). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3870/3143

The authors surveyed 417 frequent internet users about their online activities in order to measure their interest, confidence, and satisfaction in those activities. From those responses, the authors identify four information activity dimensions: information object, information behavior, goal, and intention. In one finding, younger respondents more often mention engaging in online activities for sharing information, while older respondents more often mention gathering data and keeping up to date. Interest and satisfaction levels are found to be statistically higher when engaging in online social activities. This study uses Kubey’s Experience Sampling Method and a diary survey method, which the authors contend are unique data collection and analysis methods within this type of study.

Anita Ford

Quantifying the burden of writing research articles in a second language: Data from Mexican scientists

Hanauer, D. I., & Englander, K. (2011). Written Communication, 28, 403-416. doi: 10.1177/0741088311420056

“This article provides quantitative data to establish the relative, perceived burden of writing research articles in English as a second language. Previous qualitative research has shown that scientists writing English in a second language face difficulties but has not established parameters for the degree of this difficulty. A total of 141 Mexican, Spanish-speaking scientists from a range of scientific disciplines participated in a survey which directly compared writing scientific research articles in Spanish and English as a second language. The survey questions defined burden in relation to perceived difficulty, dissatisfaction, and anxiety. The results revealed that the experience of writing a scientific research article in English as a second language is significantly different than the experience writing in a first language and that this writing process was perceived as 24% more difficult and generated 11% more dissatisfaction and 21% more anxiety. The findings suggest that the use of English as a second language is the cause of this increased burden.”

Lyn Gattis

Scientific writing

Information seeking related to clinical trial enrollment

Yang, Z. J., McComas, K. A., Gay, G., Leonard, J. P., Dannenberg, A. J., & Dillon, H. (2011). Communication Research, 38, 856-882. doi: 10.1177/0093650210380411

Medical writers provide the information individuals use to decide whether or not to participate in clinical trials. “To understand what motivates people to attend to information about clinical trial enrollment, this study applies the risk information seeking and processing model (RISP) to explore potential differences in multichannel information seeking between (a) the general population and (b) cancer patients and their caregivers. The unique context of clinical trial enrollment grants this research an opportunity to study the RISP model in relation to a risk issue with varying relevance to the two samples as well as to investigate the role of emotion on information seeking. Key results suggested that risk perception and negative emotions had opposite effects on information seeking across the two samples; however, optimistic feelings had the most consistent, positive effects on seeking from all three types of information sources: interpersonal, traditional media, and online. These findings suggest important theoretical and practical implications in relation to promoting information seeking related to clinical trial enrollment among the general population as well as among specific patient groups.” This information is especially useful for medical writers working on creating clinical trial informative and promotional materials.

Katherine Wertz

Making the invisible engineer visible: DuPont and the recognition of nuclear expertise

Johnston, S. F. (2011). Technology and Culture, 52, 558-573. doi: 10.1353/tech.2011.0083

“Between 1942 and the late 1950s, atomic piles (nuclear chain reactors) were industrialized to generate plutonium for the first atomic weapons and later to serve as copious sources of neutrons, radioisotopes, and electrical power. As nuclear aims expanded both during and after World War II, scientific expertise and engineering experience merged. Yet so-called atomic scientists were the most visible representatives of the postwar field, and American engineers increasingly sought greater recognition of their nonsubordinate role as nuclear experts. Large companies in the United States supplied the engineering labor for this new technology and played an important role in defining the nature of their nuclear expertise, repeatedly renegotiating the hierarchy of science versus engineering. . . . This article explores the transition of authority from scientists to nuclear engineers at those sites and DuPont’s role in shaping and consolidating this new expertise.”

Edward A. Malone

“A Variety of Tastes”: The Lancet in the early-nineteenth-century periodical press

Pladek, B. (2011). Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 85, 560-586. doi: 10.1353/bhm.2011.0085

“This article examines the opening years of Thomas Wakley’s 1823 journal The Lancet, which rose to dominate the precarious early-nineteenth-century medical publishing market. The author argues that Wakley was an editor acutely aware of his journal’s relationship to a wider nonmedical press and that this awareness may have even contributed to The Lancet’s early success. In addition to, and often contiguous with, the journal’s strongly worded critique and detailed medical content, Wakley sought to attract readers by importing entertaining formal components from lay periodicals.”

Edward A. Malone

What’s in a name? Generics and the persistence of the pharmaceutical brand in American medicine

Greene, J. A. (2011). Journal of the History of Medicine, 66, 468-506. doi: 10.1093/jhmas/jrq049

“This paper explores the complex role that brand names have played in the maintenance of therapeutic standards within twentieth-century American medicine. What made a generic drug generic in the second half of the twentieth century—and by extension, what made a nonproprietary drug not proprietary in the first half—was dependent on changing drug branding practices and evolving standards of evidence attached to claims of therapeutic efficacy and safety. This article maps three eras of shifting oppositions between branded and unbranded pharmaceuticals. . . . This article uses clinical, popular, policy, and trade literatures to explore the enduring roles of brand-logic in the face of generic competition in the American drug market.”

Edward A. Malone


Content online and the end of public media? The UK, a canary in the coal mine?

Collins, R. (2011). Media, Culture & Society, 33, 1202-1219. doi: 10.1177/0163443711422459

The author’s observations on advertisers’ transition away from traditional print and broadcast media and toward Internet and digital media suggest potentially important lessons in adopting new digital practices. “Online delivery of content has changed media advertising markets, undermining the business model which has underpinned provision of ‘public media’. Three business models have sustained mass media: direct payment for content, payment for advertising and state subsidy, and the author argues, contrary to others’ claims, that advertising finance has made possible production and provision of high-quality, pluralistic and affordable public media. In consequence, substitution of the internet as an advertising medium has undermined the system of finance which, in the UK and societies like it, sustained public media. Global advertising revenues have both fallen and been redistributed, though to differing degrees in different countries, with particularly deleterious effects on local newspapers. . . .” The author’s analysis addresses trends and possibilities opened by the shift in media production and consumption practices.

Zachary Dixon

Hypertext theory: Rethinking and reformulating what we know, Web 2.0

Baehr, C., & Lang, S. M. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 39-56. doi: 10.2190/TW.42.1.d

“This article traces the influences of hypertext theory throughout the various genres of online publication in technical communication. It begins with a look back at some of the important concepts and theorists writing about hypertext theory from the post-World War II era, to the early years of the World Wide Web 2.0, and the very differing notions of its potential. A significant challenge during this formative period was the fact that limitations in technology and infrastructure placed limitations on the potential envisioned by these scholars. The ways in which we look at early scholarship differ even a decade or more later, in terms of some of the information technologies and tools we use today. In the Web 2.0 era, we see a trend of blending and extension beyond principles found within hypertext theory in the tools we use and user experiences we create with them.”

Lyn Gattis

The imagined audience on Facebook: Analysis of Estonian teen sketches about typical Facebook users

Murumaa, M., & Siibak, A. (2012). First Monday, 17(2). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3712/3147

It is crucial for technical communicators to understand their audience, even in tools such as social networking sites. In this paper, the authors analyze the perception of the imagined Facebook audience in Estonian high school students. In focus groups, the students show they are “well aware of the plurality of the imagined audience on Facebook.” The study found six prevalent and secondary Facebook user types, but only one that represented an ideal audience to this age group.

Anita Ford

The institutionalization of YouTube: From user-generated content to professionally generated content

Kim, J. (2012). Media, Culture & Society, 34, 53-67. doi: 10.1177/0163443711427199

“This article explores the institutionalization of YouTube: its transformation from user-generated content (UGC)—oriented as a virtual village—into a professionally generated content (PGC) video site, especially after being purchased by Google. YouTube has influenced the traditional media environment, but at the same time this new medium imitates the rules of the old media, including legally managed distribution of broadcasting content and smooth links between content and commercials. YouTube constitutes an evolution of the present media milieu, rather than a revolution. On the other hand, the dominance of mainstream media is, to a degree, still compromised in UGC culture. The emancipatory dimension of UGC media (e.g. as democratic, creative outlet with high accessibility and online library potential) is discussed in the conclusion, not losing sight of the technological-economic limitations placed on its continuing promise.”

Zachary Dixon

A tale of four functions in a multifunctional device: Extending implementation intention theory

Lin, J., Chan, H. C., & Xu, L. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 36-54. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2011.2182570

“. . . This study examines functions in a multifunctional device, the smartphone. Specifically, it explores (1) to what extent does the theory of planned behavior capture user evaluation of different functions? (2) to what extent does pleasure have positive effects on intentions of different functions? (3) to what extent could the implementation intention theory identify the important functions? . . . To answer these questions, we look at the Theory of Planned Behavior which has been used to examine a single function device and test the predictability of the theory for a multifunctional system. We also review the Implementation Intention Theory and test the predictability of the theory for identifying important functions. . . . A quantitative survey of more than 200 smartphone owners in information-technology shopping malls and customer service centers for major smartphone brands was conducted. . . .The results from the data collected show that the theory of planned behavior and the additional pleasure construct explain more than 50% of the variance in intentions. The effect of pleasure on intention varies from one function to another. In general, pleasure shows much stronger effects for high-hedonic functions than for low-hedonic functions. In addition, the Implementation Intention Theory reveals that phone and organizer are the most important functions. . . .”

Katherine Wertz

Usability studies

Do open source software developers listen to their users?

Raza, A., & Capretz, L. (2012). First Monday, 17(3). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3640/3171

“In application software, the satisfaction of target users makes the software more acceptable. Open source software (OSS) systems have neither the physical nor the commercial boundaries of proprietary software, thus users from all over the world can interact with them. This free access is advantageous, as increasing numbers of users are able to access OSS; there are more chances of improvement. This study examines the way users’ feedback is handled by OSS developers. In our survey, we have also inquired whether OSS developers consult professional usability experts to improve their projects. According to the results, majority of OSS developers neither consider usability as their top priority nor do they consult usability experts.”

Anita Ford

Exploring think-alouds in usability testing: An international survey

McDonald, S., Edwards, H. M., & Zhao, T. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 2-19. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2011.2182569

“. . . The study explored think-aloud methods usage within usability testing by examining the following questions: How, and why is the think-aloud method used? What is the gap between theory and practice? Where does this gap occur? . . . An exploratory, qualitative survey was conducted using a web-based questionnaire (during November-December 2010). Usability evaluators were sought via emails (sent to personal contacts, usability companies, conference attendees, and special interest groups) to be cascaded to the international community. As a result we received 207 full responses. Descriptive statistics and thematic coding were used to analyze the data sets. . . . Respondents found the concurrent technique particularly suited usability testing as it was fast, easy for users to relate to, and requires limited resources. Divergent practice was reported in terms of think-aloud instructions, practice, interventions, and the use of demonstrations. A range of interventions was used to better understand participant actions and verbalizations, however, respondents were aware of potential threats to test reliability, and took steps to reduce this impact. . . . The reliability considerations underpinning the classic think-aloud approach are pragmatically balanced against the need to capture useful data in the time available. . . .”

Katherine Wertz

A new method in user-centered design: Collaborative Prototype Design Process (CPDP)

Andrews, C., Pohland, E. E., Burleson, D., Saad, D., Dunks, K., Scharer, J. S., Elmore, K., Wery, R. L., Lambert, C. S., Wesley, M., Oppegaard, B., & Zobel, G. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 123-142. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.2.c

“To build upon user-centered design methods, we used a collaborative and multi-modal approach to involve users early in the design process for a website. This article presents our methods and results and addresses the benefits and limitations of the Collaborative Prototype Design Process (CPDP), including ways in which this new method can be implemented. The CPDP is an innovative approach to user-centered website design that emphasizes collaboration, iterative testing, and data-driven design. The CPDP balances the power and needs of users with those of designers and, thus, enables design teams to test more tasks and involve more users. We divided our initial team into three independent design teams to separately profile users, test usability of low-fidelity paper prototypes, and then create and test usability of resulting wireframes. After completing the user-centered design and usability testing, the three teams merged to analyze their diverse findings and create a final prototype.”

Lyn Gattis