61.1, February 2014

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 and 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 Katie Bennett who helped assemble the manuscript for “Recent & Relevant.”



Collaborating with casual authors

Kerzreho, N. (2013). Best Practices, 15, 119–123. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“While a technical writer (or content developer) lives and thrives in a constrained and controlled environment (style guides, terminology, taxonomy, and so on), casual authors are not centered on creating content and complying with company standards.” Casual authors have other primary jobs, focus on tasks and processes other than writing, work in “distinct work environments” and may use other languages, tools, and devices. To “capture the best quality content with the lowest effort from both the casual authors and the technical writers,” this article recommends using “form-based writing when the content is highly structured, as in collecting data on field reports,” or “precise templates, enriched with as much metadata and information as possible so the casual authors do not waste time.” Technical writers can “tailor the templates for the specific project and add more comments and examples to guide the casual authors.” Another strategy is to “simplify the casual authors’ work by automating classification, providing quick access to template topics, making sure reviewing with track changes is available and easy, or further adapting or specializing DITA. Recognize the work done by the casual authors, acknowledge mishaps, evaluate and correct the content, and provide feedback.”

Lyn Gattis

In-group (us) versus out-group (them) dynamics and effectiveness in partially distributed teams

Privman, R., Hiltz, S.R., & Wang, Y. (2013). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 56, 33–49. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2237253

“In partially distributed teams, where some members are co-located while others are geographically distant, co-located members tend to treat one another as a preferential ‘Us’ versus treating distant members as the outsiders, ‘Them.’” In this study the authors examine the extent to which “Us-vs.-Them [is] reported as a problem across a wide number of organizational partially distributed teams,” and whether this factor is “significantly related to team effectiveness.” They also ask what members of partially distributed teams see as their greatest challenges and whether “partially distributed teams [can] overcome in-group dynamics.” The study is based on “qualitative and quantitative analysis from a survey of 238 professionals, recruited through snowball sampling, reporting on their experiences in partially distributed teams. . . . [The authors] find that Us-vs.-Them can be traced back to the susceptibility factors that exist in partially distributed teams, particularly an imbalance in communication channels between versus within subgroups. A strong negative correlation between Us-vs.-Them and effectiveness indicates the importance of future research on Us-vs.-Them reduction. A key finding is that some survey respondents report effective outcomes despite Us-vs.-Them; these responders also report different concerns than those who view their teams as ineffective.”

Lyn Gattis

Using communication choices as a boundary-management strategy: How choices of communication media affect the work–life balance of teleworkers in a global virtual team

Ruppel, C.P., Gong, B., & Tworoger, L.C. (2013). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 27, 436–471. doi: 10.1177/1050651913490941

“This study examines how members of a global virtual team chose communication media while managing multiple boundaries. The study is unique in that it considers the perspectives of U.S. managers who teleworked from domestic workplaces and virtual team members located in offices in India. It describes the complex dynamics of the decision-making processes that team members used in attempting to allocate their individual resources in order to meet the demands of a high-performance organizational culture. The findings suggest that managers chose media that met task requirements and maintained the boundaries between their work and personal lives rather than media that would provide the most satisfactory experience.”

Lyn Gattis



Effects of directness in bad-news e-mails and voice mails

Jansen, F., & Janssen, D. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 362–382. doi: 10.1177/0021943613497053

“In this study, [the authors] explore the effects of channel choice (e-mail vs. voice mail) and message structure (direct vs. indirect) on the receiver’s perception of bad-news messages. [The authors] conducted an experiment in which bad-news e-mails and voice mails were presented to participants who evaluated their response to the messages via a questionnaire. The results indicate that e-mail is more comprehensible, while voice mail is more persuasive and effective for maintaining a personal customer relationship. Furthermore, messages with an indirect structure (explanation → bad news) are valued more highly than direct messages (bad news → explanations). [The authors] also found interaction effects of channel and structure, the most important being that the preference for the indirect structure is limited to e-mails.”

Katherine Wertz

Measuring mobile ICT literacy: Short-message performance assessment in emergency response settings

Gomez, E.A., & Elliot, N. (2013). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 56, 16–32. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2208394

“A construct mediated in digital environments, information communication technology (ICT) literacy is operationally defined as the ability of individuals to participate effectively in transactions that invoke illocutionary action. This study investigates ICT literacy through a simulation designed to capture that construct, to deploy the construct model to measure participant improvement of ICT literacy under experimental conditions, and to estimate the potential for expanded model development. . . . Existing conceptualizations of the ICT communication environment demonstrate the need for a new communication model that is sensitive to short text messaging demands in crisis communication settings. As a result of this perfect storm of limits requiring the communicator to rely on critical thinking, awareness of context, and information integration, [the researchers] designed a cognitive-affective model informed by genre theory to capture the ICT construct: A sociocognitive ability that, at its most effective, facilitates illocutionary action—to confirm and warn, to advise and ask, and to thank and request—for specific audiences of emergency responders. . . . [F]indings suggest that an empirical basis for the construct of ICT literacy is possible and that, under simulation conditions, practitioner improvement may be demonstrated. Practically, it appears that it is possible to train emergency responders to improve their command of ICT literacy so that those most in need of humanitarian response during a crisis may receive it.”

Lyn Gattis


Computer issues

How to use search engine optimization techniques to increase website visibility

Killoran, J.B. (2013). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 56, 50–66. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2237255

“This tutorial aims to answer two general questions: (1) What contributes to search engine rankings? and (2) What can web content creators and webmasters do to make their content and sites easier to find by audiences using search engines? . . . Search engines’ rankings are shaped by three classes of participants: search engine companies and programmers, search engine optimization practitioners, and search engine users. . . . By applying three key lessons, professional communicators can make it easier for audiences to find their web content through search engines: (1) consider their web content’s audiences and website’s competitors when analyzing keywords; (2) insert keywords into web text that will appear on search engine results pages, and (3) involve their web content and websites with other web content creators. . . . Because successful search engine optimization requires considerable time, professional communicators should progressively apply these lessons in the sequence presented in this tutorial and should keep up to date with frequently changing ranking algorithms and with the associated changing practices of search optimization professionals.”

Lyn Gattis



City reading: The design and use of nineteenth-century London guidebooks

Dobraszczyk, P. (2012). Journal of Design History, 25, 123–144. doi: 10.1093/jdh/eps015

“This article focuses on the design and use of information in London guidebooks in the nineteenth century, a time when the city guidebook developed into what is recognizable as its modern format. Focusing for the first time on the information content of guidebooks in this period, it examines, in turn, the typographic characteristics of guidebooks and their visual counterparts, maps. The article assesses how the producers of guidebooks—publishers, map-makers and printers—addressed the perceived needs and abilities of their intended readers and explores how actual readers responded, whether through textual annotations or accounts of navigation in the city. It is demonstrated that guidebooks were subject to varied acts of reading (browsing, studying, searching) applied to equally varied information carriers (descriptive text, indexes, schedules and maps). If this ‘useful’ reading has received some attention by analysts of human perception and information, that attention has seldom been directed at information or readers of the past.”

Edward A. Malone

Graphic visualization and visuality in Lester Beall’s Rural Electrification posters, 1937

Golec, M.J. (2013). Journal of Design History, 26, 401–415. doi: 10.1093/jdh/ept028

“This article examines graphic visualization and visuality in Lester Beall’s 1937 series of posters for the United States Rural Electrification Administration. This series of posters is commonly thought of as raising public awareness of the benefits of electricity in rural America, but it has been unclear as to what was meant by ‘public’ and ‘awareness’ in 1937 in terms of rural reform in the United States. This article posits that to understand how these posters were seen in 1937 requires that there be an accounting of how Beall’s posters graphically visualized the complexities of rural electrification, and how graphic visualization was contiguous with the visual cultural style of bureaucratic communication and the visual sensitivity of a public.”

Edward A. Malone

Learning in color: How color and affect influence learning outcomes

Kumi, R., Conway, C.M., Limayem, M., & Goyal, S. (2013). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 56, 2–15. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2208390

In this study researchers examine “how affective reactions to color impact learning attitudes and outcomes in a computer-mediated learning environment.” Current scholarship indicates that “color preferences and affective reactions to color can influence behaviors and attitudes . . . affective dispositions influence goal orientation, motivation, and individual outcomes . . . [and] affective reactions are responses to events, and these reactions influence attitudes and behaviors.” In this quasiexperimental study, 79 participants “listened to a visual presentation lecture with either blue or yellow background and then completed a survey on their affective reactions, learning attitudes, and outcomes.” The researchers conclude “that color is not neutral and may influence learning attitudes and outcomes and, hence, the color of computer technology interface design can influence learning outcomes. . . . The sample size and the focus on two color hues (yellow and blue) may have some limitations on the conclusions and generalizability of this study. Future studies should examine more color hues and color saturation to further our understanding of affective reactions to colors and consequent impact on attitudes and behavioral outcomes.”

Lyn Gattis



Improving scientific voice in the Science Communication Center at UT Knoxville 

Hirst, R. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication43, 425–435. doi: 10.2190/TW.43.4.e

“Many science students believe that scientific writing is most impressive (and most professionally acceptable) when impersonal, dense, complex, and packed with jargon. In particular, they have the idea that legitimate scientific writing must suppress the subjectivity of the human voice. But science students can mature into excellent writers whose voices are clear, interesting, unburdensome, efficient, and accurate. To do this, they must abandon their ponderous scientific voices and use techniques that produce good style.” At the Science Communication Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, [the author] focus[es] on “helping students improve their scientific voice” by using “workshop-style instruction, review of student writing, tutorial staff, and free online tutorials” the author has developed. “This article meditates upon the nature of good scientific voice as it analyzes examples of student writing to show improvements made through specific stylistic techniques.”

Nick Carrington

iPads in the technical communication classroom: An empirical study of technology integration and use

Faris, M.J., & Selber, S.A. (2013). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 27, 359–408. doi: 10.1177/1050651913490942

“Integrating and using technology in the technical communication classroom is an ongoing interest and challenge for the field. Previous work tends to focus on best practices and other types of generalized advice, all of which are invaluable to teachers. But this article encourages teachers to also pay attention to sociotechnical forces and dynamics in local settings. It explains how a cartography of affect can be useful in demonstrating how technologies become imbued with meaning and significance in particular pedagogical contexts. The authors illustrate the value of this mapping practice through a case study of iPad integration and use in a technical communication service course and its teacher-training course. They also provide examples of heuristic questions that can guide critical cartography projects in local settings.”

Lyn Gattis


Information management

Information architects: What we do and how we learn

Haller, T. (2013). Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 40, 19–20.

This article is an introduction to a special section about information architecture. “Defining the field of information architecture is as challenging as ever, but this ASIS&T Bulletin special section includes several successful efforts from different perspectives. The lead article recasts the widely shared practice of organizing information resources as a discipline itself, building a commonly applicable model with widely understandable, generic terminology for broad implementation across diverse fields. The gap between formal education and real-life learning about information architecture is the focus of another article that presents a survey and audience feedback from World IA Day. Other contributions target the practical aspects of shepherding information content through organizational platform migrations, best accomplished by a multidisciplinary team with a common understanding of the information domain. Reflections upon 15 years teaching the subject of information architecture provide an opportunity to review lessons learned and consider how they apply beyond the field.”

Edward A. Malone

The information ecosystems of national diplomacy: The case of Spain, 1815–1936

Cortada, J.W. (2013). Information & Culture, 48, 222–259. doi: 10.1353/lac.2013.0010

“Workers in information-intensive professions live in an information ecosystem in which they create, analyze, store, and communicate information as their core activities. This article illustrates how that happens through the historical case study of Spanish diplomats over the course of more than a century. Their information ecosystem proved extensive, encompassing institutions, bodies of tacit and explicit knowledge, and routine and ad hoc collections of information. This essay offers a model of how to explore the history of a profession’s information ecosystem, relying on administrative histories, memoirs, and an analysis of the extant paper trail left by these diplomats.”

Edward A. Malone

Information infrastructure and descriptions of the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake 

Finn, M. (2013). Information & Culture, 48, 194–221. doi: 10.1353/lac.2013.0011

“In 1857 Californians experienced the largest earthquake in the state’s history. Few people lived near the earthquake’s epicenter, so the earthquake was small in terms of damage and loss of life, but it still was felt from San Diego to San Francisco. After the earthquake, Californians wanted to understand what had happened elsewhere. They circulated narratives about the earthquake by boat and horseback in letters and newspapers. Californians made sense of the earthquake without standardized timekeeping or modern scientific theories. The descriptions and explanations of the earthquake that surfaced were shaped by and reflected the 1857 information infrastructure.”

Edward A. Malone

Managing scalability and reuse

Warman, A.R., (2013). Best Practices, 15, 53, 56–59. [Center for Information-Development Management]

This article examines issues that can arise when “excessive or uncontrolled” content reuse leads to scaling problems, which may worsen over time if the reuse strategy is not adjusted. Scaling problems can occur for procedural or technical reasons, or because “the reuse content is not sufficiently decoupled from its original context.” Tools ranging from “simple assessments to more advanced content management systems” can help authors to “recognize the symptoms of uncontrolled reuse,” depending on the project. The article recommends that authors “implement a reuse management process to help prevent and mitigate the problems. The process should include mechanisms to constrain the proliferation of instances of reuse” and should provide ways to “minimize or ‘retire’ instances of reuse, where appropriate.” Authors should also “[a]pply different reuse strategies to different sections of the documentation. For example, in some sections [authors] might reuse small content units, whereas in other sections [they] might prefer a simpler duplication of an entire topic, accepting that consistency must be watched carefully. . . . The key is to measure and monitor reuse, and to adapt [the] application of this useful technique accordingly.”

Lyn Gattis

Modularity: An interdisciplinary history of an ordering concept

Russell, A.L. (2012). Information & Culture, 47, 257–287. doi: 10.1353/lac.2012.0015

“In the final decades of the twentieth century, experts in a wide variety of disciplines—such as computer science, evolutionary biology, management studies, and educational theory—introduced the concepts of modular design into their professional discourses and practices. In each of these disciplines, modular systems called for standardized, interchangeable components (or modules) that could be recombined within a predefined system architecture. This article explores the modern history of modularity as it was imagined and applied in two specific settings: the architectural theories of Albert Farwell Bemis in the 1930s and the construction of electronic computers in the 1950s and 1960s. By framing this account as a history of an ordering concept, [the author] hope[s] to persuade information historians to look across traditional disciplinary boundaries and examine the more general set of concepts, strategies, organizations, and technologies that humans have used in their unending efforts to order and make sense of information.”

Edward A. Malone

Supermarket savvy: The everyday information-seeking behavior of grocery shoppers

Wimberley, S.L., & McClean, J.L. (2012). Information & Culture, 47, 176–205. doi: 10.1353/lac.2012.0010

“This article examines the information-seeking behaviors of grocery shoppers. Beginning with a review of the historical development of supermarkets in America, it then synthesizes information-seeking behaviors of shoppers in grocery stores with everyday life information-seeking theories. Grocery stores and supermarkets have changed dramatically over time, and business practices evolved in order to meet consumer demands for information. Shoppers’ information-retrieval behaviors, including information seeking, information gathering, and information acquisition, were employed in novel ways as information resources emerged but remained largely unchanged over time.”

Edward A. Malone


Intercultural communication

Cosmopolitanism: Extending our theoretical framework for transcultural technical communication research and teaching 

Palmer, Z.B. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication43, 381–401. doi: 10.2190/TW.43.4.c

“The effects of globalization on communication products and processes have resulted in document features and interactional practices that are sometimes difficult to describe within current theoretical frameworks of inter/transcultural technical communication. Although it has been recognized in our field that the old theoretical frameworks and assumptions are no longer adequate by themselves in the global workplace, to date no comprehensive theoretical framework has been suggested that is capable of encompassing hybrid characteristics of transcultural technical communication that emerge as a result of increased contact and connectivity. This article provides an interdisciplinary overview of Cosmopolitan theory and suggests that applying the cosmopolitan framework of Ulrich Beck to our research and the Dialogical Cosmopolitanism approach of Suresh Canagarajah to our pedagogical practices can move us towards a deeper understanding of global phenomena.”

Nick Carrington

Stakeholder flux: Participation in technology-based international development projects

Walton, R. (2013). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 27, 409–435. doi: 10.1177/1050651913490940

“Technical communication increasingly occurs in distributed, cross-cultural, and cross-organizational environments in which stakeholders may have widely disparate—even conflicting—perspectives. Information and communication technology for development (ICTD) is one such environment. Balancing complex and conflicting perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups is a challenge, and unstable stakeholder participation is a widespread problem in ICTD projects. The study presented here shows that stakeholders’ participation in a project was sustained most easily when the value that the stakeholders would gain from such participation was congruent with their respective national and organizational cultures. This study has implications for technical communicators working on cross-organizational projects, particularly projects that occur in distributed, cross-cultural environments.”

Lyn Gattis



The balanced scorecard: Monitoring the health of your organization

Stevens, D. (2013). Best Practices, 15, 135–142. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Managers seem to be ever on a quest for the right metrics to determine organizational health. However, an overemphasis on one factor—such as the cost of producing a topic of content—frequently leads to treatment of a symptom in isolation.” A more effective strategy is to take “a holistic approach to managing and monitoring” information development teams. “A balanced scorecard enables managers to examine elements of their organizations on a regular basis and helps flag problems before they impact the overall performance of the team. Although each organization may have different tolerances in various areas, use different scales to measure certain factors, or even use different key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate an objective, four critical dimensions seem to universally impact the well-being of information development teams: planning . . . execution . . . quality . . . [and] growth.” The article discusses “critical objectives within each dimension” to help managers understand a team’s current condition and identify skills for improving the team’s health. “Each objective includes possible KPIs that range from simple yes/no answers to longer term data gathering and analysis.”

Lyn Gattis

The roles and responsibilities of an information architect

Foreman, S. (2013). Best Practices, 15, 109–114. [Center for Information-Development Management]

This article focuses on “the roles of an [information architect] and . . . the responsibilities contained within each role” in organizations shifting to “structured authoring and DITA-based publishing.” The author points out that “what it means to be an IA can vary widely” depending on the IA’s “experience and skills, the needs of [the] organization, [and] the experience and skills of others in the organization.” The IA roles discussed in the article include requirements analyst, salesperson, information model developer, project manager, trainer/coach, programmer, and leader. The article also examines the “culture change and uncertainty” IAs may face as they help writing teams move into “topic-oriented authoring” from more traditional forms of publishing.

Lyn Gattis


Public relations

Translating leprosy: The expert and the public in Stanley Stein’s anti-stigmatization campaigns, 1931–60

John, H.V. (2013). Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 68, 659–687. doi: 10.1093/jhmas/jrs018

“This article examines three campaigns through which patient activist Stanley Stein sought to combat the stigmatized connotations of the word ‘leprosy.’ In 1931, soon after starting the first patient newspaper at the U.S. national leprosy hospital at Carville, Stein became convinced of the necessity of finding an alternative to ‘leprosy.’ His ensuing campaign to promote the use of the words ‘Hansen’s Disease’ to describe the condition from which he and fellow Carville patients suffered became his most passionate and life-long project. . . .These campaigns illustrate how even elevation of the medical expert and a seeming disdain for the public can function as a protest of medical authority and reveal a presumption that a significant degree of authority actually resides with the public.”

Edward A. Malone


Scientific writing

Anatomizing the trade: Designing and marketing anatomical models as medical technologies, ca. 1700–1900

Maerker, A. (2013). Technology and Culture, 54, 531–562. doi: 10.1353/tech.2013.0108

“This study proposes an understanding of anatomical models as technologies by highlighting models’ utility as medical tools and their status as embodiments of expert knowledge, while acknowledging that both utility and expertise were contested. Comparing different modeling enterprises reveals how design and marketing strategies created trust in three-dimensional models as authoritative representations of the human body for the purposes of professional medical training or public-health education. This article will explore both the problems that model producers encountered in their efforts to establish their products as medical technologies . . . and the strategies modelers used to address such problems . . . throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”

Edward A. Malone

Expert records: Nautical logbooks from Columbus to Cook

Schotte, M. (2013). Information & Culture, 48, 281–322. doi: 10.1353/lac.2013.0015

“Situating the early modern nautical logbook and its northern European users within the histories of information, scientific observation, and expertise, this survey highlights the interdependence of utility and credibility on the high seas and the pitfalls of interdisciplinarity. Although navigators developed the logbook with practical concerns in mind, toward the close of the seventeenth century, administrators in England, France, and the Netherlands co-opted it for more idealized ends. Their thirst for detail sparked resistance from practitioners, some of whom began to subvert the very shipboard routines that had once authenticated the daily reports. Despite the logbook’s eventual ubiquity, [the author] argue[s] that it ultimately failed as an epistemic tool and thus serves as a suggestive counterexample to the prevailing progressive histories of observation.”

Edward A. Malone

The illusion of certainty and the certainty of illusion: A study of misunderstandings in scientific articles

Lang, T. (2013). AMWA Journal, 28, 105–109.

“Critical thinking is necessary to properly edit a scientific article. However, in addition to questions about the language, we can also question the assumptions, documentation, and implications of the research in a process [the author] call[s] ‘analytical editing.’ A text with unverified assumptions, missing documentation, and unconsidered implications can lull readers into believing that they understand an article when they do not, creating the ‘illusion of certainty.’ Here, [the author] present[s] an example of the analyses needed to understand a single sentence—a case study, if you will, of analytical editing. A close look at the sentence raises several important questions about meaning, measurement, statistical analyses, presentation of data, and interpretation of results. Analytical editing requires a knowledge of several topics: the principles of measurement; research designs and activities; statistical reporting and interpretation; sources of error, confounding and bias; and specialized forms of data display, such as receiving operating characteristics curves, Kaplan-Meier curves, and life tables. Substantive editors who can add analytical editing to their services—the learning curve is not that steep—can greatly increase both their professional skills and their value to authors.”

Magdalena Berry

Instruments of medical information: The rise of the medical trade catalog in Britain, 1750–1914

Jones, C.L. (2013). Technology and Culture, 54, 563–599. doi: 10.1353/tech.2013.0114

“This article focuses on the long-term development of the catalog within British medicine between the years 1750 and 1914 and its role as an information technology in shaping the market for medical instruments and appliances. . . . By viewing the trade catalog as a medical information technology alongside the tools it promoted, this study . . . broadens our conception and enhances our understanding of the relationship among medicine, technology, print, and commerce. . . . The focus on key catalog components, such as the replacement of illustrative plates with individual engraving blocks, highlights not only producers’ motivations, but also the ways in which producers responded to demand and changes in medical practices.”

Edward A. Malone

Public communication of science in blogs: Recontextualizing scientific discourse for a diversified audience

Luzón, M.J. (2013). Written Communication, 30, 428–457. doi: 10.1177/0741088313493610

Luzón investigates different methods for writing about scientific information to a diversified audience, including a lay audience, which may be useful for technical communicators writing in the sciences. “New media are having a significant impact on science communication, both on the way scientists communicate with peers and on the dissemination of science to the lay public. Science blogs, in particular, provide an open space for science communication, where a diverse audience (with different degrees of expertise) may have access to science information intended both for nonspecialist readers and for experts. The purpose of this article is to analyze the strategies used by bloggers to communicate and recontextualize scientific discourse in the realm of science blogs. These strategies involve adjusting information to the readers’ knowledge and information needs, deploying linguistic features typical of personal, informal, and dialogic interaction to create intimacy and proximity, engaging in critical analysis of the recontextualized research and focusing on its relevance, and using explicit and personal expressions of evaluation. The article shows that, given the diverse audience of science posts, bloggers display a blending of discursive practices from different discourses and harness the affordances of new media to achieve their rhetorical purposes.”

Hunter Auman

Scientific communication before and after networked science

Carey, J. (2013). Information & Culture, 48, 344–367. doi: 10.1353/lac.2013.0017

“The appearance of the Philosophical Transactions in 1665 marked the emergence of scientific journals as the dominant mode for dissemination of research and discoveries. The journal system served numerous fundamental needs within the scientific community and encouraged a climate of increased sharing of knowledge. As the rhetoric of scientific discourse evolved over time, a highly stable format emerged to govern the research article as a genre. In the contemporary era of networked science, however, informal scientific communication is also growing in importance as researchers turn to online collaborative tools for even more rapid sharing of results and work in progress.”

Edward A. Malone



How to do things with data: Meta-data, meta-media, and meta-communication

Jensen, K.B. (2013). First Monday, 18(10). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i10.4870

This essay “conceptualizes meta-data as the outcome of diverse social practices from the perspective of communication theory.” Jensen visits cybernetics and “consider[s] the relevance of the concept of meta-communication for the study of the digital media environment. While the bit trails that users leave behind are not normally conceptualized as communication, they are prime candidates for inclusion in a contemporary theory of communication.” The author then discusses digital media as “meta-media—media that potentially reproduce and integrate other types of media, old and new. Meta-media yield new varieties of meta-communication and meta-data.”

Anita Ford



Examining scientific and technical writing strategies in the 11th century Chinese science book Brush Talks from Dream Brook

Yuejiao, Z. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication43, 365–380. doi: 10.2190/TW.43.4.b

“This article examines the influential Chinese science book Brush Talks from Dream Brook, written by Shen Kuo in the 11th century. [The author] suggest[s] that Brush Talks reveals a tension between institutionalized science and science in the public, and a gap between the making of scientific knowledge and the communication of such knowledge to the general public. In writing Brush Talks, Shen preserved and popularized grassroots science and technology in the most respected medium of his time—the printed book. In the article, [the author] ask[s] what formal elements of this book reveal about the choices Shen made as a literati author to connect to his primary readers, most of which were middle and lower class lay audiences. As [the author] will argue, he used three approaches that aided him in speaking to the public about science and technology—an ethnographic approach to knowledge, innovative uses of genre, and a straightforward writing style.”

Nick Carrington