The Social Construction of Technical Communication

Technical Communication as a Community

Have you ever wondered why it’s easier to communicate with those that use similar technologies to your own? At first you probably think it’s because you can relate to them and that you go through similar situations, and this is all correct. However, what if I told you that the reason you can speak more fluently with these individuals is because technical communication has created a social medium for you to do so? In the article “Technical Communication is a Social Medium” Jason Swarts goes into more detail about how knowledge of a technology can be difficult to understand and to communicate, it’s not an object that can be stored, owned, or moved around, it simply relies on the skill sets and understanding that one has. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that when you are developing a technology to take into consideration the knowledge that users have about your product, and how technical communicators can curate this information to better inform your users of issues that may arise about your technology.

Information can be framed in a couple of different ways, “epistemic status,” which is the sum of what one knows and how they know it and “epistemic stance,” which is a position that one takes through language to reframe an idea or thought and to move a listener towards a different understanding. When you ask for feedback from your users you have to take into consideration what and how they are asking. It’s easy to misinterpret information that takes an “epistemic stance,” yet this information may be legitimate to the development of your technology. That’s when the knowledge from technical communicators comes into play and creates a better image of the situation and how a resolution can be agreed upon.

When bringing the users of a technology together you are creating a community of engagement about a product. These users all have different experiences, and when they start to communicate with each other they will use a form of technical communication to converse about the different scenarios that they have encountered. By taking into consideration the different user perspectives across a field of practice, or practices, it will shape the collective community and be able to better evolve into a more precise technology that meets the needs of its consumers.

This will elevate the user's experience because it will bridge the understanding between developers and users, and thereby creating a better technology that meets the needs of its users. Technical communication is thereby the connection between effective understanding and the development of technology.  


Technical Communication is a Social Medium, by Jason Swarts

Viewpoint Written by Rachel M Spradling, Texas State University

Edited by Anjanie R. Fairbairn, Texas State University

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