Relevant Topic. Dated Examples.

I appreciated the expansion Salvo and Ronsinki (2010) give to the idea of digital literacy, for it allows for the fluency with which digital evolution changes communication. They state that “Digital literacy cannot be just the ability to use certain technologies. Rather, the term must apply to the thoughtful deployment of technologies…” (p. 123). What specifically intrigued me was the somewhat ironic application of the chapter’s message to the chapter itself.

Parts of the reading seem like rhetorical history in technical communication, especially when the authors focus on ambient findability. Much of the technology the authors wish existed during the time this chapter was written, already exists. For example, the authors say that “…search engines barely register any distinction between…desktop or laptop” (p. 122), but Google Analytics has incorporated these (and many more) aspects in its services. Furthermore, the authors foreshadow Facebook’s revolutionary EdgeRank Algorithm and advertisement cookies, wishing for a web browser which delivers advertisement based on “…maximizing applicability and relevance” (p. 122). These technologies exists, and has changed not only social media integration in marketing, but also the way information systems are designed.

However, I would offer an alternate approach to their statement  that “…as soon as a design is out of the author’s hand and launched in the world, we see how effective that design can be.” (p. 124). In a digital architecture, system creation does not have to be one deliverable which cannot be altered. Examples include Content Management Systems (CMS), web sites, app development etc. Each of these digital platforms allows for a responsive design. With responsive design of digital space, authors are no longer bound and “…cannot control how users interact with digital space [them]…” (p. 124). Responsive design, created from careful analysis of users’ current behavior within a space, gives the author freedom to adjust to a user’s interaction. This concept, I feel still ties in with the authors’ main point on the fluidity of trends within technical communication. The ability to remain flexible, alert and engage new technology with older methods, is still a cornerstone to digital communication, even when considering responsive design.

I would love to hear from my classmates, however. What do you think? Does Salvo and Rosinki’s chapter seem dated in its examples of non-emergent technologies? What are your thoughts on how responsive design’s ability to give authors real-time response to user interactions? 

Posted on October 5, 2014, in Literacy, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. At my company, we are struggling to understand how to make our enterprise security content mobile-ready. I’ve been using A List Apart as a resource.

    I consider Rachel Lovinger an expert in content strategy, and she has some great presentations on content strategy and responsive design.

    • Thanks for the link to Rachel’s site! I always love reading/learning from real-time developers who know both the academic as well as the commercial/social side of content and design.

  2. Yes, I found myself muttering “don’t we already have this capability?” I found the article was trying to be cutting edge, but we were reading it too late. I do like how you wrapped up that the main theme was fluidity. As I read the article (let’s be real, I was confused a lot), I wondered what they would say about our trends today. I suspect they are pleased with their anticipations for the future; it makes me wonder what they think is next.

    In terms of responsive design, It’s essential for everything online to be nimble. If a company does not respond to data showing that their website is not easily navigable, then their sales will drop.

  3. I held down might left mouse button long enough for it to automatically post the beginning of my comment. NEW WORDPRESS FEATURE. I agree with the importance of real time response, but I don’t think it is limited to the usability website. I think that it also extends to the usable content that can be printed by the end user. A company that alters its presentation of information to its users and incorporates feedback will always be more successful than if it didn’t. However, I don’t think that bigger companies are affected nearly as much as smaller ones.

    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage processes their loans in a DOS based system that doesn’t talk to any of their other systems and has no web capabilities. If ten people were to get a mortgage through WF, there would be 10 different experiences and the biggest complaint would be lack of communication about their loan and lack of accessibility by the client knowing where their loan is in the process. Wells Fargo has tried to roll out a web based system for over 10 years with catastrophic results. A beta test two years ago lasted 1 week before being taken offline. My point is Wells Fargo did $524 billion dollars in loans 2012. Their inability to satisfy the client and effectively utilize client feedback didn’t stop them from being the most profitable mortgage company in the country. It now owns (yes the bank owns your house until you completely pay off your mortgage) more than 33% of residential homes in the United States.

  4. I’ll let the students weigh in on whether or not the examples are dated, but I fear that will always be the case with traditionally published texts that have list a certain copyright date but had its chapters submitted to editors 1-2 years previous.

    I do think your points about responsive design and fluidity are intriguing and think those could be extended throughout the semester.

    • I agree: within the digital era, developments move so quickly that the moment something is published, it becomes outdated. That being said, I chose to look at the reading from a ‘mapping’ or rhetorical ‘tracking’ point of view. When I did, I saw the article itself becoming almost an example within an example of the author’s overall point. They prove their point by a) creating a predictive modeling of what technology needs were 3-4 years ago and b) using their examples not as definitions of what the end-all goal of digital development would be, but as suggestions of where digital communication was heading during that time.
      If anything, making such a connection just reinforced the idea that technical communicators need to stay alert in the digital arena not just in skill, but in developments occurring within their currently used software/systems.

      • Good way of looking at it–the example within an example! I know I’m tempted to bring in more current pieces whenever I can find them, the TCQ special issue on social media being one of them, but I do think there’s something to be said about “historical” or predictive pieces like this one since it only reinforces, as you say, the need to stay alert.

  5. I agree that the examples are a bit dated, but it’s interesting to read something that is still recent and modern, but still find that the information is “old.” Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that an article written 6 months ago might not information that is relevant to the topic. I’m learning this with my current job very quickly. If any piece of documentation or article that I come across was written more than 6 months ago, it’s considered irrelevant and useless. Even at the 6 month mark, I still have to cross-check the facts to make sure the information in it is true.

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