Introducing Technology to Technical Communication

Advancement in technology has had a significant impact on the way technical communicators create and publish content. Carliner addresses two overarching trends regarding the integration of technology into technical communication. Carliner states, “The first trend is the increasing role of computers in the production process.” It’s difficult to comprehend the publishing process before computers. At my workplace, there are a few employees who have worked at the company for over 50 years. When asked about the publishing process, they recall the days when they had to manually markup reviews and create illustrations by hand – a painstaking process that could take days or weeks. Carliner states, “The second trend is the increasing move of content to online, from a time when organizations published nearly everything in print to now, when organizations publish nearly all content online.” As society has grown more connected, the way that content is shared and interpreted has evolved. Technical communication continues to shift form static content like print instructions and visual aids to interactive platforms like virtual and augmented reality.

In addition to the efficiency of integrating technology to technical communication, documents have become more versatile. Certain platforms allow the user to publish content on a variety of different platforms from a single source. Carliner states, “[FrameMaker’s] versatility eventually extended beyond printing; it could produce print and online versions of the same document.”  This platform is also versatile in the sense that it can contain multiple versions of a document from a single file. For example, FrameMaker contains a tool called conditional text, which allows the user to easily toggle between versions of a document to view, edit, or publish. At my workplace, our primary publishing platform is FrameMaker, and the conditional text tool allows us to toggle between brands from the same source. This allows the user to organize files, save space, and work more efficiently when tackling multiple projects.

Another critical shift in technical communication is globalization. Carliner states, “Globalization led to the need to translate documents, but also to localize content (that is, adjust terminology and examples to that they use local terms like the term “lift” instead of “elevator”).” It is important to properly reflect the terminology of the local language.  At my workplace, this becomes especially important in our safety sections. While “backing up” a zero-turn mower might make sense to a US market, it would not make sense to a UK market. In this case, “reversing” would be the preferred standard terminology. Other terms that require conditional text for the UK market include spilt vs. spilled, tyre vs. tire, and centre vs. center to name a few. While translators can help mitigate these errors, it is important to be aware of these potential risks when writing content for different markets.

Spilka, R. (2010). Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

Posted on November 1, 2020, in Social Media and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nathan Baughman

    Hi Bonney,

    I think you give a very cogent description for each of Carliner’s trend’s in technology, and relate them to your personal experience quite well. For the first trend, I do think things must have been very different before documents and the publishing process was computerized. For doing research projects, this must have been a completely different world. I have had the luxury most of my life to use online databases for finding articles and other sources, without the need to even leave my own home. I would think that locating sources would have been such a different process in past times, having to locate physical paper articles at a library. This is probably not much different than the process of creating illustrations for something. Great post!

  2. Hi Bonnie,

    I wrote something similar to my post as well regarding publication. I can relate to you in terms of how difficult it is to imagine how publishing was handled in the past before the rise of computers. While taking History of Design, one of the many things we had to learn was how books were printed in the past and it did not seem like it was an easy task. Sometimes I take for granted how easy computers have made it to create illustrations and layouts and send it off to a printer. It never even occurred to me how complex it was while I was taking publication design because the designing aspect was so ingrained into me. Awesome post!


  3. Hi Bonnie,

    It is quite impressive the revolutionary impact technology has had on the world of technical communication. Almost every technical communication deliverable is now created through technology. This has provided countless ways to improve usability, efficiency, and accessibility for the user. Technology has broadened many guiding technical communication practices. Since the onset of Web 2.0, creators have different capabilities to experiment with and provide the best experience for the user. Topics such as accessibility have given users a voice in utilizing certain products. Technology now allows us to create for the user, instead of being limited with the technological means we have to use.

    Nice post!


  4. rebeccaanderson8641

    Hi Bonnie,
    Interesting post. I particularly enjoyed your reflection on your personal experiences. Globalization is such an interesting concept to me. It seems to be born almost entirely as a result of the digital age. Do you agree that globalization would be significantly less prominent without the internet as a catalyst?
    I appreciated that you are looking to the internet for globalization solutions as well! I think it’s important to rely on innovative solutions for innovative problems. However, I often wonder how different rules in different countries governing the internet and the dissemination of information will impact future globalization efforts.
    Great job!

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