Room 42 is a new hybrid, taking the best parts of traditional webinars, interview-style podcasts, and online teaching to move us all in a new direction. In the room, you will find the leaders who are molding the new professionals and advancing the profession. Room 42 is where content professionals come share vetted, peer-reviewed research in and around content, writing, rhetoric, argumentation, analysis, linguistics, and more to help us all be better communicators.
Design Thinking for Writing Professionals
Native to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dr. Jason Tham is an Assistant Professor of Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University. Prior to working in Texas, Jason lived in Minnesota for 10 years while completing his degrees. Now, Jason teaches user experience research, information design, and digital rhetoric while doing research in technical communication practices, pedagogy, and technology. He is especially interested in how “design thinking” can help bring about meaningful disruptions to the modern workplace and higher education. In his most recent book, Design Thinking in Technical Communication, Jason unpacks the relationship between design-centric methods for strategic problem solving, collaboration, teaching and learning, and socially responsive innovation. With Joe Moses of the University of Minnesota, he co-authored the Collaborative Writing Playbook (link to come), which provides a flexible framework for instructors who assign team based projects using design thinking attributes.
Dr. Tham will share some of his research and conclusions from his newly published book, which has become essential reading for instructors, students, and practitioners who want to apply principles of usability and user-centered design to their technical communication processes and deliverables.
In his book, he argues that design thinking should be a core methodology and mindset for technical communicators. Thinking like a designer means taking a “radical collaborative” approach––an attribute of design thinking––in college education, research training, and professional development. We'll start at the beginning with a definition of design thinking and its meaning for technical communication contexts, including some of the history and places where it is currently in use in the workplace and in training circles.
In this episode of Room 42 we discuss how applying some attributes of design thinking like "empathy" and "radical collaboration" can make us all better technical communicators.
Digital Technology & the Future of Work
Dr Tim Amidon is an Associate Professor of Digital Rhetoric at Colorado State University and holds appointments within the English Department and the Colorado School of Public Health. His research surrounds the interrelationships of technology, agency, and workplace literacy with focused interests in rhetorics of data, risk communication, intellectual property, and occupational safety and health. His scholarship has appeared in venues such as Communication Design Quarterly, The Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, Hybrid Pedagogy, as well as within proceedings of the International Conference on Design, Usability, and Usability (DUXU) and the Association of Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on the Design of Communication (SIGDOC). In addition, Tim has served as a firefighter/EMT, technical rescuer, fire instructor, and/or fire officer in fire and emergency service organizations for over 20 years.
In this episode, we discuss the way emerging technologies are transforming work within the fire and emergency services industry, including insights from an ongoing project funded by the NSF to develop a wearable physiological monitor to improve firefighter safety outcomes. He will also consider how practitioners, designers, and researchers might leverage UX and TPC research to cultivate coalitions for the design and integration of more accessible, equitable, inclusive, and just technologies.
What does the sophisticated array of digital technologies—from remote sensors and wearables to drones and data analytics platforms—taken up across industries mean for the future of work? How might these technologies displace the existing tools, practices, and literacies workers coordinate in order to construct knowledge and communicate within various industries? How might these technologies reveal affinities toward and limitations in blue- and white-collar conceptions of work?
Writing Professionals Can Build Bridges
Erin Brock Carlson is an Assistant Professor of English at West Virginia University, where she teaches Professional Writing and Editing courses, including multimedia writing, technical writing, and writing theory and practice. She earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition from Purdue University, an MA in English from Miami University, and a BA in English and Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication from Transylvania University. Her work rests at the intersections of environmental humanities and digital humanities, focusing on the ways that place, technology, and community are wrapped up in one another. Driven by a commitment to investigate the ways that communities can unexpectedly leverage their resources to address wicked problems, her work often utilizes participatory research methods, including photovoice and participatory mapping.
She is currently focused on how communities in rural Appalachia are grappling with major economic and environmental changes by leaning into place (with all of its physical, social, and cultural trappings) as a strength for community-building. By treating place as a strength, rather than a weakness, we can re-frame conversations that often trail into stereotypes and generalizations, further reifying problems. In her collaborative project focused on pipeline development in West Virginia, she conducted over 30 interviews with rural residents directly affected by pipeline development on their land, finding that pipeline development is a fraught and often stressful experience, riddled with complex processes and protocols.
In this episode of Room 42, we travel the intersection of environmental humanities and digital humanities to discover how technical communicators can be a bridge between divergent perspectives. How we might be able to fill in thick, complex, convoluted scenarios—scenarios like energy development in rural areas, where landowners and energy companies often fail to see eye-to-eye?
Lived experiences are often excluded from the larger conversations about issues like energy development and the residents they are supposed to serve. These conversations are often couched in only environmental or economic discourse. This is where the unique skills of technical and professional communicators can create clear and consistent communication between multiple stakeholders and open up a unique opportunity for technical communicators to do community-engaged, meaningful work.
Collisions in Patient Education: Surveillance, Medical Devices, and Communication
Krista Kennedy is fascinated by the ways that humans work closely with technologies and the rhetorical implications of policies and laws that shape that work. Her experience as a deaf academic informs her current project, which examines intersections of deafness, artificial intelligence, passing, and ethics of medical data collection. Kennedy is Associate Professor of Writing & Rhetoric at Syracuse University, PI of the Disability, Data, and Surveillance Project, affiliated with SU’s Autonomous Systems Policy Institute, and, for the 2020-21 year, NEH Visiting Professor of Writing & Rhetoric at Colgate University. She teaches courses on information design, cultural history of robotics, rhetorics of technology, and professional and technical writing.
Noah Wilson is curious about the ways technologies shape our rhetorical actions, particularly how we make connections with other people. He is currently a PhD candidate in Syracuse University’s Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program and a Visiting Instructor of Writing & Rhetoric at Colgate University where he teaches first year writing, rhetorical history and theory, and surveillance rhetorics. His dissertation addresses recent trends in social media content recommendation algorithms that have led to increased political polarization in the United States and the proliferation of radicalizing conspiracy theories such as Qanon and Pizzagate.
In this episode of Room 42 we discuss the Disability, Data, and Surveillance Project, a joint project of researchers at Syracuse University and Loyola University Chicago, and the results of our ongoing study of algorithmic data collection in compulsory medical wearables.
Device manufacturers and other high-tech companies increasingly incorporate algorithmic data surveillance in next-gen medical wearables. These devices, including smart hearing aids, leverage patient data created through human-computer interaction to not only power devices but also increase corporate profit.
Although US and EU data protection laws establish privacy requirements for personal information and use, these companies continue to legally rely on patients’ personal information with little notice or education, significantly curtailing the agency of wearers. Join us to learn more about the complexities of algorithmic ecologies in medical wearables and navigating data surveillance disclosure in patient education materials.
Career Advice for Professional Writers
Saul Carliner is a professor of educational technology at Concordia University in Montreal, where his teaching and research focus on the design of instructional and informational materials (especially in emerging media), the management of groups that produce these materials, and related issues of policy and professionalism. He has received research funding from SSHRC, Entente Canada-Quebec, Canadian Council on Learning, Society for Technical Communication, and Hong Kong University Grants Council. Also an industry consultant, Carliner has provided strategic consultation in organizational design, program evaluation, and effective instructional and informational design.
Among his over 250-plus publications are the upcoming Career Anxiety: Guidance for Tough Times (with Margaret Driscoll and Yvonne Thayer), the best-selling Training Design Basics, award-winning Informal Learning Basics, numerous book chapters, articles, and op-eds and over 50 peer-reviewed publications. He has appeared on CNBC Asia, CTV Montreal, Global National, Globe and Mail, Jerusalem Post, Les Affaires, Montreal Gazette, and the Wall Street Journal. He is vice-president of the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), Fellow and past board member of the Institute for Performance and Learning, past Research Fellow of the Association for Talent Development, and Fellow and past international president of the Society for Technical Communication.
In this episode of Room 42 we have a candid conversation about techniques and strategies that can help relieve career anxiety. If history is any indicator of the future then it stands to reason that the employment environment will continue to change. Sometimes drastically. We touch on factors affecting commerce and how those changes will impact your future employability. We also discuss the skills and credentials you should acquire in order to stay competitive into the future.
How to Get Invited to Cool New Projects
Dr. Jack T. Labriola is an Assistant Professor of Technical Communication at Kennesaw State University, where he teaches usability testing, information architecture, and the senior capstone design course. He has researched, written, and presented on a variety of topics ranging from a co-edited collection, Content Strategy in Technical Communication with Routledge, to articles on minimalist design aesthetics and mobile user experience, to conference papers on university partnerships and building up student research toolkits. Dr. Labriola’s professional mission is to continue to discover opportunities to research and create better experiences for users in their day-to-day use of technology.
In this episode of Room 42 we discuss strategies for searching and finding collaborative projects outside of your comfort zone. We'll also share practical ideas to help advocate for the value you bring to help colleagues in different disciplines see the importance of communication and user experience.
The messy world of research can offer you a unique opportunity to break out of your comfort network to expand your knowledge. It can also give you more career agility and, let's face it, it makes things far more interesting.