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Technical Communication

January 09, 2004

Longman 2001-2002 Companion Web Site for Lannon's "Technical Communication" textbook

Companion Web Site: Technical Communication, 9th ed. John M. Lannon, Longman. Content development, link updating, and hypertextual structuring for the "Hot Topics" "Web Icons" and "Student Guide" sections.

The site is currently still live and active here. But if it should go dead or be replaced by a new edition of the textbook (currently one of the top two most popular university-level technical writing textbooks on the market), PDF files of sample screens can be found below.

Download long_lannon_techcommAbout.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_92.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_93.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_94.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_96.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_97.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_98.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_99.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_910.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_911.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_912.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_914.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_916.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_918.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_920.pdf

Download long_lannon_techcomm_921.pdf

January 9, 2004 in Technical Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clemson Public Services 1998-2001 Web Redesign, Usability Test Plan, and Study Results

Director, PSA Interactive Resources Studio (Sponsored Research, Web Consultant, Project, Team, and Research Manager): (1998 to 2001) Clemson University Public Service Activities. Created interface research and testing division with 4 graduate assistants and 1 undergraduate programmer.

Built multimedia studio. Planned and implemented redesign of the PSA web site to test interface design theory (M.A.S.S). Directed team of web consultant RAs for stakeholders under the land grant university’s public service commitment.

Directed site test usability study and one RA's (Katlin Beck) master's project, a formal, video-data-coded usability study under an STC grant, and the team applied same methods to a formal PSA usability study.

Studio teaching of graduate and undergraduate students in interaction architecture and web consulting. About $100,000 funded over 3 years.

Download BoesePSAWebSpecs.pdf

Download PSATestPlan.pdf

Download PSAUsabilityReport.pdf

January 9, 2004 in Technical Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Design Conference Room Notemaker Manual

This manual was first drafted by a Research Assistant for the NSF Design Conference Room pilot project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I inherited, expanded, and completed the manual as an NSF Research Assistant in late 1993.

The Design Conference Room was a prototype space for face-to-face and distance computer-supported collaborative work, initially funded by the National Science Foundation. More information about this project can be found here.

Document is large, about 82 pages. Notemaker was a custom note-taking program developed in-house in Apple Hypercard.

NoteMaker

Help Text and User’s Guide

Download dcr_notemaker_help_text.pdf

To read a section about the DCR from the report on original NSF grant, click the continued link below.

"Improving Software Design & Development Education through Technological Innovation"

A Summary Report

National Science Foundation Grant CDA-9214892
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
October 1996

[...]

The most visible product of an extended, user-oriented design effort is the Rensselaer Design Conference Room or "DCR"  (http://dcr.rpi.edu/).  This is a 650 square foot conference room with a 90 square foot observation and development annex.

The DCR is a laboratory for exploration of modes of collaboration in design teams and of
modes of support of design team conferencing.  It has at its center a large conference table with spaces for six conferees at “integrated design stations”.

Whiteboards, tackboards, flipcharts, overhead projection, tables etc. offer traditional media for presentation and discussion of ideas.  National networks and an electronic whiteboard enrich access to information and the expression of ideas.

The conference setting places no visual or acoustic barriers between participants.  All
electronic and media tools are discreetly situated to serve rather than dominate design team efforts.

Each design station consists of a computer workstation with keyboard and screen in a side desk to the left or right of each participant.  Buried in the hexagonal conference table are three large shared monitors driven by a video/file server located in the annex.  The conferees may join a collaboration session on a named project from their individual design stations.  They may in turn take control of the server and the visual space on the shared monitors, moving and transforming information for all to view.  These and auxiliary shared monitors placed elsewhere in the DCR show the same image.

The Collaboration Net software developed for the DCR enables participants to use whatever professional software tools they feel appropriate as they convey their concerns and ideas to other conferees.  We think of the CN as meta-groupware.

Acoustic and video recording of sessions have enabled us do conduct detailed studies of
team processes and performance.  They also enable a team to keep a detailed record of
proceedings and to backtrack to critical points in the discussion.

The DCR has been used by numerous teams from numerous disciplines and several cross- discipline teams.  Documentary studies of team performance have been conducted with teams from courses in software engineering and helicopter design.  Other users have been from courses in algorithm design, electronic arts, architectural CAD, and web site design.  In addition, a Ph.D. thesis has addressed issues related to protocols for sharing the public screen in an empirical study conducted with teams of students.

The Collaboration Net concept is now being extended to distance collaboration with mixed
platform capability.  It will also be applied in a 36-42 seat collaborative classroom in which classes organized into six or more teams will meet.  This facility will support six major kinds of interactive learning activities:  instructor demonstration, peer learning, team meeting, instructor consultation, client consultation, and presentation & critique.  (Architect sketches are appended.)

[...]

January 9, 2004 in Technical Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ACM Hypertext 2000: Making a Successful Case for a Hypertextual Doctoral Dissertation

Presented at: Proceedings of the Eleventh Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia May 30  – June 4, 2000 San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Published in conference proceedings: New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2000. 232-233.

At this same conference, I also presented the following material in a poster session:

Download "Adventures in Alternative Hypertext Structuring: Research, Professional, and Classroom Uses"

Download "Making a Successful Case for a Hypertextual Doctoral Dissertation" ACM offprint

Find this article in its original location here.

Making a Successful Case
for a Hypertextual Doctoral Dissertation

Christine Boese
Department of English
Clemson University
Clemson, SC USA  29634

ABSTRACT

In August, 1998 the first hypertextual dissertation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was accepted (http://www.nutball.com/dissertation),  a case study applying methods of rhetorical analysis and cultural critique to the online phenomenon called the “Xenaverse,” the cyberspaces devoted to the cult following of the syndicated television program Xena, Warrior Princess. The hypertextual research site, a vital online culture, seemed to demand a new kind of scholarship to describe and analyze it. Still, there were many hurdles to getting such an unorthodox presentation form accepted by the dissertation committee and the Graduate School.

This paper summarizes a few of the justifying arguments that led to the successful acceptance this dissertation, a hypertext that could not be reproduced in any way on paper. In showing how one case for a hypertextual dissertation was successfully argued, I hope to help other scholars make similar cases at other institutions, perhaps leading to further debate on the ways arguments and epistemologies will be defined in the future.

KEYWORDS: hypertext dissertation electronic scholarship online cultural studies library archives University Microfilms graduate school Xenaverse Xena

The rest of the text version is available at the "Continue" link below.

INTRODUCTION

There are good and bad reasons for wanting to attempt a hypertextual dissertation. An attempt at hypertextual scholarship should not be motivated by a gratuitous desire to find any excuse to hypertextualize an argument. David Kolb, in a number of his works [1][2] has raised important reservations about hypertextual forms of academic arguments, especially because linearity and coherence have often been seen as essential features of good arguments. Some argue that dissertations are by definition linear, and therefore something that is nonlinear cannot actually be a dissertation. I agree that dissertations must present an argument, but I remain unconvinced that arguments are essentially defined by their linearity. The field of rhetoric in particular shows us how most arguments that strive for linearity are not fully linear, and are instead dependent on enthymemes and other rhetorical figures and stances.

Meanwhile, some of us are in search of truths that don’t proceed linearly, that build a persuasive case by accumulation and reiteration, by inviting users to make their own connections and to actively construct truths from extensive archives and linked appendices.

However, the best reason for attempting a hypertextual dissertation is that the content of the research demands it. In the case of the cyberspace-based virtual world called the "Xenaverse," an ethnographic study could take into account the hypertextual virtual culture created, describe it on its own terms, and then circle back and analyze the findings. The dissertation could contain both detailed description and critical rhetorical analysis, cross-linked and tied directly to the sites of the study’s co-participants. With this in mind I began the project, The Ballad of the Internet Nutball: Chaining Rhetorical Visions from the Margins of the Margins to the Mainstream in the Xenaverse (http://www.nutball.com/dissertation).

WHAT FORM SHOULD IT TAKE?

How do I effectively report back on my research? How much hypertextual knowledge and understanding would be lost in the translation from webbed text to linear print text? The data consist of multiple media strung across a web of links. The shape of the dissertation content, both my own description and analysis and the many voices of the people who live in my data, is primarily non-hierarchical, decentering, marginal, polyvocal, multi-threaded, in short, hypertextual. My goal was to move outside of the standard, linear, centered form for a dissertation argument in order to devise an alternative, perhaps more expansive, form for my persuasion in hypertext. The hypertextual performance of this dissertation was merely one step toward testing whether nonlinear arguments can be made in hypertext, a challenge put forth by David Kolb in "Socrates in the Labyrinth" [1] and "Discourse Across Links" [2].

If closure doesn't always happen down a predetermined route, how do I judge, how does my dissertation committee judge, whether I have successfully completed and defended a dissertation that exists in native hypertextual, multimedia form? Perhaps what I am making is more of a hypertextual creative work of considerable substance, a performance, a representation of a dissertation in experimental form. However, this does not mean that my argument cannot be effective and persuasive, and thus still meet the institutional requirements for dissertations.

This project sought to link and merge with the webbed Xenaverse culture in cyberspace. To learn about the Xenaverse, the power relationships and constructions of authority within it, the user is invited to step through a scholarly portal, to become immersed, explore, both within and beyond the blurred boundaries of the dissertation and into the Xenaverse itself. I made a choice to match the form of my dissertation to the webbed environment of the Xenaverse, in order not to lose the hypertextual knowledge and understanding that could perhaps be gained from associational linking and dialogic interactions between frames and windows.

INSTITUTIONAL CONSTRAINTS

With a dissertation I couldn’t be as free form as I might have been in a fictional piece. If I had been more experimental, I would have run the risk that the dissertation would have been unacceptable to the Graduate School. My committee was receptive to experimentation, and eventually voiced concern that I had been too conservative in structuring the interface. However, I had to find a way to ensure that the major argumentative points of my study were communicated through multiple paths and navigational styles. I attempted to do that by building redundancies into the content for a holistic effect. I also attempted to build recursiveness into the link structure, so that patterns of links would lead the reader back around and around until unexplored sectors will almost inevitably be reached.

There were also some key negotiations made between the chair of my doctoral committee, the Graduate School, and myself. Our research indicated that University Microfilms had been accepting CD-ROM dissertations since 1996, and it was heralded as a sign of progress in the “Information Technology” section of The Chronicle of Higher Education [3].

Upon contacting University Microfilms in 1998, however, I was told that the electronic submission policy only applied to Portable Document Format (.pdf) files, in other words, facsimile document files that faithfully reproduced images of a paper dissertation. The person I spoke with had no idea what University Microfilms would do with the multimedia dissertations written about in the Chronicle article. These were described as traditional linear dissertations with extensive support media (e.g. video clips, photographs). There was no mention of what would be done with the nonlinear structuring of hypertextual forms. Eventually I came upon the same difficulty with the Rensselaer Polytechnic library: lack of a digital archive.

I had developed an interface of dialogically interacting frames and windows forming a composite text. In the first round of negotiations over a “no paper” dissertation with the Graduate School, I was asked if I could just print out all the Mainscreens, negating the effects of nonlinear linking. My advisor, David Porush, and I had decided early on that if an electronic dissertation could be reproduced on paper, then there was really no compelling reason for it to be in electronic form at all.

To its credit, the Rensselaer Graduate School was remarkably open-minded. I proposed a small introductory text that would contain instructions on how to install the CD-ROM or access the Web site. This small amount of paper could be hardcover bound, with an envelope affixed to the inside back cover for the CD-ROM. Finally a compromise was reached. The Graduate School required that each dissertation have four sections, an Abstract, an Introduction, a Conclusion, and a Bibliography. In the end, the paper component totaled 73 pages.

The greatest obstacle to the archival longevity of the project had to do with the Institute’s lack of stable, long-term digital storage and access space on the Internet. I needed a permanent Uniform Resource Location (URL) that I could publish in the paper archives. I had to take it upon myself to provide a stable and permanent URL for the site, paying to register a DNS as well as the monthly server space rental.

CONCLUSION

I hope that other scholars can add to the development of such cases like this, opening the door for a more firmly established genre of hypertextual scholarship. We also must consider the traditional and not-so-traditional institutional constraints for archiving and referencing such work, and advocate changing the storage system assumptions made by University Microfilms and library archives in making hypertextual electronic scholarship available to other researchers. Electronic dissertations that are exact representations of paged paper texts show little justifying reason for being created and stored in digital form, other than the expedience of saving library shelf space. Some scholars are using digital materials to archive multimedia rich data appendices, but the form of their argument remains primarily conventional. There is much more work to be done.

REFERENCES

1. Kolb, D., Socrates in the Labyrinth, in Hyper/Text/Theory, G.P. Landow, Editor. 1994, Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD.
2. Kolb, D., Discourse across Links, in Philosophical Perspectives on Computer-Mediated Communication, C. Ess, Editor. 1996, State University of New York Press: Albany, NY. p. 15-26.
3. Mangan, K.S., CD-ROM Dissertations: Universities consider whether new format is appropriate way to present research. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1996 (March 8, 1996): p. A15-A19.

January 9, 2004 in Published Research, Technical Communication, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2003

1995 Director 4.0 Multimedia Textbook Proposal

Prepared in response to a request by an editor at Prentice Hall, to bring the book out to coincide with a new release from Macromedia of Director 4 Academic. The proposal was favorably received by several layers of reviewers, but got stalled when Macromedia bumped up its release time for Director 5.0.

Download director_4_textbook_proposal.pdf

For the full document, open the PDF file above. Here is a text reproduction of its opening section:

Prospectus

Submitted by
Christine Boese
Rensselaer Polytechnic
(C) All Rights Reserved
19 June 1995

A Textbook:   

Director 4.0:
Learning Multimedia Design and Creation

According to Bob Kern, Prentice Hall is planning an introductory undergraduate- and general reader-level textbook/multimedia product to accompany the release of Director Academic. Promotional materials mention this text under the above title. Following my discussion with Kern, I offer the following prospectus and outline for that introductory text.

Contents

  1. A brief description of the book, its outstanding features, pedagogical aids, supplements, and audience level.
  2. A summary of my background, copy of curriculum vita, and discussion of my future plans.
  3. An assessment of the competition for this book.
  4. A consideration of the market for this book.
  5. A chapter by chapter outline.
  6. Sample Chapter 3, Going into the Woods.
  7. Sample Chapter 7, The Art of Effective Film Looping.
  8. Additional Information.

Attachments: Five Floppy Disks containing my Multimedia Resume.  (Self-extracting: follow instructions on the Disk 1 README)

1    The Book

1.0    Overview

More colleges and universities are offering undergraduate courses in multimedia and hypermedia.  Initially these courses appeared in highly technical departments, far removed from the visionaries and communication theorists speculating on the forms this new media could and ought to take.

At the same time, software tools such as Director have improved substantially. Highly technical approaches to teaching multimedia have given way to concerns of effective communication and aesthetic design principles.  As the new media forms have evolved, the more lofty theories began to trickle down to everyday makers of multimedia and hypermedia.  Theory and practice converged.

1.1    Brief Description

    Until now there has not been an introductory text that adequately represents this convergence of theory and practice in terms undergraduates and ordinary people can understand and apply.  In multimedia the opportunities for new users are tremendous, for they often have the time and resources at their schools to play with the possibilities of new media, a luxury working professionals seldom have. Breakthrough products will come from such students when they are given support materials that attend to the theoretical and technical convergence common, everyday terms.  Students need to be challenged to go beyond templates and formulas with a sense of adventure and boldness.  They need to have a textbook that is more than a how-to guide through a difficult interface with an admittedly steep learning curve.   I am proposing to write such a textbook.

    This textbook will be short and to the point, avoiding the high-sounding language of theory while still attending to complex ideas and key concepts.  My purpose in writing such a text is to open the world of multimedia to the masses in such a way as not to pander uncritically to their initial enthusiasm.  Rather, I want to challenge these new users of the newly accessible multimedia software to push the field forward themselves.  I want them to be empowered by the new tools for greater creative expression, for more employment and market opportunities still to come, and for a less passive outlook on the persuasive effects of flashy media forms.  My approach will be personable and direct, with a touch of humor.  Chapters on design and theory will alternate with more technical advice on the complexities of Director, in order to bring skills in both areas along hand in hand.

1.2    Outstanding Features

Several of the outstanding features of the text will capitalize on the convergence of theory and practice in terms that students can try out right away. Most important will be an understanding of an overarching metaphor (detailed in the sample Chapter Three enclosed in this packet) that brings the nonlinear nature of hypermedia structure into immediate practical application. Metaphors are also a central part of Director, necessary to understanding the program.  To enter into this textbook, then, will be to enter the world of metaphor and analogy as a vehicle for understanding multimedia.  Outstanding features are listed below:

  • Short chapters with a clear focal point in each and one or two aspects of multimedia design highlighted.
  • An overarching metaphor for understanding hypermedia theory.
  • An overview of industrial, commercial, and educational applications of multimedia, its current limitations, and projections for the future.
  • Creative and humorous examples to illustrate interface design, to function as a trigger that will help students break free from existing templates and preconceptions.
  • Clear exposition of major features of Director Academic and Working Strategies to make the learning curve manageable and rewarding.
  • Generous visual illustrations of difficult concepts and maneuvers.

1.3    Pedagogical Features

The primary unique pedagogical feature of this text is its attention to Working Strategies or in some cases, several alternative Working Strategies.  (This feature is illustrated in the sample Chapter Seven enclosed in this packet.) Pedagogical features are listed below.

  • As dictated by content, each chapter will contain sidebar Working Strategies, many contributed from working professionals, set off from the primary text and  illustrations by screened gray boxes, consistently applied throughout.
  • Each chapter will open with a boldface Objective which will make explicit the purpose of the text and illustrations that follow.
  • One Director Movie will be undertaken per chapter (beyond the introductory material) to facilitate and complement the instructor’s assignments. Some of the more complex chapters will build on movies created previously.
  • Because Lingo is the most difficult and counter-intuitive part of working with Director, each chapter (beyond the introductory material) will contain near the end a short Lingo Drill on the chapter theme and one or two templates students can type in and put to use immediately.
  • Following the Lingo Drill, each chapter will end with two brief interactive sections to help students reflect on and apply the ideas in that chapter.  The first section will be called Ideas for Collaboration, and it will encourage students to find connections and work together on their projects, as multimedia professionals inevitably must.  The second section will be called Questions for Audience Critique, and it will raise critical issues of design in the context of the student’s classmates and instructors serving as test users.
  • Finally, some chapters will end with a brief bibliography, called simply For Further Reading.

January 9, 2003 in Technical Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2002

RPI 1995 Computer-Assisted Writing Program Proposal

Download RPIProgramProposal.pdf

RPI Computer-Assisted Writing Proposal

Submitted by
Christine Boese
9 January 1995

Goal:

To convert all six sections of Expository Writing to a computer-assisted curriculum while maintaining a coherent language and culture theme.  A target date for this conversion is beginning with Fall Semester 1995.  This curriculum will emphasize electronic writing as a social act by increasing classroom textual, social, and cultural interactions during the writing process.  It will also include electronic support of synchronous and asynchronous collaborative groups and class discussions, and an increased volume of writing from students to their peers as an immediate and responsive audience.

What will be required to make this conversion?

Contents

  1. Rationale.
  2. The implementation of one of two hardware-software options, depending on available resources.
  3. A syllabus redesign to plan for splitting class time between a traditional classroom and an electronic classroom (one such syllabus has already been piloted for two semesters).
  4. One full Teaching Assistant position (20 hours) to train and support instructors new to computer-assisted teaching, and to administer and manage computer storage space and electronic forum structures.  This person will be the Computer Expos Coordinator.
  5. An orientation and training plan for new instructors, designed to help them become comfortable with the technology as well as current pedagogical issues connected with using these forms of technology in a classroom community.
  6. Summary

Appendix A:  Sample Syllabus from the Pilot Project

To read the entire proposal, download the PDF file.

December 9, 2002 in Technical Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 09, 2002

Lighting Research Center Posters win STC Award of Achievement

Lighting Research Center Partner's Day Posters, Award of Achievement, Society for Technical Communication, 1996 Publications Competition.

Designed and produced about 20 posters total. The PDF sample files below are quite large, and were 20" by 30", mounted on foam core, and displayed on tripods for Partner's Day.

Download ArrigoniBridge.pdf

Download DeltaAmsterdam.pdf

Download GMV4.pdf

October 9, 2002 in Technical Communication | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack