Epistemic Theories and the Evolving Structure of Technical Communication

I’m taking the opportunity presented by my final project for EH 603 and using it to expand on some of the idea’s contained in blog post that I made for my personal website and make it suitable for submission to Intercom, the Society for Technical Communication’s magazine. My blog post, Structure and Assumptions in Technical Communications and Philosophy, was written after thinking about a technical writer’s job responsibilities for a previous class’s assignment. It occurred to me that one of the main responsibilities of a technical communications professional is to properly structure information for use by the intended audience. Contemplating how to properly structure information brought to my mind some epistemological theories I studied while completing my undergraduate degree in philosophy. For those that don’t know, epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and justification of knowledge. I will focus on how epistemological theories about the structure of knowledge can be applied to structuring user guides and manuals. I think that linear structured user guides can be analogous to a foundationalist theory of justification and coherence theory can be analogous to the modern online help experience without a linear construction.

In the original blog post I also discussed using a philosophic understanding of assumptions to better understand the audiences for technical writing. I’m going to drop this part to focus exclusively on structure because I’d rather not try to split my attention between what I feel could be two separate articles. I think that this could wind up shortchanging each topic and wind up with an article that doesn’t cover structure or assumptions in as much depth as I would like.

In order to rewrite and expand my original blog post into a format suitable for Intercom I read a number of Intercom articles and examined the author guidelines page. My original post was only around 600 words and according to the guidelines page my target length should be around 2000 words. The longer length will require more depth when discussing epistemological theories. I will also need to be cognizant that my intended audience consists of technical communications professionals, so philosophical jargon and terminology will need to be avoided.

Exploring the analogy between the structures of knowledge and user help will require citing some sources to fully expand upon the epistemological theories. I believe that the most difficult part will be accurately summarizing the epistemic theories in order to use them as a lens to better understand structuring information as a technical communicator. I want to use publicly available sources for the article so that the reader can view anything I cite without worrying about finding access to sources that are behind a paywall. I will use the Stanford’s online dictionary of philosophy for general reference. I’ll be referencing to Ernest Sosa’s paper “The Raft and the Pyramid: Coherence Versus Foundations in the Theory of Knowledge” which is publicly available online. If I require more sources I will make sure that the they can be accessed easily by the public by finding them through use of the google scholar function.

I hope to use this article to show how philosophical theories can be used to better understand other subjects such as technical communication. In this way the article can function as an example of how philosophy can be used practically. I hope to combat the popular misconception of philosophy as esoteric and practically useless. I think that philosophy can function as a strong base for those looking to enter into technical communication field.   

-Christopher Matthys

Works Cited

“Author Guidelines.” Intercom, https://www.stc.org/intercom/author-guidelines/ Accesed 1 April 2018

Matthys, Christopher. “Structure and Assumptions in Technical Communications and Philosophy.” 22 October 2017, https://www.variousinterests.net/blog/2017/10/20/75qgzve7klenw4t4jwjmat2iqerzc7

 Zalta, Edward N. ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/index.html

Freelance Technical Editing Rates and Information

The following information was obtained through research for my EH 603 Technical Editing class; my professor suggested sharing it on the blog, so here it is!

Because of the global nature of business these days and the ability of editors to work remotely, it was difficult to find prices for freelance editors specifically for the Huntsville area. I did find a website (Editorial Freelancers Association, 2015) that listed a range of prices for various freelance editing jobs. The rates for a basic copyediting job ranged from $30-$40 per hour at an estimated pace of 5-10 manuscript pages per hour to $40-$60 per hour for substantive or line editing at a pace of 1-6 manuscript pages per hour.

According to Miranda Marquit in her blog (n.d.), beginning editors can charge around $20 per hour, experienced content editors can charge $50-$85 per hour, and experienced proofreaders can charge $25-$35 per hour.

Besides the copyediting jobs we have talked about in class this semester, some of the other roles and jobs that freelance editors perform, according to Allena Tapia (2016), include acquisitions editor, coordinating editor, developmental editor, fact checker, globalization/translations editor, and integrity editor. Some of these jobs are specific functions that fall within the overall umbrella of comprehensive editing. A brief description is given below:

* An acquisitions editor is responsible for accepting, rejecting, and finding manuscripts for publication within a specific publishing house. This type of editing is typically not a freelance job, since an in-depth knowledge of the publishing house is required.

* A coordinating editor is responsible for overseeing all the areas a manuscript may have to go through, such as writing, graphics, and proofreading. The coordinating editor makes sure all the tasks are accomplished and, as the job title implies, coordinates with each area to know what stage the manuscript is in at all stages of its production.

* A developmental editor is someone who improves upon the manuscript somehow; perhaps further developing the plot, structure or theme. A developmental editor is also referred to sometimes as a comprehensive editor, a term we are all familiar with.

* A fact checker is exactly what the title says: someone who checks facts in a manuscript. This can be done online, at a library, or through phone calls or interviews.

* A globalization/translation editor is another area we touched upon in our class this semester. This is someone who prepares a manuscript for a specific audience, such as another country or culture, and must have a knowledge of the customs of that audience and ensure the manuscript reflects this appropriately.

* An integrity editor is simply someone who ensures that all references and cross-references are correct within a manuscript.

As you can see, freelance editing encompasses a wide range of jobs with a wide range of prices. Freelancing allows editors to be their own bosses, but they typically do not have the benefits, such as medical insurance and paid vacation, that company employees have.

 

Marquit, M. (n.d.). How Should You Charge for Freelance Editing? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://mirandamarquit.com/how-should-you-charge-for-freelance-editing

Editorial Freelancers Association. (July 2015). Editorial Rates. Retrieved from http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php

Tapia, A. (October 2016). 21 Freelance Editing Jobs: Work as a Freelance Editor. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/freelance-editing-jobs-1360401

EH 603 Project 3: A Beginner’s Guide to PC Twitch Streaming

Project Background

For my final project in EH 603: Technical Editing, I am planning on creating a guide for how to get started streaming your PC gaming on Twitch. My idea for this project came from personal experience. I have played video games as a hobby almost all my life. About a month ago, I decided I wanted to stream my gameplay for friends who lived all over the country. It would be a way for us to interact on a regular basis through our mutual love of games and desire to laugh at how horrible I was at them.

So, I tried to start streaming. I set up my Twitch account and downloaded Open Broadcasting Software (OBS) to record and stream my games. I followed the steps outlined on the Twitch website’s guide to PC streaming for changing the settings in OBS to be able to stream (https://help.twitch.tv/customer/portal/articles/792761-how-to-broadcast-pc-games). Everything seemed to be set up correctly. Then I tested it, but it didn’t work. The audio from my microphone was fine and the game audio streamed, but the video did not show up. I spent over a week scouring the internet for different fixes to my black screen problem. It became increasingly frustrating when most of the guides kept telling me how easy it was to stream on Twitch. Then I would try their method of setting up OBS to stream to Twitch and it wouldn’t work. I became so frustrated that I almost gave up hope that my laptop could handle Twitch streaming.

Then finally, one night, I found the solution to why the video wasn’t going through to Twitch, and it was a simple setting that none of the guides I had found mentioned.

The Project

As I stated above, my plan for this project is to be a guide for getting started streaming on Twitch from your PC. However, this will not be a guide for the gamer who has built their own computer and spends hours gaming every day. Likely, that audience already knows how to stream on Twitch or has a friend who can teach them. This guide will be for the people like me who want to stream for fun as a hobby in their free time. Maybe they aren’t as tech savvy as an experienced gamer, but they love to play video games and want to share their experiences with the world on Twitch, but they just can’t figure out how to set it up. The goal of this project is to help PC gamers stream to their heart’s content.

I’ll start off by taking the reader through creating a Twitch account and downloading OBS. Then I plan to go step-by-step through the settings that helped me to finally stream with audio, video, and webcam. I will include screenshots of OBS and Twitch to help people see what to do with their settings, how to set up their account, how to find their stream and chat, and more. Most of the project will focus on how to configure the OBS settings to allow you to stream audio and video. This is because the problems that come up are most often caused by OBS.

My hope is that this project will help people like me who were frustrated and thought they were just not going to be able to stream. I will try to include information for Mac users, but I am limited in my knowledge of Macs because I personally have a Windows laptop. I will have to look into the differences in OBS between the operating systems.

 

Image source 1: http://www.noobgrind.com/twitch-to-ban-or-not-to-ban/

Image source 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX04mw_xG6A (Video thumbnail for Jonesmedia’s video)

EH603 Final: Promoting ISEEM Research

Promoting ISEEM Research

As the communications specialist for the Industrial & Systems Engineering and Engineering Management (ISEEM) program here at UAH, one of my roles is to keep the program’s website up to date. As time allows, I also endeavor to enhance those pages to further illuminate all that the program has to offer. In addition to a diverse industry-connected faculty, the department operates ISEEM research labs where both faculty and student researchers do the hands-on work springing from program coursework; many projects originate directly from Huntsville’s aerospace and defense industry.

EH 603 Project Objective

My goal for the EH603 project is to bring greater focus the labs and ISEEM research overall by way of:

Two stand-alone, UAH linked websites for ISEEM’s Complex Systems Integration Lab (CSIL) and Imagining Systems Engineering Lab (ImagEnS)

An updated ISEEM Research page

Project Status & Highlights

To date, I have engaged some of the student researchers in fact-finding conversations, but my primary content sources are ISEEM faculty leading the research. 

Dr. Paul Collopy, ISEEM department chair, gave me many leads on grants, fellowships, and research projects conducted within the department. I am taking measures to quantify details. For instance, the Department of Energy will be sponsoring research into systems engineering research that will encompass nationwide travel to over 110 laboratories across North America.

Dr. L. Dale Thomas, ISEEM professor and eminent scholar, leads the CSIL lab, which is a state-of-the-art facility for advanced systems engineering with a focus on Model-Based Systems Engineering research. Among several projects, the lab is assisting the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) with CubeSats that will be launched in the first space launch system flight planned for next year. CSIL is simulating the mission profile from deployment to activation, integrating several key models for future launch to better understand constraints on starting points.

Dr. Bryan Mesmer is the ISEEM representative at the ImagEnS lab, a collaborative lab space researching the theory underlying stakeholder-focused engineering. Dr. Mesmer’s research focuses particularly on examining preferences in systems engineering. Two student researchers are working with the NASA Systems Engineering Consortium on executing preferences relative to rocket and space life-support systems.

Conclusion

There is much potential for developing content that highlights a few of the fascinating ISEEM research projects happening in the department. The program offers many opportunities for students interested in exploring hypotheses in systems engineering, which itself is a vast field with countless applications across industries.

CSIL researchers: Zach Thomas, Dr. L. Dale Thomas, and Lloyd Walker. The CSIL lab is one of four ISEEM research operations. (Photo by Michael Mercier.)

What Scientists Want: The ‘Write’ to be Understood

 

 

For an upcoming writing project in my EH 603 (Editing for Publication) class, I have chosen to do a book review on ‘Writing Science in Plain English’ by Anne E. Greene (2013). I spent quite some time browsing numerous book titles on Amazon, all loosely falling within the parameters of technical editing, before I was able to narrow down on Greene’s book.

What initially caught my eye was the blurb of the book, which states that by following a few key principles, “writers from all scientific disciplines can learn to produce clear, concise prose…” Now, most writers would agree that writing clearly and effectively is a goal not limited to any particular type of writing. After all, doesn’t every author want to be understood – no matter what the subject?

And yet, clarity of the message becomes all the more important when tackling complex subject matters like those in specialized scientific fields. When readers misunderstand crucial information, it not only causes an author frustration but may also have other far-reaching consequences – such as hampering knowledge and ideas exchange across disciplines. Hence, the overarching subject of Greene’s book is definitely a welcome one.

First Impressions

Greene is well-placed to discuss the topic at hand as she not only teaches scientific writing but is also a biologist by training (“About the author,” n.d.). This science background, I believe, gives her an edge over other authors writing on the same subject and I expect to see a more nuanced and multifaceted approach on effective scientific writing in her book.

Upon receiving my print copy of Greene’s book, I was instantly drawn to its cover. A clean yet sophisticated science theme graces its front. I skimmed through and right away, was pleased to note that each chapter not only offers explicit examples of poor writing accompanied by improved revisions (always a plus point!), but also includes exercises for readers to practice their new-found knowledge.

I have since read through the first few chapters and appreciate that, so far, Greene seems to cover a lot of basic yet important writing concepts such as audience awareness, tone, passive vs. active voice, etc. all from a scientific perspective and with examples from diverse fields such as biology, chemistry, anthropology, astronomy, etc.

Target Publication

I estimate that it will take me about two weeks to finish reading the rest of Greene’s book and I intend to write the book review for IEEE* Transactions on Professional Communication, a journal devoted to applied research on professional communication including business and technical communication. (*IEEE = Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

I believe that Greene’s book will be a good fit for the readers of this journal – in particular, members of IEEE. As the organization’s website notes, the IEEE Professional Communication Society (which publishes the journal) aims to “foster a community dedicated to understanding and promoting effective communication in engineering, scientific, and other technical environments.” Furthermore, it endeavors to “help engineers, scientists, and other technically oriented professionals to communicate better in the workplace-both in speaking and in writing…” (“Our mission,” n.d.).

These are promises that Greene herself makes in the book’s first chapter, when she notes that the principles in the book “will help improve everything you write, whether it is a lab report, a grant proposal, a research paper, or a press release” (p. 3). Additionally, Greene states that the book will help scientific professionals from various disciplines and at all levels, be it “a geologist, chemist, physicist, biologist or social scientist… a first- or fourth-year undergraduate, a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, or a professor” (p. 4).

Although my decision to read and review this book is motivated primarily by obligations of coursework, I hope that reading Greene’s book will help me pick additional pointers on good technical and scientific writing – especially as I hope to eventually enter this field.

Sources Consulted:

About the author. (n.d.). The University of Chicago Press website. Retrieved March 25, 2017 from http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/author/G/A/au15288818.html

Greene, E. A. (2013). Writing science in plain English. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Our mission. (n.d.). IEEE Professional Communication Society website. Retrieved March 25, 2017 from http://sites.ieee.org/pcs/our-mission/