The European Academic Colloquium (EAC) provides an international platform for you to learn about latest results on all topics related to technical communication and associated research areas.
Our theme for 2023: THE FUTURE OF TC: NEXT STEPS IN THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
The pandemic has led to significant changes in professionals’ work practices. They need to work from their home office, cooperating online with others. Many tasks are digitalized. These changes affect the field of technical communication in many ways, since communicating about digital and technical services is one of our core tasks.
Therefore, Digitalization in Technical Communication is a specific topic of interest of this year’s colloquium.
Who will come
The EAC addresses all interested parties, researchers, teachers, students and practitioners from technical communication and related fields such as multilingual communication translation, multilingual communication, localization, terminology, or information management.
Discuss the latest research results today for the innovations of tomorrow. You can expect an interesting and varied program on scientific findings and the latest methods around digitalization as well as take the opportunity to exchange ideas and meet new people in a focused international audience.
Register now for the European Academic Colloquium and for the IUNTC pre-conference meeting
EAC Program 2023
Pre-conference meeting of the International University Network in Technical Communication (IUNTC) at May 4th 2023
3 PM (MESZ): First in-person meeting of the International University Network in Technical Communication (IUNTC)
You will have great opportunities for networking, exchanging ideas, finding project partners and getting to know what´s going on.
Program Overview at May 5th 2023
8:00 AM (MESZ): Registration and Welcome Coffee
8:45 AM (MESZ): Welcome by the EAC Board
A balanced combination of coherent expository information linked by cohesive elements that facilitate reader-writer interaction is a key to successful communication (Yus, 2014). Termed metadiscourse markers (Hyland, 2017), these elements are commonly used to signal the author’s intention and thereby warrant correct interpretation (De Groot et al., 2016). In the field of academic writing, a number of studies have been conducted to prove that exposure to and awareness of metadiscourse not only improves writing (Intaraprawat & Steffensen, 1995) but also enhances comprehension (Dastjerdi & Shirzad, n.d.; Jalilifar & Shooshtari, 2011) and readability (Camiciottoli, 2003). Although the majority of metadiscourse studies focus on academic writing, also in the area of technical documentation, attempts have been made to analyze metadiscoursive patterns (Frutos, 2015; Herriman, 2022; Povolná, 2019; Schubert, 2016; Swarts, 2022). Still, several important areas of research remain unaddressed. One such area is a result of the shifting of texts into a digital and multimodal environment (Carrió-Pastor, 2021). This has changed the roles of the text, the reader, and the writer (Yus, 2014). An ideal example of this, in the realm of technical communication, constitutes topic-based writing. Identified as a modular, non-linear, and possibly minimalistic form, ready for reuse and designed for a broad audience, it is perceived as a valuable and efficient method that supports quick information consumption (Carroll, 1990). Still, it poses several difficulties. For instance, it offers the user little sense of the intra- and inter-topical context, which can hinder the sense-making process (Swarts, 2022). Also, because it assumes a certain degree of prior knowledge, the minimalistic approach might be challenging for a less advanced audience (Swarts, 2022). Furthermore, successful communication in user manuals relies on a balanced conjunction of textual and visual elements that interchangeably or collectively make up the content. Surprisingly, research into the combination of those modalities remains scarce. In our project, we analyze metadiscourse as a possible strategy to improve the writer-reader interaction (Swarts, 2022). In this presentation, we will start by explaining how the changing roles of the writer and the reader cause methodological issues for researchers (Hart-Davidson et al., 2006, 2007). Then we will sketch out the goals and design of our usability study that should provide insight into how the combination of textual and visual elements (tension vs. cohesion) (Engebretsen, 2012; Liu, 2020) in a topic-based environment can improve the reader’s attention, information selection, processing, and navigation. Camiciottoli, B. C. (2003). Metadiscourse and ESP reading comprehension: An exploratory study. Reading in a Foreign Language. Carrió-Pastor, M. L. (2021). Multimodal metadiscourse in digital academic journals on linguistics, engineering and medicine. Https://Doi.Org/10.1080/13825577.2021.1988254, 25(3), 259–277. Carroll, J. M. (1990). The Nurnberg Funnel: Designing Minimalist Instruction for Practical Computer Skill. MIT Press. Dastjerdi, D. H. V., & Shirzad, M. (n.d.). The Impact of Explicit Instruction of Metadiscourse Markers on EFL Learners’ Writing Performance. De Groot, E., Nickerson, C., Korzilius, H., & Gerritsen, M. (2016). Picture This: Developing a Model for the Analysis of Visual Metadiscourse. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 30(2), 165–201. Engebretsen, M. (2012). Balancing cohesion and tension in multimodal rhetoric. An interdisciplinary approach to the study of semiotic complexity. Learning, Media and Technology, 37(2), 145–162. Frutos, A. C. (2015). A Corpus-based Genre Study of Instruction Manuals for Household Appliances. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 198, 103–111. Hart-Davidson, W., Spinuzzi, C., & Zachry, M. (2006). Visualizing writing activity as knowledge work: Challenges & opportunities. ACM SIGDOC 2006 - Proceedings of the 24th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication, 70–77. Hart-Davidson, W., Spinuzzi, C., & Zachry, M. (2007). Capturing & visualizing knowledge work: Results & implications of a pilot study of proposal writing activity. SIGDOC’07: Proceedings of the 25th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication, 113–119. Herriman, J. (2022). Metadiscourse in English instruction manuals. English for Specific Purposes, 65, 120–132. Hyland, K. (2017). Metadiscourse: What is it and where is it going? Journal of Pragmatics, 113, 16–29. Intaraprawat, P., & Steffensen, M. S. (1995). The use of metadiscourse in good and poor ESL essays. Journal of Second Language Writing, 4(3), 253–272. Jalilifar, A. R., & Shooshtari, Z. G. (2011). Metadiscourse Awareness and ESAP Comprehension. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 41(2), 53–74. Krein-Kühle, M. (2002). Cohesion and Coherence in Technical Translation: The Case of Demonstrative Reference. Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series – Themes in Translation Studies, 1. Liu, Y. (2020). Analysing tension between language and images: A social semiotic view. Social Semiotics, 1–19. Martinez, J. M. M., Lapshinova-Koltunski, E., & Kunz, K. (2016). Annotation of Lexical Cohesion in English and German: Automatic and Manual Procedures. 12. Povolná, R. (2019). Cross-cultural variation in the expression of persuasive power in the genre of technical manuals: The case of directives. Discourse and Interaction, 12(1), 47–74. Schubert, C. (2016). Cohesion in contrast: A case study of English and German user manuals. SKY Journal of Linguistics, 29, 95–117. Swarts, J. (2022). Uses of Metadiscourse in Online Help: Https://Doi-Org.Kuleuven.e-Bronnen.Be/10.1177/07410883221109241, 074108832211092. Yus, F. (2014). Interactions with readers through online specialised genres: Specificity or adaptability? (pp. 189–208).
Whether print document, video, chatbot or augmented reality application. User-friendliness depends largely on how well a format is suited to the information goal. In technical writing, a variety of different formats is available. But which format is suitable for which application and how can media be combined in a target-oriented way? We will explore these questions in our presentation. We start with the topic of media and formats, define these terms and give an initial overview with illustrative examples. Then we look at what challenges exist in relation to new formats and why it is nevertheless worth having the courage to try something new. Afterwards we address the questions "How to choose the right format" and "How to find out which medium or format is suitable for your specific context of use". For this purpose, we have developed a 6-level model that shows the way to individually suitable media and formats in a step-by-step and practical manner. A special focus within the level model is also the influence a company and its culture have on the choice of media and formats. Finally, we summarise the points that we hope you will take with you from our presentation.
Abstract Programming culture could be a source of inspiration for tech writers to boost their creativity within their own ecosystems. Docs as playground Code, in its broadest sense, is a conventional process for transferring information to establish communication. It is also a crucial element in the implementation and conceptualization of data architecture, but also in the definition of structured documentation models. Yet code is not only an instrument of language, it instruments language; it creates and regulates environments. By extension, programming culture incorporates the idea that code is not exclusively performative, that’s to say functional. If its purpose is to execute, accomplish a task or create an object, it can also be a disruptive agent as seen in the hacker culture. The so-called Easter eggs, for example, are an interesting informational object. Considered as a developer’s eccentricity, Easter eggs are usually hidden messages within the source code, they can be jokes, mini-games or even unknown features in a program. With no given recipient, besides perhaps the developers themselves, Easter eggs participate in the idea of a space of freedom used to demonstrate the creativity and cleverness of their author. This is what creative and digressive practices of code do. In the same way developers compare beautiful code to prose, and ugly code to poetry for its ability to make its issues ambiguous, the scriptable produces the pleasure of the text, the practice of the text in a diffraction of meaning and the suspension of comprehension. Seemingly and for good reason, technical documentation is bound by rules and aims to be reliable and consistent thanks to specifications or schemas, writing rules or even by leveraging taxonomies. Therefore, the more rigorously documentation is designed, the more likely it is maintained for its authors and solid for its users. Yet, given the marginal practices of coders, to what extent could creative and disruptive practices singularize and enrich the informational objects produced by tech writers? Is it even possible to consider technical documentation as a playground?
10:30 - 11:00 AM (MEZ): Coffee break
The project is an academic collaboration of three universities, Pwani University, Kenya (PU), Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, Germany (HKA), and the University of Limerick, Ireland (UL). Pwani University has not had any Communication and Media programs in the courses it offers. There has been a growing need to focus on factors of communication to enable the academic programs on offer to gain a sense of function; this is because the courses offered have been basically content oriented such that graduands always face challenges in the explication of their areas of academic excellence for application in their chosen professional fields. The project aims to adopt educational content to the requirements of the labor market, influenced by globalization and digitalization. In the 21st century - the age of digitalization and Big Data - new challenges arise in the dissemination of information. There is a veritable flood of information in the current era, and just getting to handle the amount of information is no longer enough: a central challenge to communicate information in a meaningful way lies in the different target groups. In this light, the project goals are per the consortium theme, “The future of technical communication: the next steps in digital transformation.” The program has benefited from the technical communication courses offered at HKA and UL regarding its structure, content, and academic staff. Through exchange visits between staff and students across the three universities, and deliberations with end-user stakeholders, an elaborate needs assessment established a credible rationale for the development of the curriculum. The draft curriculum has subsequently gone through the relevant university channels namely, the Department, School, Senate, Directorate of Quality Assurance (DQA), and eventually to the National Commission for University Education (CUE). The project aims at establishing a fully-fledged and CUE-accredited graduate program in Communication and Media: expected to run on its own with local personnel (both technical and academic staff) and resources by the year 2025, when the DAAD support matures.
Applied research is important both for supporting the practice of technical communicators and information designers and for the identity of the field. In order to develop and foster research activities, but also in order to narrow the gap between academia and industry that still exists, it is important to integrate offerings into the curricula of technical communication programs that enable students to monitor, evaluate and to actively participate in research activities. As suggested by the TecCOM academic competence framework, university programs should therefore include subjects that focus on research methods and the respective methodological skills and thus strengthen the academic perspective on technical and professional communication. This talk describes main contents, structure, assignments and deliverables of the course “Forschungskolloquium (Research methods)” that is taught in the 3rd term of the master program “Information Design and Media Management” at Merseburg University of Applied Sciences. Overall goals of the course are (i) to demonstrate the role and importance of applied research in technical communication and information design, (ii) to create interest in research, (iii) to enable students to identify and evaluate relevant research, and (iv) to teach methodological skills that are necessary to plan and conduct (small) research projects and to disseminate the results. Besides discussing course design and course activities and how they relate to the recommendations of the TecCOM academic competence framework, the talk will discuss main resources used in the course and describe selected studies that resulted from student projects.
12:30 - 1:30 PM (MEZ): Lunch break
A key challenge for producing companies is to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. Yet this information typically originates in various information silos such as component content management systems, spare parts catalogs, or databases for labor times. Knowledge graphs promise to bridge those silos and to provide a solid basis for intelligent information delivery. In this talk, we will therefore take a look at the major components of such a knowledge graph such as thesauri, ontologies, instance data and queries. In addition, we will also go into detail on where knowledge graphs already are and potentially will be used in the industry. The emergence of so-called semantic technologies such as knowledge graphs in general resembles a paradigm shift. But how does it affect the field of technical communication? What are the consequences for people working as technical writers today? And furthermore, what impact does this have on the curriculum at universities? Without consulting the oracle, this talk will try to address some of the implications and thus try to shed some light on the future of techcomm.
T4TEC (“Terminology for Technical Efficient Communication”) is a recently designed software to support the technical communication process in an interactive way. This talk will focus on the description of the main features of this project launched in 2022 in collaboration between the University of Padua (in particular, the Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies and the Department of Information Engineering) and the Italian Association for Technical Communication COM&TEC. We will illustrate 1) the automation of the rules of three controlled natural languages (Simplified Technical English, Français Rationalisé, and Italiano Tecnico Semplificato) and 2) the integration of a multilingual terminology management system in order to support technical writing and specialized translation processes.
Most of the current research on artificial intelligence is taking place in the field of deep learning. In technical documentation, these methods are primarily used in research contexts. At the same time, Deep Learning has great potential for technical communication, e.g., images can be analyzed in addition to texts. The web-based software "plusmeta" uses AI methods to analyze the content of technical documentation and makes the results available in machine-readable form. The analysis results form the basis for modern, data-driven industrial applications. The efficient processing of inventory data using AI provides industrial companies with the opportunity to offer new, attractive information services, such as interactive maintenance plans that are automatically abstracted from operating instructions. In a research project funded by the state of Baden-Württemberg, a deep learning module was added to the plusmeta platform. The project, called DEEEP, evaluated and adapted modern techniques from the field of Natural Language Processing, with the goals of lowering the barrier to entry for data preparation projects and improving the accuracy of predictions. In addition, a transformer model was trained to distinguish between different types of images. In the talk, the results of the research project will be presented.
3:00 - 3:15 PM (MESZ): Closing session