Tag Archives: tech comm

Let's consider what is these days a heresy: Corporate Communication is separate to Public Relations. The two operate largely in isolation, similar to the Marketing and PR silos described in the A ("Apart"/"Silo") model.

We will call this Model X, and illustrate it using the following model:

In Model X, PR and Corporate Communication are separate. PR handles all communications targeted at external stakeholders; Corp Comm creates all communications intended for internal stake holders.

Simple? Perhaps. But in companies that offer technical goods and services, can such a separation be operationally realistic? Must there not be some informational overlap? If the public require product knowledge, yes. If internal communications contain product information, yes. Given the certainty of these practical requirements therefore, how can these two functions be isolated? Stakeholders - both internal and external - will have technical information requirements, but the model features no such explicit linkage illustrating the mode or source of this adhesive.

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Quantification is a component of extreme importance in the field of technical translation. Numbers, in their many and varied guises, are responsible for a galaxy of translation mistakes. In English, small quantities are customarily counted in dozens; in Japanese, as tens, hence sūjū and jūsū, which are usually correctly, if not always appropriately, translated as “several tens” and “ten and several”, respectively. Although both are accurate in their expression of numerical value, both are alliteratively unnatural. A more effective translation would be “a few dozen” and “just over a dozen”, respectively. Just to confound things however, terms like sūman are usually translated appropriately, i.e. as "tens of thousands".

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All the following terms express future continuation, but their differences and degrees of appropriateness pose substantial challenges for technical translators:

shōrai (将来), kongo (今後), kongo mo (今後も), kongo tomo (今後とも)

For all three terms, the most frequently encountered English rendering is “in [the] future”. However, in most cases this is an over-translation. These terms, despite their standard, dictionary definitions, amplify a statement by suggesting, quite strongly, (to native Japanese speakers at least) emphasis or determination. As a result, these terms are usually best exempted from the translation. Forcing the translation can result in unintended meaning loss or meaning change.

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Early in the article, the authors declare that little current research focuses primarily on visual communication. Perhaps this is due to the divisibility difficulties their own case studies highlight, and because evaluating visual communication in stark separation from usability is an undertaking of doubtful practicable worth.[1]

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Effectiveness and Limitations of General Methodology and Specific Methods

In case #2 we first encountered the researchers’ probing technique, in which testers escalate the specificity of questions to extract increasingly detailed answers. What regulates this probing is not mentioned (for instance: does questioning cease upon satisfactory answer?). If probing failed to yield insight, the testers drew subjects’ attention to specific matters, but could a subject’s lack of comment not be enlightening?[1] Also, by mentioning a feature, did the testers exaggerate its importance, leading subjects to award it unwarranted attention and inflate their responses accordingly?

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Field of Research/Key Research Questions

It is essential that technical communicators be literate designers of visual information, since the more they know, the better will be the results of their collaboration with graphics artists. The principles governing visual communication evolved from those used for printed information. [1] Due to ever increasing preference for online media, information professionals including graphic designers, multimedia authors, and technical communicators are endeavouring to expand and improve on existing, print-oriented design guidelines to accommodate and exploit the idiosyncrasies and benefits of online delivery.

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Applicability to Professional Practice

The findings of the 2006 survey were fully correspondent with the author’s expectations, and offer little new information or useful insight. Although of minimal import to my current workplace practice, the results of the 2006 survey provide representative data from which longstanding beliefs of English-language technical authors in Japan might be supported and future studies into technical communication practices within the Japanese workplace might draw.

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MRT and the Findings of the 2006 Survey

According to Daft and Lengel (1984), media richness is a function of four key criteria:

  1. the medium's capacity for immediate feedback
  2. the number of cues and channels available
  3. language variety
  4. the degree to which intent is focused on the recipient

(The greater social presence of a medium creates increased immediacy of and reception for the message, due to the higher number of channels used in conveyance.)

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The Survey

Key Findings

All respondents reported using all channels proposed by McGee; respondents overwhelmingly favoured face-to-face meetings at project start; written communication was markedly more practiced when conflicts arose (although, perhaps surprisingly, 36% favoured face-to-face meetings to resolve conflicts). These results are on the whole correlative with MRT, but McGee posits no explicit hypotheses or predictions, citing instead a conservative combination of SI theory and MRT concepts that she implies her findings will support. As if to increase the probability of that outcome, the sample is small and the tightness of the survey’s questions precludes subtlety and potentially informative data (cf. MacNealy’s  “fill-in-the-blank”-type questions, which might have been more generative, albeit more problematic to summarize and/or less hypothesis-compliant).     

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This series of articles examines the media preferences of technical communicators within the conceptual framework provided by the article Communicating Channels used by Technical Writers Throughout the Documentation Process (McGee, 2000), of which critical summary forms this first section. Following that is a comparison of the results of a survey issued to 23 technical translators/communicators in replication of McGee’s empirical method for validation or reassessment of her arguments and findings with regard to the Japanese Technical Communication context. Differences and similarities in the results of the surveys (incorporating influential intercultural factors) are then presented within expanded discussion of Media Richness Theory (hereafter “MRT”). Assessment of the value to my workplace practice of MRT and the surveys’ findings closes this essay.

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