Social skills for technical communicators? - Request for input

Subject: Social skills for technical communicators? - Request for input
From: Larissa Neumann <neumannl -at- DSCLTD -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 13:30:21 -0500

Hi All!

I read with interest the debate on using "personification" in technical

I am writing a paper on a related topic for a course called the "Applied
Psychology of Technical Communication". If anybody can provide me with some
input, or further references on the topic described below, I would be
During my search for a topic for my paper, I came across a book called "The
Media Equation : How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like
Real People and Places" by Byron Reeves and Clifford Nash.
Their basic premise is that people respond to media in a social way,
similarly to how they respond to other people. They claim that people do
this unconsciously and automatically, and that if you ask people if they are
doing this, they would deny it!
For example, several of their studies showed that people tend to act
politely towards computers. They also go on to discuss issues of
personality, gender, expertise, and more. It is a good, easy read. (My only
complaint being that they don't present any of their original data in the
book itself, although some of it seems to have been published elsewhere.)
In my paper I plan to discuss how the ideas in this book could be used in
the world of technical communication.
Has anybody else out there read this book, or read of similar ideas?
What do you think this means for:
print manuals?
on-line help?
on-line manuals?
other kinds of tech. comm?
I would like to include your comments in my paper, if possible. If anybody
does not want their comments re-published this way, please let me know.
I appreciate any help you can provide.

Larissa Neumann
Technical Writer
Publications Dept.
DSC Ltd.
My comments/opinions are entirely my own and are not representative of DSC

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