The Scope of Tech Writing

Subject: The Scope of Tech Writing
From: Melissa Morgan <mmorgan -at- INTREPID -dot- CDG-HARGRAY -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1999 13:41:14 -0500

I wanted to present this question to the forum, as
we really are the movers and the shapers of what
Tech Writing encompasses, and what it may become.

A while back I created a hypertext document, which
was an Emily Dickinson poem with hyperlinks to
essays, interpretations, sound clips, etc. It was pretty
basic, but fun to put together. I also wrote an article
about the theory behind hypertext design, and the
uses it may have in education. The research was more
intense than I originally suspected, as there are many
literary theorists involved in the development (and they
can get a bit long-winded, if you've ever read literary
theory). Some essays I read dealt with the educational
benefits of hypertext, in that we all learn through different
means. Hypertext provides many different means of
presenting information, and the user can choose the
way that works best for him/her. Which brings me to
the question of hypertext textbooks and manuals.

If I were creating a hypertext textbook for an advanced
math class, complete with links to exercises, additional
reading resources, a "movie" walking through each step
in solving the equation, and so forth, would I be doing
technical writing? Our profession seems to be growing
in many different directions, and I wondered if this was
one of them. Would this fall under CBT, even though
it's not really training per se, since the user can choose
what to view and what not to? Many theorists believe
that in order for a hypertext to be useful, it must be
open for users to create their own links, in the form of
notes posted to the original document, or posted to some
sort of internet forum. Couldn't this two-way communication
between the author and reader have some positive impact
on our documentation, if we set it up in hypertext format,
and distributed it on the web or intranet? Boeing, if I
remember right, set up something similar with their repair
manuals. The engineers could basically add links to their
process notes, and all other engineers would have
access to them immediately. Does anyone else use this
sort of hypertext setup for documentation? I'm interested
to see what all of you have to say about this. Thanks in
advance for your input.


Melissa Morgan
mmorgan -at- intrepid -dot- cdg-hargray -dot- com


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