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"ACM SIGCHI General Interest Announcements (Mailing List)" <[log in to unmask]>
CHI-ANNOUNCEMENTS <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Aug 2008 17:29:29 -0400
Michael Albers <[log in to unmask]>
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Michael Albers <[log in to unmask]>
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IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication
Special Issue Focus: Technical Communication and Usability Studies

Deadline for Proposals: December 1, 2008

Guest Editors:
Brian Still, Texas Tech University
Michael J. Albers, East Carolina University


Some important, recent scholarship on usability studies has called for a 
revamping of the methods we use when testing more complex systems [1] or 
has encouraged us to develop a collaborative knowledge space so that we 
might better share our approaches and data [2]. Still other scholarship 
has focused on the usability profession. Lund asserts that we are 
entering a postmodern usability era that requires a reassessment of our 
disciplinary purpose [3]. Johnson, Salvo, and Zoetewey, writing in the 
IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, call for a better 
balance in usability studies between empirical observation and rhetoric, 
arguing that technical communicators are best suited to deal with the 
challenges of such a new approach [4].

As teachers, practitioners, and scholars, how can technical 
communicators contribute to such a new approach, to the evaluation of 
more complex systems, to the more open exchange of data and methods, to 
the redefinition of the usability profession? Answers to these questions 
about the roles, the impact, and the contributions of technical 
communicators to the changing face of the usability profession will be 
the focus of this special issue. For this special issue, we encourage 
articles that describe and analyze approaches to teaching, testing, 
analyzing, or managing usability studies—approaches that involve 
technical communicators making unique or novel contributions to 
usability studies.

Possible examples for paper topics could include but are not limited to 
the following:

- Analysis of the ways that the technical communicator-turned-usability 
tester differs from the HCI specialist or the cognitive 
scientist-turned-usability tester.
- Arguments about the extent to which usability is a core element of 
technical communicator knowledge and examinations of how degree programs 
address usability.
- Methods and approaches to teaching usability in technical 
communication courses (see IEEE-TPC’s tutorial and teaching case features).
- Methods of measuring users’ comprehension of complex material and 
ensuring maximal comprehension.
- Methods of developing usability tests that are appropriate for a 
specific domain and that account for users’ lack of domain knowledge.
- Ways to design usability tests that account for the knowledge of the 
main audience as well as the needs of advanced-knowledge audiences.
- Examinations of domain experts’ retrieval and use of information on 
the web and best practices for designing usability tests for this 
audience and these tasks.
- New methods required for evaluating complex systems (e.g., health care 
situations, resources allocated among many projects (intelligence 
analysis of multiple sources of data, customer service working across 
multiple technologies and/or cultures) [1].
- Reevaluations of usability in light of visual analytics, i.e., using 
interactive visual interfaces to conduct analytical reasoning and 
complex knowledge work.
- Community websites as complex sites that require new usability approaches.
- Descriptions and analyses of the ways that domain experts perceive 
complexity and simplicity in unique production environments, such as 
health care.

If you have any questions, contact one of the guest editors of this 
special issue: Brian Still ([log in to unmask]) or Michael Albers 
([log in to unmask]).


December 1, 2008 Proposals due to the guest editors Brian Still 
([log in to unmask]) or Michael Albers ([log in to unmask])
June 10, 2009 Complete manuscripts due for review
September, 2010 Publication of the special issue


[1] J. Redish, “Expanding usability testing to evaluate complex 
systems,” Journal of Usability Studies, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 102–111, 2007.

[2] C.B. Kreitzberg, “Can collaboration help redefine usability?” 
Journal of Usability Studies, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 109–111, 2006.

[3] A. M. Lund, “Post-modern usability.” Journal of Usability Studies, 
vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1–6, 2006.

[4] R. Johnson, M. Salvo, and M. Zoetewey, “User-centered technology in 
participatory culture: Two decades ‘beyond a narrow conception of 
usability testing,’” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 
vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 320–332, 2007.

Dr. Michael J. Albers
Professional Writing
2110 Bate Building
East Carolina University
Greenville NC 27858

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