Welcome to Issue 8.1 of Xchanges! In this issue, we feature four texts by undergraduate-student scholars representing two universities: University of Nevada, Reno, and New Mexico Tech. The major research projects published here investigate issues of concern to students and practitioners in the fields of Technical Communication and Writing. We hope you will enjoy reading these scholarly works, all of which were products of these students' diligent primary research combined with effective use of secondary research to substantiate their claims. As contributions to the fields of Technical Communication and Writing, these students' projects reveal the significant insights that undergraduate students can contribute to emerging research areas in these robust areas of study.
In her essay "Strengthening Technical Communication with Educational Theory," Penny Bencomo (New Mexico Tech) argues that technical communicators would benefit from a familiarity with "activity theory," a particular approach that has emerged in the field of education. As she writes, "Together, activity theory and technical communication create a powerful combination that gives technical communicators a strong reference point for creating educational materials." Active learning can improve among students and technical communication practitioners if activity theory, and computer-mediated communication pedagogies, are incorporated into technical communication curricula and workplace practices.
The essay "Professional Writers, Personality Types, and Genre Choice" by Kim Darnell (University of Nevada, Reno) probes the issue of what impact a writer's personality has on the particular genres in which a writer feels most comfortable working. Specifically, Darnell considers this issue within the field of professional writing writ large, a field in which poets, fiction writers, scholarly essay writers, and technical communicators all work. By examining different personality-assessment models, Darnell's research correlates writers' chosen genres with specific personality markers. Studies such as Darnell's, she argues, "could lay the foundation for vocational counseling to aspiring writers trying to find their professional genre of choice" and might also inform practices in Writing classrooms, wherein students interact with and write in various genres.
"Mobile, Handheld Devices with Touchscreens: How Perceived Usability Affects Communication," by Rebecca Birch (New Mexico Tech), "seeks to examine perceived usability of handheld, touchscreen devices and how their usability or lack thereof affects communication." By carefully studying literature on the usability and history of mobile handheld devices (such as iPads and smartphones of various brands) and combining this secondary research with a primary-research survey of users' experiences with their own handheld devices, Birch concludes that technical communicators should consider such findings because "if a communication feature on a handheld mobile device with a touch interface is deemed unnecessary, frustrating, or useless [to users], that feature will be used less or unused entirely, thus inhibiting communication that would otherwise be possible."
Danielle Rose (New Mexico Tech) argues that technical communicators must become more conversant with video social media (VSM) forms, such YouTube and Vimeo. Her essay "Video Social Media: A Reference for Integrating and Applying Video Social Media as a Technical Communicator" contends that "technical communicators . . . [must] stay on top of developing technologies and the roles they may play in communication in the future[;] VSM allows technical communicators to harness visuals that enhance communication and audience understanding." Because VSM can allow for seamless and immediate communication of ideas and the relaying of feedback, VSM is a rich resource for technical communicators, given the global nature of the field and the foundational principal that simple, concise, and clear conveyance of information must define the work that technical communicators produce.
This issue of Xchanges showcases issues relevant to technical communication students, faculty, and practitioners, and to Writing professionals and professors. We hope you will enjoy the excellent undergraduate research in this issue. Enjoy!
--Julianne Newmark, Xchanges Editor
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