Reflecting on the WRC in 2017-2018 & Plans for the Future

Saturday, June 2, 2018 - 3:45pm

In our final meeting of 2017-2018, WRC members spent some time reflecting on what we each accomplished over the past year, as well as outlining our personal goals for the summer and goals for the WRC in the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year. You can read about these reflections and goals below as they relate to teaching, research, and collaboration.

Our discussion also revealed how each of us has benefitted from the WRC as an open and supportive learning space. We’ve shared and offered our feedback on conference presentations, ongoing projects, and new ideas, all of which has strengthened our work on emerging technologies. We look forward to what the 2018-2019 academic year has to offer, and encourage others to join us! 



Nate: For the past two years at UMN I’ve collaborated each semester with the Usability Lab to offer a tour of their facilities. Primarily useful for students to see before the group usability assignment, this tour includes a review of usability from a lab expert and specifics on what the usability lab does here at UMN. If visiting the lab space (experts are willing to come to class) a student in the class is invited to do a mock test while the rest of the class observes. It’s a great opportunity to give students experience in usability, especially for websites.

  • Incorporating Campus Technology (Makers) Spaces into WRIT Curriculum

Ann: I’m convinced that given the rapid evolution of augmented reality (AR), technical communicators (and all writers) must be prepared for strategic AR content design and development. To that end, I’m collaborating to develop a set of human-centered content design heuristics for doing so.

  • “Augmenting” assignments; role of AR across WRIT courses in 2018-2019; we have IRB approval to conduct AR teaching and research across all WRIT courses; audience…
    • A recent study of the last 10 years of AR showed that the majority of AR studies are conducted with university students… rather than in the field; however, there’s so much happening in industry, especially to prepare tech comm students for…
    • Re: audience immersed, studying levels of immersion (actional, symbolic, sensory, social)...
    • Sarah developed great instructions (AR) that will be used now in the ME lab(s)
    • Link to most recent toolkit (still under development):



Eddie: I’ll be attending the Society for Social Studies of Science conference in Sydney Australia. This summer I’m also running a couple of studies. One is exploratory and the other is a cross-analysis to see what if my hypothesis is supported.


Joe: Every time Jason and I meet to talk about our agile writing/design-for-thinking project, something happens that we didn’t plan for or set as a concrete goal. It’s the conversation and the willingness to suspend, for as long as we like, an outcome/deliverable/goal statement. Problem definitions emerge from the conversation; goals emerge, agendas emerge.

A common complaint about design thinking is that it’s all process and no solution--a reflection perhaps of the complainant not being able to recognize a problem definition when they see one. We all have our antennae out there--seeking intersections of well-defined problems with interesting directions for exploring them. Not intersections of problems and solutions--of interesting (valuable) problems and imaginative directions for responses to them.

Invitation: people are invited; perspectives invited, perspectives acted upon. Presentations invited; responses invited--solutions suspended and pursued, eventually, outside of the meetings.

Through our collaborative process, we’ve developed a direction for a paper on our agile/design thinking model.

Because of the fall symposium--where we visited so many studios around campus and saw the power and potential of campus-wide collaboration--Jason and I reached out to the Center for Educational Innovation to share what we’ve been working on and to ask for their perspective and direction. As a result we’re discussing a fall Learning Enrichment Series session on team writing and learning plus they are looking at our teaching materials for addition to their faculty guide to teamwork.


Katlynne: This year was helpful for me to just explore ideas related to my interests in social media communication. Reading McKee & Porter’s book, Network Interaction in Professional Communication, in Ann’s class on collaboration (WRIT 8520) provided me with a foundation for the work that I had done on corporate social media (rhetorical/social listening, in particular). And, in Laura’s case study methods class (WRIT 8012), I was able to develop a more cohesive potential project surrounding United Airlines and Pepsi. This led to my ATTW presentation on rhetorical agency and listening. In short, I was able to build my ideas from coursework and other opportunities (sharing my ATTW presentation with the WRC, etc.) into something more solid. In my initial reflection at the beginning of the year, I had wanted to look at politeness (through an applied linguistics lens) and corporate social media communication. But after my ATTW presentation and the feedback I received, I want to shift this focus for a moment. This summer, I will be developing a study where I interview social media managers/workers to understand how they see the work that they do and how they do (or don’t) use listening strategies when communicating with customers. I connected with a few people at the PhD in Industry Panel and hope they are able to put me in touch with people doing this type of work.


Sarah: The past semester’s work with augmented realities (with Ann and Sarah) has provided beneficial results for understanding the impact of student development of Augmented Reality on content development, cultural understanding, and professional practice. Through a series of five class deployments, we were able to identify a list of easy-creation tools for AR experiences, gain valuable feedback from students on what they enjoyed, the various challenges they faced, and how working with AR shaped their rhetorical understanding of the technology’s future, and gain insight as to how augmented realities might be incorporated into a variety of course curriculums.


Ellen: My goal for this semester was to learn more about the research within user experience, usability and technical communication/writing studies in general. With the WRIT course on the intersection of usability and audience analysis, I’ve learned that there are many different ways to interpret interactions between users and what they are experiencing. Understanding and attempting to define this interaction has also changed throughout history. The study and contribution of technical communication has become much more clear to me in the role for improving the user experience and I’ve had a great time learning and discussing new ideas.

My goal for the summer is to formulate thesis ideas for the upcoming year. For one of my classes, I’m writing about the movement of sustainable UX design, what it is and how it’s advocated to multiple audiences (public, industry, academia, etc.) I don’t think that it will be within the scope of my master thesis requirement, but on a personal level, I’m very interested in this idea. This movement involves ethics and environmental sustainability practices along with the view of technology development, how we can combine the efforts of improving UX and utilizing technology to our benefit but not at the cost of environmental harm.


Jeremy: Moving forward, I plan to continue exploring two frontiers in research: (1) the rhetorical aspects of the use OF medical wearables, particularly in the diabetes space and (2) implications of the use of technology in rhetorical pedagogy in the technical communication service course.



Jeremy: What I have found about WRC is that it actively incorporates the radical collaboration model, which specifies six elements of collaboration: exposure, collaboration, invitation, suspension, sharing, and radical imagination. Our meetings, publications, and collective collaborations emphasize this model now, and no doubt they’ll continue to do so in the future. Personally, although I was out of town during GPACW, it was fascinating to watch the conference planning take place and hearing about all of the outstanding research that was presented.


Jason: Co-hosting the GPACW conference was the highlight for me. From my point of view, the conference was an opportunity for WRC members to showcase some of the research emphases in the collaboratory––including individual interests––and fitting them into the larger (regional) computers and writing scholarship. I was pleased that the conference organizing experience turned out to be a highly collaborative one, that most WRC members got to play a key role at the event. I think this kind of event should be a regular service the WRC provides in the future not just to enrich the field but also each individual in the collaboratory. Personally, I can see us hosting the national Computers and Writing conference (which was originated by our department!), the ACM SIGDOC (special interest group on design of communication) meeting, the IEEE Professional Communication Society convention, or other digital writing symposiums.

During the spring semester, our team worked together to “rebrand” the WRC. as wearables expand to a broader category of emerging technologies, we identified new key words that better define who we are as collaboratory. Our interests and projects cover a vast area and we aim to continually expand ideas, interests, and implications that arise. Our doors remain open to all who have an interest in our work; we welcome challenges, suggestions, new ideas, and more!


Joe: I look forward to the WRC meetings because I know there will be exchanges of ideas. We don’t always know where it’s going to go but we have a basic trust in the interest of others, that we’ll consider ideas and in that consideration the idea will either fizzle or catch fire. It doesn’t matter (fizzle or fire) because it’s all part of the process--the process is the thing.


Ellen: The WRC is a great place to discuss ideas, not just to update others on our work and lives. Next year, we should consider possible field trips to local meetings or forums to gain an industry perspective on VR, AR, UX, etc. (UXPA user experience professional association, Prime Academy, + others, HFES human factors and ergonomics society,