SCCI 2016

5th Annual Symposium on Communicating Complex Information (SCCI)

February 22-23, 2016
East Carolina University
Greenville NC

The symposium will feature a highly interactive format with each participant giving a 15-20 minute presentation followed by a 20-25 minute discussion (40 minutes total). We wish to encourage high interactivity and in-depth discussion about each topic.


9:00-9:30 Opening remarks
Methods of Communicating Complex Information
9:30-11:00 Beyond Usability Testing: Two Research Methods for “Constructivist Design”.
Tharon Howard, Heather Christiansen, Clemson University

Do we “adapt” to our users’ preexisting needs and behaviors when we design products, or do we “create” new needs and behaviors through the experiences designed into our products? This panel addresses this question by exploring two research methods that approach usability testing and user experience evaluation through the lens of “constructivist design.” Attending this panel will provide you with a new perspective that may help you uncover interesting and insightful information about your users.

Analyzing information in complex collaborative tasks.
Lambert Zaad, Dick Lenior, Thea van der Geest, Els van der Pool, HAN University of Applied Sciences

We present a method to analyze the communication of dispatchers who coordinate the work of remote parties. They need to create and monitor a shared view of several dynamic task situations, and coordinate critical actions executed by the teams “on the ground”. This method forms the basis for design recommendations for the information systems that support dispatchers in handling their complex information tasks.

11:00-11:45 Don’t Leave Me Hanging: The Importance of Connecting Complex Information Research Design and Questions to Existing Literature.
Lisa Meloncon University of Cincinnati

Technical communication should be pursuing research to understand the multiple dimensions of “human-information interaction” instead relying on outdated theories and little to no empirical evidence. But to do so requires well designed research studies that begin with a thorough engagement with existing literature in the field and when applicable, outside of it. This presentation will explain how to complete literature reviews for complex study designs.

11:45-1:00 Lunch


Keynote:  People are complex, too
Janice “Ginny” Redish, Redish & Associates, Inc.

We have to be concerned not only about communicating complex information. We are always communicating with people – and people are inherently complex.

Rhetorical theory tells us to focus on our audiences. Neuroscience and Cognitive Science give us insights for that focus.

In this interactive keynote, I’ll explore with you models, research, and examples from academia and practice that help us understand people as writers and readers (users, site visitors, students). Together, we’ll extract implications for both pedagogy and products.

Media and Interaction of Complex Information
2:15-3:45 The Use of Social Media for Internal Organizational Communication.
Chelsea Dowling, University Wisconsin Stout

This presentation will look at how technical communicators can use social media channels, like blogs, for internal organizational communication with employees. Moreover, how the visual design of the tools used can impact the value and the effectiveness of those tools.

Helping Content: A Threefold Approach to Digital Content Management for Non-profits.
Guiseppe Getto,
Suzan Flanagan, East Carolina University

Non-profits provide necessary services to communities in need, services that include domestic violence intervention, relief from homelessness, and donations of food and other items. At the same time, non-profits must reach a variety of community audiences to sustain their organizations, including potential volunteers, donors, funders, and clients. In our paper, we provide a threefold approach for technical communicators who want to help non-profits build and sustain a compelling web presence in order to better interact with community audiences.

3:45-4:30 A Thousand Points of Documentation: The Necessity and Feasibility of Individualized Technical Documentation.
Jason Swartz North Carolina State University

Trends in software design toward greater extension and customization create localization problems for help documentation. The multiplication and variation of use situations results in documentation needs that are highly situated and idiosyncratic. I discuss the role that technical communicators play in providing this documentation, as members of broader user communities.

6:30-?? Casual dinner/party


8:30-8:45 Opening remarks
Communication of Complex Health Information
8:45-9:30 Communicating the Complexity of Health Care Payment and Service Delivery Reform.
Dawn Opel, Arizona State University

Recent health care payment reform efforts by both governmental and commercial payers pose difficulties for health care safety net organizations, or organizations that provide care to low-income populations. In order to address the challenges posed to safety net providers, a large team of health care experts sought to create an online center for safety net providers to receive support, resources, and to network. My experience as the technical communicator on this project reflects a need for understanding on the part of health care experts as to the value of information architecture and user experience as important areas of consideration for online communication of complex health care information.

9:30-11:00 Re-thinking the Context of Care: Visual Communication in International Health and Medical Communication
Kirk St. Amant, East Carolina University

Increasingly, health and medical communication take place in international settings as different agencies and individuals attempt to coordinate the exchange of information across geopolitical, cultural, and linguistic borders.  Such activities, however, can be quite complex, for what aspects does one need to consider when sharing health and medical information in such global contexts?  This presentation provides an overview of different factors individuals need to consider when sharing health and medical information with audiences from other cultures.  In so doing, the speaker will discuss different models and methods individuals can use when sharing health and medical content across nations and cultures.

At Your Own Risk: Visualizing Seasonal Flu Epidemics in an Era of Participatory Public Health Surveillance.
Candice A. Welhausen, The University of Delaware

The presentation will report the preliminary results from a project that investigates the ways that users of Flu Near You (a participatory, crowdsourced, seasonal flu-tracking app, use this program to visualize flu risks and engage in preventative practices such as avoiding travel and getting the flu vaccine.

11:00-11:45 Responding to Public Health Crises: Collective Mindfulness, High Reliability, and User Experience.
Elizabeth L. Angeli, Towson University
; Christina Norwood, ICF International

The presenters discuss their ongoing work that examines the connections between collective mindfulness in high reliability organizations (HROs) and user experience (UX) design. To illustrate these connections and to argue that technical communication researchers can benefit from collective mindfulness strategies, the presenters share preliminary findings from a case study with an Ebola Crisis Communications Team. The presenters illustrate how the Communications Team managed and disseminated complex, urgent health information effectively by following collective mindfulness strategies.

11:45-12:45 Lunch
Context of Complexity and Complex Information
12:45-2:15 The Tables have Turned: A Scorecard for Global Writers.
Jason C. Lawrence Southern Connecticut State University

In one global corporation’s recent Human Resource reorganization, the Australian technical writing team cut what seemed unnecessary legal language out of the US policy text. The result might have been excellent technical writing but the result was also a localization failure that exposed the United States business units to significant liability and noncompliance with government regulation. Failures in localization no longer point to unaware industrialized, white writers or culturally insensitive instruction manual icons; rather, localization failure points to a globalized field of professional writers that writes high-level, internal content, without an appropriate cultural assessment scorecard. We are all marginalized in the globalized world so we need an objective means by which we can interpret complex information systems. Specifically, a multicultural scorecard can help writers avoid localization catastrophes in complex information systems.​

Compare Information Visualization Designs with Different Information Architecture for Communicating Complex Information.
Mingran Li, Ruimin Gao, Xinghe Hu, Yingjie Victor Chen, Purdue University

The same information could be presented differently in visualization. We compare two different information visualization designs and their foundation information architecture in term of effectively communicate relatively complex information.

2:15-3:00 Design Pedagogy: Creating Significant Learning in Design of Complex Information.
Quan Zhou, Metropolitan State University

Conventional approaches and pedagogy of design in technical communication emphasize feature execution. Design is often treated as a designer-centric, rather than user-centered practice. This presentation advocates for a goal-oriented, human-centered design approach. Design ought to be taught and thought of as an iterative process of discovery, research, ideation, execution, and evaluation.

3:00-4:00 Wrap up and discussion of overall themes.
Michael Albers, East Carolina University