SCCI 2018

7th Annual Symposium on Communicating Complex Information (SCCI)

February 2018
East Carolina University
Greenville NC

The symposium will feature a highly interactive format with each participant giving a 15 minute presentation followed by a 15 minute discussion (30 minutes total). We wish to encourage high interactivity and in-depth discussion about each topic.


7:45 Bus leaves hotel for the conference center.
8:15-8:30 Opening remarks

Jason Swarts, NC State University.
Finding and understanding influencers in user forums slides outline

In this presentation, I offer the results of a mixed methods analysis of user forums that identifies influential members using a mixture of social network analysis and verbal data analysis. I focus on the potential of social network visualization and statistics as a guide for understanding the creation and circulation of technical knowledge in user forums.

Curtis Newbold, PhD, Westminster College.
Designing the indefinite: Toward a taxonomy of visual ambiguity

In my presentation, I propose how designers and educators alike can work toward improving grammars and heuristics of information design through the development of a taxonomy of visual ambiguities. Recognizing the paradox in creating a taxonomy of ambiguous communication devices, I propose a systemic process for organizing both “types” and “dimensions” (cognitive and affective) of visual ambiguities across four visual communication domains: socio-cultural ambiguities; linguistic-rhetorical ambiguities; technological ambiguities; and metaphysical ambiguities.

Tharon Howard, Abigail Maxim, Ciara Marshall, Doris Xue Ding, and Valerie Smith, Clemson University;
A usability study of Clemson University’s registrar website

The Clemson University Registrar’s website currently supports over 50 tasks that users can perform, which is functionally unsustainable. Our presentation provides an overview of card-sort and think-aloud protocol research we conducted on with website users to determine how to present roughly the same amount of information in simpler, more user-friendly fashion.

10:00-10:15 Break

Ekaterina Bogomoletc, Nupoor Jalindre, NC State University
Using digital rhetoric in visual representation of virtual communities

In this presentation, we seek to demonstrate how digital rhetoric might be helpful in a visual representation of virtual communities. We rely on our own research work samples of representing two communities: the one of the Russian ethnic community in North Carolina and the virtual community of Jekyll (open source technology) users. We will also provide recommendations on research-driven visual representations based on the concepts of digital rhetoric.

Daniel Richards, Old Dominion University.
When everyday citizens use tools designed for experts: Lessons learned from a large-scale ux test with an interactive sea level rise viewer

This presentation shares findings of a user experience (UX) test conducted on a popular interactive sea level rise viewer, which asked 41 participants to complete a series of tasks and answer a set of questions aimed at better understanding how lay public users interact with risk visualizations in ways pertaining to themselves, their community, and the projected future of their region. More than just revealing the importance of the role of technical communicators in the continued developmental and testing phases of these tools, this presentation suggests pathways forward to better design risk visualization technologies for a broader audience and usage.

Panel: Brian N. Larson, Texas A & M University School of Law; Halcyon M. Lawrence, Georgia Institute of Technology; Sarah Whitcomb Laiola, Georgia Institute of Technology.
By reading this title, you have agreed to our terms of service

Terms of service, terms of use, and end-user license agreements (EULAs) purportedly govern billions of relationships between consumers and web site and mobile app producers, but a small percentage of consumers understands them as contracts, a smaller percentage reads them, and smaller yet is the percentage who are likely to understand them. Reporting the work of an interdisciplinary lab, this panel offers three positions: That technical communication ethics must bridge lawyer and consumer ethics regarding such EULAs, that user-centered design provides such an ethical bridge, and that the digital humanities’ focus on critical design may produce practical tools to advance these ethical and theoretical goals.

12:00-1:00 Lunch



Keynote: Confronting complexity through information design and plain language
Karen Schriver, KSA Associates

Transforming complex information so that audiences can use it is tricky business. As we try to reach new and more diverse audiences for our products, services or technologies, the task of “getting it right”—content, channels, media, devices, languages, place and time—gets harder. In this talk, I argue that technical and scientific communicators can do a better job of tackling complexity by making use of insights coming from the fields of information design and plain language. Drawing on a review of the literature and on my experience, I will discuss recent trends in information design and plain language—suggesting how ideas from these fields can enhance our thinking about user experience.

2:00-2:15 Break
2:15-3:45 Huiling Ding, Yeqing Kong, CRDM, NC State University
Narrating benefits and risks of artificial intelligence: Competing imaginaries and agendas of the U.S. and China

This talk examines the radically different ways artificial intelligence is imagined and constructed by mainstream media of the United States and China, the two AI superpowers. Taking the stance of technology enthusiasts, China celebrates how its companies commercialize AI technologies in driverless cars, voice recognition, and visual recognition. Swaying between technology determinism and skepticism, the U.S. explores a wider range of topics such as cutting-edge algorithms, military technologies, and cybersecurity, and questions potential risks posed by AI and by China’s AI-enabled warfare technologies. Our findings shed useful light on the two superpowers’ competing imagined realities of AI, possible dangers resulting from the AI race, and their profound political and economic impacts on the Sino-U.S. relationship and global AI policies.

Tharon Howard, Doris Xue Ding, and Valerie Smith, Clemson University
Usability testing of Cengage Learning’s SAM online help system

There are popular metrics commonly used for analyzing user interface design or software that Jakob Nielsen created, however, there aren’t any official metrics for analyzing documentation. Our presentation will discuss how we came up with metrics used for conducting a heuristic analysis for an online Instructor User Manual. We will show how to apply the metrics to documentation.

Kai Hu, Zhenyu Cheryl Qian, YingVictor Chen, and Tong Jin Kim, Purdue University
MindWriter: An integrated environment to support creative academic writing experience slides paper

The design of word processing software had always been focusing on enhancing the functionality and productivity, yet ignored the creative aspect of writing activity. We investigated and identified the academic writers’ pain points from studies of contextual inquiries. Based on a recursive writing model, we present MindWriter – an academic writing software design that fosters a clear writing workflow and supports the creative prewriting activities – ideation, brainstorming and mind mapping.

3:45-4:00 Break
4:00-4:30 Michael J. Albers, East Carolina University
Transformation, not translation, of complex information for readers

Writers and/or usability testers must ensure a dynamic combination of different information elements merge into a coherence flow. But more than just merging together, the information must be transformed to fit the reader’s needs. Textbooks state a technical communicator translates information for an audience. However, complex information requires more than simply translation, but requires a fundamental transformation to form an integrated synthesis of information that fits the situational context.

4:30-4:45 Day 1 wrap up
6:15-?? Meet in hotel lobby to leave for casual dinner/party


7:45 Leave hotel for the conference center.

Opening remarks

Poster session

Evaluating the Content Strategy of the English Websites of Chinese Universities. Yingying Tang. NC State University.

This poster demonstrates an effective method to evaluate the usability, relevancy, accuracy and actionability of the content on a website.

The Role of Information Seeking in International Zika Response. Julie Gerdes. Texas Tech University.

Geolocating content strategy: Crafting multidimensional personas for information 4.0 contexts. Suzan Flanagan. East Carolina University.

This poster explores the implications of geolocation technologies for content strategy.

The rhetoric of visual risk: Accounting for the “human element” in sea-level rise risk communication. Erin E. Jacobson, Old Dominion University

This poster presentation shares preliminary findings from an application of a visual risk communication methodology, in which 18 participants from the at-risk Hampton Roads community engaged with hyper-real visualizations of inundated community landmarks.


9:00-10:30 Guiseppe Getto, East Carolina University
A five-part heuristic for training content strategists within industry and academia

Technical communicators are increasingly utilizing content-focused technologies such as content management systems and component-based information architectures. In the wake of this turn, content strategy becomes an important element of technical communication curricula as students and emerging professionals struggle to master new tools and best practices. Stemming from experiences teaching undergraduate students, graduate students, and industry professionals, I present a five-part heuristic for training content strategists.

Daniel L. Hocutt, Old Dominion University.
Toward algorithmic literacies: Visualizing agency in online searches

A detailed visualization of the way assemblages form during online search activity demonstrates that human user activity represents only, and at most, a portion of the assemblage agency emerging during an online search session. The presentation asks whether the study of usability should expand beyond human agency to recognize agency that includes the artificial intelligence of algorithmic processes, the ideology of materiality, and the politics of programmed code.

10:30-10:45 Break
LA-Tech/Eunice C. Williamson Health and Medical Communication Track
11:00-12:00 Lisa M. DeTora, Hofstra University; Michael J. Klein, James Madison University
Medical narratives as problems of complex information

Drawing on the already complex information contained in individual medical records and case reports, the two panelists will consider the added complexities of information retrieval, signification, and design inherent in other forms of medical narrative. Participants will learn how to work with complex narrative data, including methods for analyzing and interpreting such data. Background on specialized areas of regulatory documentation and quantitative methods in clinical development will also be provided.

Laura Pigozzi, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
¿Entiende? Presenting clinical consent information to Spanish speakers using a computer-based instruction tool: a pilot study

This presentation describes the design of a pilot study, in the process of being executed, that explores the efficacy of a localized, computer-based instruction (CBI) tool to communicate informed consent information to immigrant Latinx with little to no English language proficiency. Presentation attendees will gain an understanding of the complexities of consent, how this study was constructed, how to localize consent for this particular audience, and how to present this type of information in a textless, multimedia tool.

12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2:00 Michael Madson, Medical University of South Carolina
The critical case of OxyContin: Lessons for scientific and medical communicators

Perhaps the most promoted—and abused—prescription drug of the U.S. opioid crisis has been OxyContin, which represents a critical case for scientific and medical communicators. Drawing on court records, regulatory documents, academic publications, news articles, and other source material made public, this presentation attempts to answer the question, “What can we learn from the communication practices surrounding OxyContin, and in particular, how can we better advocate for patient safety?”

2:00-2:15 Break
2:15-2:45 Chris Lindgren, Virginia Tech
Finding stories with data through computer coding

In this presentation, I use an IRB-approved case-study to explore the knowledge work conducted by a web developer, Ray, through his computer coding activity on a data-journalism team. My study asks, “How does Ray’s coding help him reconcile his developing understanding of the reporter’s goals, his interpretation of the data, and what coding enables him to do with the data?” Attendees will come away with a rich picture about how data are expressed textually with different modalities that helped Ray communicate potential avenues to visualize a narrative about aggregate data.

2:45-3:45 Wrap up and discussion of overall themes.