This book examines the complex roles that texts serve as parts of an organizational cognitive infrastructure. Texts make knowledge and experience tangible and durable. They help shape interactions between people. As professions have become more writing-centered in recent decades, many organizations have instituted writing review practices to help newcomers produce better writing and thus become more effective organizational citizens. Dr. Swarts examines those writing review practices and questions whether available supportive technologies adequately prepare professional writers and professionals who write to appreciate the complex functions their texts serve. He reports on a study of the impact of two technologies (paper text and textual replay) on writing review. Unlike paper, which presents texts in a static form, textual replay presents texts as the products of writing practices. Textual replay records onscreen writing activity and creates a video that writers and reviewers use to supplement their discussion of revisions. The study results indicate that in organizations that hire professional writers, textual replay contributes to a review dynamic that favors increased discussion of writing process and cooperative revision practices. In organizations that employ professionals who write, talk about process also increases. In those settings, the textual replay also fosters a dynamic in which reviewers are better able to contextualize writing practices in terms of organizational constraints on those practices. The book concludes with a consideration of how to develop textual replay technology by using the observations of writing review to sketch out use features.
Jason Swarts is an assistant professor of technical and professional communication at North Carolina State University, where he teaches courses in information design, usability testing, and networked communication. Dr. Swarts's research concerns the mediating influence of information technologies on information-rich, cooperative work practices. Currently, he is at work studying the uses of small-screen mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants, in the field of veterinary medical education.
Chapter 1: Texts and Knowledge Work
Discusses texts and their importance to organizations. Texts make knowledge tangible, promote learning, support adaptation, encourage coordination, and support cognitive tasks.
Chapter 2: Writing Review and Mediation
Discusses the dual purpose for writing review: to produce better texts and better writers. Considers how this work is offloaded to people and technologies.
Chapter 3: Affordances of Texts and Textual Technologies
Discusses the socio-cognitive affordances of texts in paper and electronic form. Questions the suitability of paper text for writing review, instead promoting textual replay.
Chapter 4: Study Design and Data Analysis
Discusses the design of a study to test whether paper or textual replay helps writers produce better writing and better organization-specific writing practices.
Chapter 5: Differences between Text and Textual Replay Mediation
Discusses the differences between text and textual replay mediation use in five organizations. Textual replay helps writers and reviewers focus on writing process.
Chapter 6: Textual Replay in Practice-Oriented Organizations
Discusses use of textual replay in organizations that employ professional writers. Textual replay helps promote cooperative writing and discussion of process.
Chapter 7: Textual Replay in Artifact-Oriented Organizations
Discusses use of textual replay in organizations that employ "non-writers". Textual replay promotes contextualization of texts as organizationally-significant artifacts. Process is coordinated with organizational demands.
Chapter 8: Designing Technology to SupportPractice
Summarizes findings from the study and explores ways to use these findings to further the design of writing review technologies. The author offers some suggestions.