Justin Lewis
Concept Modeling and Database Architectures: Emerging Practices in Technical Communication. Conference for the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW). Houston, TX. April 6th, 2016.
Publication year: 2016

As technical communicators are aware, the workplace is changing. Due to globalization and transformations in communication technologies, organizations are increasingly doing work of a distributed nature. On the macro level, much of the “distribution” is infrastructural; technical communicators often work on a contract basis, networking with collaborators across time-zones, continents and languages to execute tasks and complete projects. On the micro level, “distribution” has different implications; namely, the move away from whole document design toward single-sourcing and modular composition. The proliferation of distribution at macro and micro levels of scale has caused great anxiety for technical communication practitioners and researchers alike.

To combat the instrumentalization of technical writing inherent in single-source content management frameworks, Andersen (2014) argues that technical communicators are uniquely qualified to participate in the development data architectures. In this presentation I follow Andersen by illustrating a portion of my current project to develop novel methodologies for designing the concept models that structure database architectures. As an integral step in promoting sound data governance structures, concept modeling provides organizations with technical blueprints of how data is acquired, defined and stored; further, concept modeling also defines the logical structures that render data into actionable information. As a supplement to ethnography-centric methods of concept model design, I offer a methodology of distant viewing. Rooted in corpus-based computational linguistic analyses and Rhetorical Genre Studies, the collocational approach I describe assists in designing semantic-conceptual data models that are complete, non-redundant, reusable, integrative and flexible. I hope my work in this project expands the bounds of “technical communication,” allowing practitioners from Writing Studies to more closely work with information systems professionals and content management designers to actively shape their position in the globalized workplace.

Works Cited

Andersen, R. (2013). Rhetorical work in the age of content management. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 28(2), 115-157.