European Academic Colloquium 2013

The European Academic Colloquium on Technical Communication Studies was held for the second time on November 5, 2013 in Wiesbaden, Germany. Its main aim was to discuss the status quo of technical communication studies in Europe, the current challenges in the field of technical communication and strategies for further development. The colloquium was moderated by Sissi Closs, professor at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and Birgitta Meex, assistant professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Academic Perspectives

Sylvia Fischer opened the 2013 European Colloquium with her presentation “Analyses and Tests – A Scientific Approach to Comprehensible Operating Instructions”. She claimed that the innovative idea of this scientific approach is to carry out a product analysis that is based on the theory of product language or semantics and aimed at identifying potential product deficiencies and to combine several tests that are able to show whether the instruction manual compensates for these deficiencies or not.

In her presentation “Motivating the User”, Titti Suojanen focused on different approaches and the history of reasons why to motivate or not to motivate users of information products. Her paper first took a look at the motivation of users at a theoretical level and its significance as a part of user instructions, and then examined different types of textual means with which users can be motivated. She concluded her presentation by considering the changes that have taken place over time in the use of these motivation strategies in information products.

“How Helpful are Screenshots? A Review of Empirical Evidence and Directions for Future Research” Michael Meng provided insight into the use of screenshots as the most important means of visualization in software documentation. He discussed the pros and cons of using screenshots, and then presented three key areas in which further research on the use of screenshots might be needed in the future.

In her presentation, “Technical Communication and the Information Challenge: ECQA Certification on Different Levels”, Frieda Steurs showed how specialized language has become a pre-requisite of any kind of efficient and effective communication, and how the new job profile “Certified Terminology Manager” (ECQA) combines and bundles the competencies needed by professionals in various fields of terminology and terminology management.

In her presentation “Practitioners’ Perspectives of the Technical Communication Field in Ireland”, Yvonne Cleary provided an overview of technical communication as a new occupational field in the Republic of Ireland. As this is a new field of study in Ireland, her study addressed the existing research gap by examining practitioners’ perspectives of technical communication in Ireland, specifically exploring four key themes which emerged from the literature on communities of practice and professionalization: practice, education and training, status and value, and professional and community structures.

Cristian Dragomirescu, Voichita Ghenghea and Elisabeth Lazarou from the Technical University of Bucharest, Romania talked about “Technical Documentation as Part of Student Project Work”. They introduced examples of theses of engineering students that where dealing with technical documentation and stretched out the importance of including a subject / course of technical writing into the curricula of Romanian (technical) universities.

The colloquium was concluded with a panel discussion where all participants contributed and shared their views on the status quo of technical communication in their home universities / home countries. Important topics were the mobility of students and teachers, bridging the gap between universities and practice and developing the curricula.

If you are interested in the topics of the colloquium, the publication “Proceedings of the European Colloquium 2013” will be available next spring including the full papers of all speakers.

Next year’s call for papers will be opened around March / April 2014.