Pattern recognition for tech comm

Chris Atherton and I will present a session on pattern recognition for technical communicators at this year’s Technical Communication UK conference near Oxford. The conference takes place from September 20 through 22.

Logo of the Technical Communication UK conference

Adding up Chris’s interest in evidence-based information design and her background in researching and teaching human cognition with my experience in designing and modelling technical communications, we’re sure it’ll be an interesting, thought-provoking session. Here’s the abstract:

Pattern recognition is one of the essential mental strategies for acquiring and disseminating knowledge, though most of us are not aware of it. This session presents some ideas and findings about human pattern recognition. It aims to help technical communicators think about how they can employ pattern recognition processes to develop their own documentation and user assistance.

The presentation combines the wit and wisdom of a cognitive psychologist and a technical writer who draw on examples and evidence in their respective fields to show:

  • What pattern recognition is and how it works
  • Which mental strategies we employ without knowing it
  • How technical communicators can employ those strategies
  • Making sense of new subject matter
  • Starting to build new documentation
  • Designing and structuring documentation
  • Supporting users efficiently

New conference trend: Collaborative sessions

It’s interesting to see collaborations appear at the conference that create a mushroom-like network of sessions:

  • Chris and I talk about pattern recognition.
  • Chris leads a session with Mike Smith and Karen Mardahl on statistics (without maths).
  • Karen joins forces with CJ Walker to tell about content strategy from the trenches.

Do you think joint sessions are a good idea or not? Have you had bad experiences that we should avoid? Feel free to leave a comment.

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4 Responses

  1. I’m really looking forward to seeing how these joint sessions work out!
    When I first got involved in organising Technical Communication UK, I was very keen to encourage tech-comms to be less inward-looking, and to open up opportunities to bring us in touch more with people working in disciplines that could bring us new ideas and help us think in fresh ways about the work we do. And I’ve been really pleased to see how well-received the speakers from these related disciplines have been over the past couple of years.
    But I never imagined that those speakers would begin to collaborate with the more “mainstream” technical communicators, and I for one am really thrilled that we’re seeing it happen, and excited to see what the result of this collaboration will be.
    Can’t wait!

    • Thanks, Rachel – yes, it is indeed exciting and has a rather organic vibe to it, thinking cross-pollination or (as mentioned) mushroom-like rhizomes.

      I think it’s one of the best ways to keep on growing and to ensure our trade’s relevance in the future – even if it poses yet another headache to those of us who like to debate whether we are technical writers or technical communicators… 🙂

  2. Hi Kai, I met you at TCUK 2010 but unfortunately couldn’t attend your session. Looking forward to the collaboration with Chris, as I get a lot from the “different viewpoint” sessions. Some truly “that had never dawned on me before” moments.

    • Thanks, Alison, I remember meeting at TCUK and look forward to seeing you again! – I’m fairly certain Chris and I can spark some of those “never dawned on me” moments. We just need to make sure we keep them applicable and not just merely “interesting”…

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