What does a Technical Communication major really mean? Does anyone even know? In Richard and Cynthia Selfe’s “What are the Boundaries, Artifacts, and Identities of Technical Communication”, new ways of understanding technical communication are introduced. Since technical communication is becoming more and more popular in today’s society, it is essential to have some sort of basic definition, although the Selfes argue one set definition may not exactly be attainable. The Selfes chose to focus on describing different ways to map the field of technical communication in order to help readers make sense of large amounts of information. Text clouds (or maps) are essentially a visual representation of the main points, with words in a larger font being the most prominent and most important. Throughout the rest of this article I plan to explain the purpose of text clouds by applying my own experience with a text cloud to an article I struggled to understand in another class.
The Selfes utilize their article to establish a new approach to mapping technical communication. They begin by describing a young college student who has trouble explaining her major to family and friends when asked. They then go into detail about various different maps such as historical, skills, and research maps. With the help of historical maps, we can trace the evolution of different genres in different social and cultural movements. Skills maps focus more on the abilities necessary for specific occupations and are very future focused in that they are attempting to recognize new skill sets as they emerge. Research maps investigate certain texts in search for new approaches and perspectives associated with the technical communication field. Text clouds allow us to see the patterns and purpose of the text we use. The Selfes discuss information designer Joe Larnantia’s view of text clouds as such, “Text clouds are meant to facilitate rapid understanding and comprehension of a body of words, links, phrases, etc.”(pg. 27). By using online text cloud generators, users have access to text clouds both quickly and easily.
After logging on to Tagxedo.com, a free text cloud generator, I got a first-hand look at just how beneficial text clouds can be in puzzling situations. I chose to relate the Selfe article back to an article that I read for my Sociology class this semester called “The External Control of Organizations” by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald Salancik. This article in particular was very difficult for me to understand due to its very complex view of organizational control. In order to create a better understanding of this article’s purpose, I decided to make my very own word cloud. The word cloud I came up with highlighted the main ideas, which ultimately gave me a better idea about what I should focus on. After reviewing my word cloud, I then had the opportunity to go back through the article a second time with those words in mind. This technique enhanced my comprehending of the article’s purpose.
In essence, text clouds are changing this society for the better. Text clouds have improved academics in ways we have never seen before. In this case, text clouds have helped to better define a confusing major as well as helped to make sense of a challenging class assignment. The use of text clouds will enhance the aspects that are most important to focus on and will ultimately provide the purpose for whatever it is we as readers are experiencing.