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User-Centered Technology in Participatory Culture: Two Decades “Beyond a Narrow Conception of Usability Testing”

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3 Author(s)
Johnson, R.R. ; Michigan Technol. Univ., Walker ; Salvo, M.J. ; Zoetewey, M.W.

Twenty years after the publication of Patricia Sullivan's ldquoBeyond a narrow conception of usability testingrdquo in the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, three scholars - all Sullivan's students - reflect on the history and development of usability testing and research. Following Sullivan, this article argues that usability bridges the divide between science and rhetoric and asserts that usability is most effective when it respects the knowledge-making practices of a variety of disciplines. By interrogating trends in usability method, the authors argue for a definition of usability that relies on multiple epistemologies to triangulate knowledge-making. The article opens with a brief history of the development of usability methods and argues that usability requires a balance between empirical observation and rhetoric. Usability interprets human action and is enriched by articulating context and accepting contingency. Usability relies on effective collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders in the design of technology. Ultimately, professional and technical communication scholars are best prepared to coin new knowledge with a long and wide view of usability.

Published in:

Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:50 ,  Issue: 4 )

Date of Publication:

Dec. 2007

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