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Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain

User Support in the Wild and the Role of Technical Communication

by Jason Swarts

Paperback Price $25.95
Ebook Price $20.95
30-day ebook rental price $10.00

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 “Well researched, well written, and timely but relevant to classic concerns of the field.”
Rebecca Walton, Utah State University

“Swarts provides a fascinating rhetorical analysis of different types of user support, from work-arounds to work throughs to best practices.”

"If you’re a technical communicator engaged in user support, you’ll want to grab a copy of Jason Swarts’s Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain. . . his deepest and most satisfying probe into the shift that we technical communicators are facing, the many devils in its details, and the immense opportunities that we can enjoy."
Technical Communication

"The primary strength of the book lies in the tools it gives its readers to think about the nature of our problems. . . . we have an opportunity as writers to be the people who step back and look at problems collectively, holistically, and humanely, and facilitate the work to meaningfully address these problems."
Communication Design Quarterly


Technology users are compulsive integrators, hybridizers, and bricoleurs, whose unpredictable applications and innovations create a challenging task for support-documentation writers. In Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain, Jason Swarts shows how to document technologies that may hybridize into forms that not even their designers would have anticipated and offers insight into the evolving role of a technical writer in an age of increasing user reliance on YouTube tutorials, message boards, and other resources for guidance.

Technical writers traditionally create large volumes of idealized tasks and procedures in help documentation, but this is no longer the only approach, or even the best approach. Shifting responsibility for user support to users via crowdsourcing is a risky alternative. Just as with other mass-collaborative enterprises, contributors to a forum may not be aware of the kind of knowledge they are creating or how their contributions connect with those made by others. Wicked, Incomplete, and Uncertain describes the kinds of writing and help practices in which user forums engage, why users seem to find these forums credible and appealing, and what companies can learn about building user communities to support this form of assistance.
Through investigation of user-forum activities, Swarts identifies a new set of contributions that technical communicators can make—not only by creating content but also by curating content, shaping conversations, feeding information back into the user community, and opening channels of discovery and knowledge creation that can speak to users and software developers alike.

Jason Swarts is professor of English at North Carolina State University, specializing in the field of Technical Communication. He is a core faculty member in NC State’s MS program in Technical and Scientific Communication and in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media PhD program. His work has received numerous awards, including the 2009 NCTE Award for Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication.

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  • Paperback Price: $25.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60732-761-5
  • Ebook Price: $20.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $10.00
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-762-2
  • Publication Month: September
  • Publication Year: 2018
  • Pages: 171
  • Illustrations: 4
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Jason Swarts
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-761-5
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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