Published on April 7, 2018

Guest editors: Josephine Walwema (Oakland University), Hilary Sarat-St. Peter (Columbia College Chicago), and Felicia Chong (Oakland University)

A smartphone user types “extend smartphone battery life” into a browser search box; the results include a variety of proprietary and user-authored instructions. Medical patients posting in an online health forum question their doctors’ medical expertise and authority. A technical writer tasked with updating the assembly instructions for a product discovers that DIY instructions for the product are already available online. Technical communication students are given “best practices” for producing good instructional videos, but they find that popular YouTube tutorials often lack these attributes. These scenarios illustrate the many ways in which user-generated technical communication, catalyzed by user-generated practices and platforms, intersects with the work of technical communication practitioners, researchers, and teachers [1]-[3]. Information and communication technologies of the 1980s and 1990s nourished a shift in social organization characterized by decentralized, flexible network nodes based on shared interests rather than shared geographic space. This pervasive shift in social order has been described as the rise of a new network society [4]. As a result, we might ask whether we are seeing the rise of a new technical communication society.

Whereas previous scholarship has examined tactics that users deploy to navigate, elude, and subvert organizational strategies [5]-[7], our proposed special issue shifts to professional technical communicators in established organizations. How do these practitioners navigate, leverage, or counteract user-generated content? Hackos has observed that “As the community matures, more and more customers will first access the collective knowledge recommendations of their peers rather than traditional company-provided support” [8, pp. 19-20].

Thus, our proposed special issue extends technical communication scholarship on user-generated content and new web and media technologies by asking how these developments affect the work of professional technical communication practitioners, researchers, and teachers. We are interested in submissions from researchers across the discipline that address the following questions:

  • How has the widespread adoption of user-generated practices and platforms within and outside organizations influenced the professional practice of technical communication?
  • How does user-generated content and the popularity of the practices associated with user platforms influence the professional practice of engineers and designers in product development and service design?
  • How has the proliferation of user-generated content affected the professional technical communicator’s role within organizations?
  • What kind of user communities are formed based on emerging genres of new web and media technologies?
  • What rhetorically effective strategies might professional technical communicators employ to facilitate and moderate the production of user-generated content?
  • How can technical communication instructors prepare students to leverage existing repositories of user-generated content as they write and design technical documentation for a variety of professional, personal, and public rhetorical situations?

Types of Projects

The types of research projects accepted for this special issue include but are not limited to

  • research articles
  • integrative literature reviews
  • case studies
  • tutorials
  • teaching cases

For further details, please consult project formats supported by the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication at

Submission Process

This special issue has a two-step review process (See below for timeline):

  1. If you have a project that you believe is a good fit, send a 500-word abstract in the body of an email summarizing your proposed article to the guest editors (,, and The guest editors will use the abstracts to select authors, who will be invited to submit a complete draft in Microsoft Word format.
  2. Once you submit a full article draft, it will be peer reviewed. Based on the peer reviews, the guest editors will select articles for the special issue.

IMPORTANT: If you plan to present the results of a study involving human research subjects or will use examples from corporate or government communications, please obtain all approvals and permissions for publishing your results from your institution, company, and/or agency before you submit your abstract for review.

Timeline for Submissions

Abstract submission deadline June 15, 2018
Notification of authors July 1, 2018
Submission of complete drafts December 15, 2018
Reviews returned to authors March 1, 2019
Revised drafts submitted for second review May 1, 2019
Final and complete articles submitted August 1, 2019
Editing of articles completed by guest editors September 1, 2019
Special issue published December 2019


[1]       L. Arduser, “Warp and weft: Weaving the discussion threads of an online community,” J. of Tech. Writ. and Commun., vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 5-31, 2011. doi: 10.2190/TW.41.1.b
[2]       D. Van Ittersum, “Craft and narrative in DIY instructions,” Tech. Commun. Q., vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 227-246, 2014. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.798466
[3]       F. Chong, “YouTube beauty tutorials as online instructions: Exploring implications for research and pedagogy,” presented at the Conf. of the Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication, Logan, UT, October 1-3, 2015.
[4]       M. Castells, “Toward a sociology of the network society,” Contemporary Sociology, vol. 29, no. 5, pp. 693-699, 2000.
[5]       J. S. Colton, S. Holmes, and J. Walwema, “From NoobGuides to #OpKKK: Ethics of Anonymous’ tactical technical communication, Tech. Commun. Q., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 59-75. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2016.1257743
[6]       H. A. Sarat-St. Peter, “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom”: Jihadist tactical technical communication and the everyday practice of cooking, Tech. Commun. Q., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 76-91, doi: 10.1080/10572252.2016.1275862
[7]       D. Holladay, “Classified conversations: Psychiatry and tactical technical communication in online spaces,” Tech. Commun. Q., vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 8-24, doi: 10.1080/10572252.2016.1257744
[8]       J. Hackos, “User-generated content,” Comtech Services, Inc, The Center for Information-Development Management, 2014. [Online]. Available: