Users solving problems: User generated content as technical communication in com-plex systems of online game community support sites



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This research project explores technical communication in user generated con-tent (UGC) within online game community support spaces and how the information in these spaces reflects the user experience. It interrogates the user experience of technical communication as a means of establishing a place for technical communication within this largest, and growing, sector of digital content and production. It seeks to answer the following research questions: RQ1: What technical communication exists in online game community support sites? RQ2: What, if any, user experience information exists in online game communi-ty support sites? RQ3: How do users use the technical communication located in online game community support sites? RQ4: Why do users use the technical communication located in online game community support sites? Because digital spaces and their users often function as complex systems, analysis of the spaces and uses under consideration required the design a multi-phase, multi-part case study of use. To better capture use and content, I employed a mixed methods ap-proach that included both qualitative and quantitative measures. First, I located potential participants through deployment of a digital survey. Next, I remotely observed users in their context of use via screen capture and recording software. After a content analysis of three representative sites and analysis of both self-reported and observed user experience, I conducted interviews with case study partici-pants to build a picture of what use of UGC looks like. Analysis of the data found that UGC in the selected sites and those sites used by case study participants includes a great deal of technical communication that users use in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes to play their games. This technical communication reflects the priorities and experiences of other players and is often pre-sented in genres that players recognize and expect to find. I was able to identify that us-ers use this content to be more effective, efficient, engaged, and error tolerant in their gaming activities. Users were also able to identify some of the rhetorically significant characteristics of the genres of UGC found across many sites of Online Game Commu-nity Support Spaces. Analysis further revealed that user experience in the selected UGC was readily available for interrogation as to user needs and desires. Overall, the data suggested that technical communication is an important part of some community UGC and that technical communication professionals can impact the usability and effective-ness of UGC through a user-centered approach.



Technical communication, User generated content, User experience, Digital