Object rhetoric: An object-oriented rhetoric of hypertext for technical communication
Jones, Roland Alexander
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Technical communication is becoming increasingly focused on the efficient production of documentation, largely commoditizing a profession based, at least in part, on the art of rhetoric. As technical communicators embrace single sourcing, the practice of writing content for one context and reusing it in others, the impetus is on technological solutions that enable more output with less effort. This dissertation will describe a new rhetoric to help technical communicators in dealing with the complexities of composing within a hypertextual and single-source based environment while employing the traditional skills of the profession. A useful model for technical communicators working with reusable content is that offered by object-orientation, a programming method that likewise focuses on reusable content, specifically program code. Rather than defining a series of algorithms in program code, which results in inefficiencies similar to those of writing and maintaining individual documents, object-orientation segregates code by creating models of interaction among code objects which then govern themselves. Such a process could help create more efficient and sustainable methods of creating documentation if applied to technical communication. Since these objects offer a new approach to authoring, a rhetoric of such objects becomes necessary before they can be implemented for technical communication. Since these objects are connected through complex referential relationships, they are also an advanced form of hypertext. Object-orientation and the hypertext theory of Ted Nelson provide language suitable for defining such a rhetoric. A theory of invention is equivalent to understanding how knowledge is formed, manipulated, and stored within the mind; cognitive theory and the work of Marvin Minsky and Roger Shank help define a suitable metaphor for this rhetoric. Lastly, elements of the process will be shown through the example of real-world activities such as those involved in complex documentation efforts.