- Selber, Stuart A. (2010) ‘A Rhetoric of Electronic Instruction Sets’, Technical Communication Quarterly, 19: 2, 95 — 117
Selber’s article offered a heuristic approach to the different genres of instruction, looking at the way they have changed and will continue to change as online instructions become more and more prevalent. He points out the positive effect that instructions have had on technical and written communication, creating more clarity in language and specificity in step-by-step directions. He then looked at three different types of instruction sets; self-contained, embedded, and open instructions. Self-contained are instructions sets with fixed content, such as a PDF file, and are read-only. Embedded include things such as screencasts and user forums, are very user-generated. Open instructions are knowledge bases and Wikis, where users can edit and comment at will. In that sense, nearly everyone is a technical communicator with the addition of open instructions. Rather than conflict with one another, Selber argues that self-contained and open instructions can and should complement each other.
The article presented a clear and organized overview of different types of instruction sets, as well as some valuable insight on the effects they’ve had on the field of technical communication. While print instructions will likely never be a thing of the past, they are becoming less and less usable as open instructions, such as Wikis or Youtube, become more accessible. Technical communicators today want information to be quick and straightforward and self-contained rarely provides the former. Still, there is a need for them. A hybrid approach was mentioned briefly at the end, and done correctly that would be a very functional option.