Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jeff Pruchnic


Emerging Genres of Online Technical Communication is a study of how the proliferation of non-professional participation has the potential to significantly change the shape of technical communication. More specifically, I use a genre analysis methodology to investigate three forms of user-generated content: crowdsourced documentation wikis, video games user reviews, and video game open development. In the first study, I analyze five crowdsourced documentation wikis and find systemic inconsistency in the workflow and content quality of the documentation. Subsequently, I argue that practitioners should use minimalist documentation theory to design more effective user-centered author support for the wikis. My second chapter uses Bhatian move-strategy analysis to investigate variation in the genre structure of a corpus of 180 video game reviews sampled from six websites. Based on the results, I argue that there are emerging genre variations that respond to both the exigencies of specific sites and also to new types of audiences. My third body chapter explores communication practices tied to the open video game development methodology where game prototypes are publicly distributed in order to support a more transparent development process. By mapping the activities and genres used to facilitate this development process, I argue past breakdowns in the system can be traced back to differing goals among stakeholders and to a deficit in genre knowledge that lowers the usefulness of some communications. Finally, my conclusion discusses the pedagogical implications of these emerging genres. Ultimately, I argue that, as professional technical communicators become less involved with developing content and more engaged with supporting and managing communities that develop content, we need to reorient some of our instruction toward writing studies practices that can help students become effective communication researchers and facilitators.