The UX of Webtexts

I’m happy to share a new journal article (free access link below) that marks the conclusion of a 2-year project that Rob Grace and I have collaborated on. The conversation began at a campus coffee shop when Rob and I talked about the increased used of the ambiguous term “webtext” in scholarly digital communication, and how some of our personal experiences with it had been confusing. To be fair, webtexts are meant to be experimental and boundary pushing. It does not––and should not––conform to traditional print conventions nor limited to scholarly (written) genres. So, for readers/users who are unfamiliar with webtexts, the experience of using them can be refreshing. But it can also be frustrating if one can’t easily navigate a webtext for the purpose of knowledge consumption and scholarship building.

Hence, our project was conceived to understand the user experience (UX) of webtexts from a few perspectives. Our first report, published in Computers and Composition in 2020, accounted for the experiences of faculty readers and graduate students. You can find the article here:

👉 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2020.102601

Then, we turned to webtext authors/designers to consider their composition choices and process. Talking with published webtext creators helped us see their mental models and conceptual references. It guided us in further understanding the ideals and realities of webtext publications. Our second report, just released in Computers and Composition, can be accessed using this share link (anyone clicking on this link before July 23, 2022 will be taken directly to the final version of the article on ScienceDirect. No sign up, registration or fees are required):

👉 https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1fB3zV6mkztGaW

Alternatively, you can use and file away this DOI for future reference: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2022.102708

We thank many people who supported us in the thinking, researching, writing, and publishing of this project. First, we thank the ACM-SIGDOC for giving us funding via the 2019 Career Advancement Research Grant (public proposal linked). We are most grateful toward the participants of this project who offered us their time and shared their experiences with us. As well, we are thankful for the comments and suggestions provided by manuscript reviewers, including Cheryl Ball and C&C Editor Kris Blair. Finally, we thank Michael Faris for inviting us to share our then in-progress findings of this research with his graduate students, and to conferences including SIGDOC 2020 and SIGDOC 2021 (proceedings linked) for letting us present our work to field audiences.

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