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Pattern Recognition for Technical Communicators—Kai Weber

June 22, 2012

Kai Weber Talks about Pattern Recognition

I had the pleasure of listening to Kai Weber share his thoughts on pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is a natural part of human perception. We receive a sensation and organize it without consciously considering the sensation. We learn patterns by examples or rules. Humans are addicted to meaning. We search for meaning in patterns.

Kai thinks, “If we are going to recognize patterns naturally, we might as well do it smartly.” Pattern recognition can make sense of unknown subject matter, overcome writer’s block, chunk topics, find reuse opportunities, help your reader navigate.

As Kai described the importance of pattern recognition in his presentation, he showed examples to make the meaning clear to the audience.

As technical communicators, we should consider pattern recognition in space, time, and object characteristics. It takes longer for users to recognize a pattern if the occurrences are separated through space and time.

There are two ways we process patterns:
  1. Top-up processing is applying known rules and concepts to contextualize elements.
  2. Bottom-up processing begins by experience and organizing elements. Users match similarities, then segment into groups.
TOCs are designed to be top-down, while search and index are bottom-up pattern recognition.

Users often use document bottom up. They don’t care about the building plan, only the information that relates to them. In order to assist our users, we need to take this into consideration while creating our documents and planning the navigation for the final product.

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