This paper questions the ubiquitous practice of supplying minimalist information to users, of making that information functional only, of assuming that the Shannon-Weaver communication model should govern online systems, and of ignoring the social implications of such a stance. Help systems that provide fast, temporary solutions without providing any background information lead to the danger of users completing tasks that they do not understand at all. (Word will help us write a legal pleading, even if we have no idea what one is.) As a result, we have help systems that attempt to be invisible and to provide tool instruction but not conceptual instruction. Such a system presents itself as a neutral tool, but it is actually an incomplete environment, denying both the complexity and alternative (and possibly improved) modes of thinking about the subject at hand.
ACM Journal of Computer Documentation (JCD) – Association for Computing Machinery
Published: Nov 1, 2001