This paper is an initial effort to articulate the rhetorical work of analytics for technical writers and designers of technical information. We situate analytics as a heuristic process, the intentional creation of forms and events for aggregating and assessing data within and across systems. Using examples from healthcare and library science we highlight: (1) The opportunities and complications of working with comprehensive data sets (100% of population) rather than representative samples; (2) The importance of outliers, and (3) The social dynamics associated with inventing concepts. We suggest that analytics is equally a social, technical, and rhetorical activity. Meaningful queries will invent and aggregate concepts that enable description, assessment, and change throughout a social system. We stress the contextual and social dynamics of analytics noting that like any rhetorical activity, analytics simultaneously construct, reflect, and impose value and meaning on systems under scrutiny.
Faber, B., & Gagnon, K. 2013. Analytics as heuristics: Technical considerations for DOC. SIGDOC ‘13: Proceedings of the 31st ACM International Conference on Design of Communication, 49-54. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2507065.2507071
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