User Activity in Context: Technical Communicators as Articulators of Google Analytics Data
This technical report addresses questions raised by technical communication scholars concerning who or what may have rhetorical agency  in technology tools used to organize and manage information. One such tool is Google Analytics, a self-contained third-party system that technical communicators deploy by adding tracking code to web pages. Data collected through Google's algorithms are processed and presented through the Analytics reporting tool. Customizable reports are managed by the Analytics account administrator and shared with web developers, designers, and writers to assess rhetorical value, defined as whether the page reached its audience and achieved its communicative purpose. The data are also frequently shared with administrators, supervisors, and data technicians to demonstrate ongoing value of website work and technical communicator labor. Report data, in the form of metrics and customizable visual interfaces, not only visualize the rhetorical value of web pages, but also represent Google's rhetorical agency as designer and presenter of metrics. The paper encourages technical communicators to do symbolic-analytic work  to contextualize and remediate report data in their organizations. It reframes Analytics reports as "network exchanges"  in which responses, not resolution, are the goal of the Analytics report's rhetorical work. In this way, Google Analytics reports generate responses, rather than results, where technical communicators become part of the rhetorical network exchange and articulate Analytics data for stakeholders seeking website user and visit metrics.
Copyright © 2016 Association for Computing Machinery. This technical report was first published in SIGDOC '16 Proceedings of the 34th ACM International Conference on the Design of Communication (2016), no. 13.
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Hocutt, Daniel L. User Activity in Context: Technical Communicators as Articulators of Google Analytics Data. Technical paper no. 13. SIGDOC '16 Proceedings of the 34th ACM International Conference on the Design of Communication. ACM.