Communication in Professional Contexts
Online professional development has become a norm in the present-day world. In the reality where digital technologies prevail over natural human capacity, professional communication has also changed. By designing a new environment for online learning, professionals can better foster the development of new capabilities and become more purposeful in overcoming challenges to continuous skills and knowledge improvements. However, not everyone knows how professional communication should be handled and what online tools best serve the professional development purpose. The Australian Mining website is one of the best examples of how unwise use of web technologies replaces the utility and interactivity of online communication tools. Bringing together the benefits of video and audio communication techniques, website organizers readily forget about the importance of collaboration and interactivity in professional contexts. Apparently, the website is designed to meet the information and education needs of mining professionals and students, but only by making the information arrangement more logical, systematic, chronologic, and interactive, the website can finally achieve its purpose.
With the growing number of users, the number of websites also continues to increase. At the very start of the Internet era, most websites were presented in the form of personal pages but, today, the variety of website forms and modalities has been expanded greatly and interactivity has become a distinctive feature of the Internet landscape. Despite the abundance of evaluation criteria and principles, website evaluation remains one of the most problematic aspects of professional development in communications. The lack of a solid theoretical background renders many of such evaluations as unsystematic and disorganized. Yet, regardless of the theory used, every communication product in professional contexts must be developed in congruence with the purpose, intended audience, and the cultural/social/professional context, in which it will be implemented. Apparently, the purpose of the Australian Mining website is to share the fundamental aspects of history in the context of industry development. The mining industry is very important to the Australian people, as it provides work for more than 700,000 Australians and brings billions of export dollars. The website does not seek to persuade its users to accept any certain viewpoint. Rather, it is aimed at informing the audience about the most essential stages in the evolution of the Australian mining industry.
Target audience is one of the most essential points in developing and implementing a communication strategy. No theory is needed to justify the importance of target audience; it is like an axiom that implies the centrality of people/receivers/users in the act of successful communications. The information provided through the Australian mining website is so specific that it is difficult to imagine any audience other than mining professionals or students. Possibly, it is expected that the target audience will use the information provided on the website to (a) better understand the social and cultural context of the industry (for professionals) or (b) learn how the industry was developing (for students). Yet, the distinction between expert and novice audience is dramatic and needs to be considered – an essential aspect that seems to have been overlooked by web organizers and designers. Still, based on the contents provided, it is possible to assume that the target audience is passive and even ambivalent. The website does not provide any opportunities for being richly interactive and reflective on the issues presented. The target audience does not have any opportunity to return their responses or contribute to website development; as a result, they are assumed to be passive even when they obviously do not want it.
The points above raise considerable questions regarding the website's effectiveness and imply that the discussed communication product does not always meet its purpose. On the one hand, the website provides rich multimedia content, which, as assumed, will inform the audience of the most vital aspects of history in the mining industry. On the other hand, no distinction between novice (students) and expert (mining industry workers) audiences has been made; consequently, not everyone will manage to capture the hidden meanings delivered through the website content. Another problem is that the website itself contains little textual support, thus making it particularly difficult to understand its purpose and intent. The videos and headlines shared on the website seem to have little relation to the history of the mining industry, thus creating an atmosphere of confusion. Therefore, the website fulfills only part of its purpose – to inform – and provides little support to the purpose of educating the target audience about the fundamentals of history in the mining industry.
Any website exists in a context, and when it comes to professional development, the context, beyond its cultural and social elements, comes to incorporate various professional constituents. In the case of the Australian Mining website, the designers have seemingly decided to focus on delivering the words and meanings without changing or interpreting them through the inclusion of numerous video clips that had to create a cohesive picture of the mining industry. The emphasis is made on simplicity and personalities – the two things that any mining industry professional is expected to understand. In this sense, the context of the website is interpreted in terms of words, and seems to provide the meanings and connotations that have to be familiar to the target audience. The website is designed in ways that avoid complex words, meanings, and connotations, thus meeting the demand for shared context between several different audiences. However, it is not clear whether the audience will have enough motivation to run through those multiple videos, when they are so sparingly and unsystematically arranged. Moreover, it is not clear whether the audience will have enough willpower to run through the website, which does not contain anything beyond video clips and some additional text.
The communication techniques used on the Australian Mining website most closely resemble remote information retrieval, when the audience is given access to a document or any media file that provides information useful to this particular audience. It is visual, oral, but not interpersonal. The main problem with this communication technique is that it lacks interactivity. The fact is that most people (and audiences) anticipate that web technologies will turn them into a participatory wonderland. Another essential thing to remember is that professional development is impossible without collaboration, reflection, and interpersonal communication. Finally, organization plays a fundamental role in professional communication, because every act of communication delivered in a professional context must be thoroughly organized. The Australian Mining website lacks all these features and, for these reasons, cannot be regarded as effective.
The Australian Mining website has numerous advantages and considerable limitations. In the context of professional communication, the discussed website provides interesting information about the history of the mining industry which, nevertheless, needs to be better organized and systematized. The lack of interactivity makes the situation even more complicated, thus rendering the Australian Mining website as ineffective and confusing. The designers who worked on the website have failed to utilize the diversity of available communication instruments and techniques, making the website too monotonous to be interesting and engaging. All these issues require attention and consideration in light of the changing patterns of communication in professional contexts.
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