Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Empirikom 2012

Next week, I'll be presenting at the fourth Empirikom workshop in Aachen, Germany. Aachen is quite near the borders of The Netherlands and Belgium, so close that I'm told the residents like to shop in all three countries.

My talk is the only one on the program with an English title: "Analyzing Computer-Mediated Communication in Professional Environments: An Activity Theory Approach." I'll be discussing a recent case study of work, focusing on three analytical constructs that I've used to understand how CMC genres help to mediate it: genre ecologies, activity systems, and activity networks.

This opportunity was intriguing to me for many reasons, but especially because it gave me a chance to rethink some of my past work. My first field study, at Schlumberger Well Services, started with the expectation that I would be focusing on shared electronic texts (in this case, source code). But I quickly realized that I couldn't understand how the software developers were interpreting and producing these shared texts unless I looked at how they put the code into relationship with a variety of other texts, many of which were offline. That realization led me to adopt and develop the genre ecologies framework—and I became addicted to field studies.

Since that study, I have examined other sorts of work via field methods (dates are when the research was conducted, not published):

  • Software developers at Schlumberger (1997)
  • Traffic safety workers (1998-1999)
  • Telecommunications workers (2000-2001)
  • Proposal writers (2005)
  • Office workers (2006)
  • Search engine optimization specialists (2008)
  • Coworking (2009-2011)
  • Nonemployer firms (2009-2011)

In each case, people used digital texts to mediate their work—including dialogue-based CMC (such as email, IM, social media, notes in information systems) but also other digital texts (such as databases and information systems)—but the most intriguing aspect for me was how they put these texts in relationship with other texts, from sticky notes to highlighted printouts to manuals. 

That is, I haven't focused on CMC per se; I've focused on how a dynamic system of information resources, including CMC, collectively mediate work activity. This focus tends to be different from much of the CMC work I've read recently, work that closely examines the use and revision of particular  genres or texts (e.g., Wikipedia pages). Which is not to say that it's better or worse—like most field studies, mine sacrifice the fine-grained view of a specific artifact in order to gain a broader understanding of the activity in which the artifact is mobilized. 

Hopefully these insights will be helpful to others in the workshop. In any case, I'll post the slides in a couple of weeks. For now, special thanks to Eva-Maria Jakobs and Bianka Trevisan for organizing the workshop and asking me to be part of it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New issue of Present Tense: On Medical, Gender, and Body Rhetorics

The issue looks really interesting, with some heavy hitters. Here's the blurb:
The editors of Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society are proud to announce Volume 2.2 of the journal Vol. 2.2 is a special and double issue of Present Tense that focuses on medical rhetoric and makes forays into gender and body rhetorics. The special issue features nine articles, a comprehensive medical rhetoric bibliography, an interview, and two reviews, including: 
A Womb With a View: Identifying the Culturally Iconic Fetal Image in Prenatal Ultrasound Provisions – Grounding her piece in House Bill 15, Rochelle Gregory illustrates how ultrasound visualization is a transformative act with political, medical, and ethical repercussions. 
Inoculating the Public: Managing Vaccine Rhetoric – Monica Brown asserts that, in light of the most recent flu epidemic, rhetorical analysis serves to correct mistakes in vaccination campaigns, thus offering public health campaigns and the public control of health messages and behaviors. 
Laboring Bodies and Writing Work: The Pregnant First-Year Writing Instructor – Jessica Restaino details the political and pedagogical complexities and challenges surrounding pregnant composition teachers inside the classroom and the larger academic institution. 
Stasis Theory and Meaningful Participation in Pharmaceutical Policy – Christa Teston and S. Scott Graham use stasis theory to analyze the FDA’s public hearings on Avastin, a breast cancer drug, concluding that the hearings allowed only certain types of discussion and resulted in stakeholders disagreeing on crucial points. 
“Wellness” as Incipient Illness: Dietary Supplements in a Biomedical Culture – Colleen Derkatch uses the rhetoric of dietary supplements to highlight popular notions of “wellness” and the public and political implications of these notions. 
The Concept of Choice as Phallusy: A Few Reasons Why We Could Not Agree More – Situating their piece in the historical and current context of abortion debates, Amy Koerber, Amanda K. Booher, and Rebecca J. Rickly depict the rhetorical spaces surrounding these debates and the role women’s stories play in these spaces. 
Healthy Eating: Metaphors We Live By? – Philippa Spoel, Roma Harris, and Flis Henwood’s empirical research illustrates how metaphors used in daily discourse construct our understanding of "healthy eating." 
Epideictic Rhetoric and the Reinvention of Disability: A Study of Ceremony at the New York State Asylum for “Idiots” – Zosha Stuckey argues that uses of epidiectic rhetoric reformed treatment paradigms and understandings of disability. 
Research Update: Pain Medication and the Figure of the Pain Patient – Judy Z. Segal discusses a current research project in which she reconstructs the pain patient in public and medical settings. 
An Annotated Bibliography of Literature on the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine – Jessica Masri Eberhardt provides one of the first published annotated bibliographies on medical rhetoric. 
Interview: Transplant Deliberations and Patient Advocacy – Melissa Christian, an organ transplant coordinator, spoke withPresent Tense editors about how communication influences her everyday interaction with transplant teams, patients, and families. As a working medical professional, Christian provides medical rhetoricians with suggestions for how their work can contribute to medical practice. 
Book Review: Black Dogs and Blue Words – Patty A. Kelly reviews Kimberly Emmons’ book on the rhetoric of depression, suggesting that a wide, cross-disciplinary audience may benefit from Emmons’ work. 
Book Review: Disability and Mothering: Liminal Spaces of Embodied Knowledge – Ashlynn Reynolds-Dyk reviews Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson and Jen Cellio’s edited collection. Reynolds-Dyk summarizes the book’s four parts and concludes with reflective thoughts on how different audiences may use this collection. 
Present Tense is a peer-reviewed, blind-refereed, online journal dedicated to exploring contemporary social, cultural, political and economic issues through a rhetorical lens. In addition to examining these subjects as found in written, oral and visual texts, we wish to provide a forum for calls to action in academia, education and national policy. Seeking to address current or presently unfolding issues, we publish short articles of 2,000-2,500 words, the length of a conference paper.