Jeremy Cushman

Selling a $600 piece of paper: Rhetorical action in an automotive repair shop

Jeremy Cushman

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2013 pp: 168
  • Advisor: Sullivan, Patricia A.
  • Source: DAI-A 75/04(E)
  • Subjects: Language, literature and linguistics; Automotive; Technical writing; Workplace writing; Rhetoric;
  • ProQuest Document Number: 1476437540
  • ISBN: 9781303606151
  • UMI Number: AAT 3604758

Abstract:

This dissertation studies the practices of automotive technicians to demonstrate that narratives often conceal inventive problem-solving practices. For example, auto technicians retroactively credit established procedures for the invention processes they use to diagnose drivability issues, or they often justify unorthodox website redesigns or usability testing by offering a retrospective account of accepted methods. I argue these narratives, which are central to the value and viability of such work, rarely capture the occasions they are meant to reflect. The knowledge they construct with workplace narratives often conflict with actual practices. Consequently, I look to the intuitive processes professionals bring to situations of uncertainty and instability, foregrounding the invention work they do in the moment that allows them to frame temporarily stable, and so solvable, problems. What this means for me is that professional and technical writing scholars need to keep the question of what counts as professional knowledge open, and contrast the stabilizing narratives we invent in the moment with the more common narratives we tell in retrospect. What’s more, I argue that such an approach will introduce better reflection into too-often limited workplace roles, opening possible channels of workplace communication for which there is yet no imagination.