Kristen Moore

Rhetoric, interrupted: Public engagement practices and policy work

Kristen Moore

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2012 pp: 173
  • Advisor: Sullivan, Patricia A.
  • Source: DAI-A 74/03(E)
  • Subjects: Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; Communication and the arts; Public engagement; Rhetoric; Technical communication; Transportation planning; Womanism; Black studies; Womens’ studies; Public administration;
  • ProQuest Document Number: 1221551191
  • ISBN: 9781267745903
  • UMI Number: AAT 3544311

Abstract:

Rhetoric, Interrupted, investigates two cases of public engagement as implemented by VCC, a firm dedicated to more inclusive decision- and policy-making processes. Particularly since the Obama administration was inaugurated, governmental bodies and agencies have sought these more participatory processes—processes that acknowledges the expertise of citizens in their own communities. Where disenfranchised populations (like racial minorities, those in low socio-economic statuses, etc.) were typically omitted from decision-making, efforts are now being made to develop more inclusive strategies at the local and regional level. But such efforts often face an uphill battle, as public officials struggle to understand the needs of local publics and as grassroots organizations work from the outside to gain the power to make change. Because VCC functions as a liaison among government agencies, private sector stakeholders and citizen groups, they represent an effort toward increasing representative and dialogic public policy work. As both technical communicators and citizen advocates, they work within institutionalized mandates to include and engage community members. Rhetoric, Interrupted presents a model for scholars in Rhetoric and Professional Writing who are civic-minded and desire methods for moving out of the academy. I respond to scholarship that calls for more service learning, community engagement and civic work, adding a sketch of professionals who work in the public sphere and seek to increase the involvement of citizens in public policy and whose work supports the development of policy-based literacies in the community. My two years of research suggest that scholars and professionals alike can work within institutionalized frameworks in order to make change. This suggestion counters examples in the field that see engagement work through self-built literacy centers or research studies. I argue that these more revolutionary movements for change, which restructure institutional practices—or build them from scratch—might be complemented by a more interruptive rhetorical approach, that works towards smaller, momentary changes within already existing systems. This dissertation tells the story of VCC as they implemented interruptive rhetorics in their public engagement processes and expands the notion of boundary work to include the physical boundaries so prominent in the transportation planning projects facilitated by VCC. This dissertation expands the disciplinary scope of technical and professional communication in its investigation of transportation planning; it expands the methodological and theoretical scope of technical and professional communication in its use of Womanist and Black Feminist theory as a basis for understanding the work of VCC, a company founded by Black women.