Robert Patrick Bergland

Downsizing and upgrading: A manufacturing firm’s move to electronic distribution of documents

Robert Patrick Bergland

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2002; pp: 243
  • Advisor: Sullivan, Patricia
  • Source: DAI-A 64/09, p. 3275, Mar 2004
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Business Administration, Management (0454)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-496-52476-1
  • UMI Number: AAT 3104909

Abstract:

    • The dissertation is an ethnographic study of the company/customer culture at an electric meter manufacturing plant from early 1995 to summer of 1997. The study focuses on the document production and distribution methods before and after layoffs in the mid-1990s. The company at its peak employed a many document specialists, but by mid-1995, none of those positions existed at the company, and the company planned to employ electronic publishing. The dissertation outlines the history of document production and distribution from 1970–1997 and analyzes the company’s decision to distribute its documents electronically. A survey of customers revealed their capabilities and preferences for receiving documents. The company-customer culture is largely viewed through the theoretical lens of Feenberg’s critical theory of technology. I show how the company took an instrumentalist view of the technology. In doing so, the company ignored the culture and literacy level of its customers. Had the company espoused a critical theory of technology, the result might have been more positive for the company and for the customers. I also examine the decision-making process and failure to implement an electronic publishing system from a literacy standpoint, looking at how those in power to make the electronic publishing decisions had a very low level of literacy in that area. In that same context, I discuss downsizing and deskilling and the role of the technical communicator and technical communication in workplace settings such as this.