Network Rhetoric: A Network Ethnography of Knowledge Work of System Builders in Child Care and Early Learning

Read, Sarah. Network Rhetoric: A Network Ethnography of Knowledge Work of System Builders in Child Care and Early Learning. 2011. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Adviser: Mark Zachry

An interdisciplinary project situated at the intersection of workplace writing, network theory, rhetorical theory and the study of public discourses, this dissertation argues for how these areas of inquiry intersect productively so that we can better understand the effects of workplace writing on the social and material worlds of stakeholders in the community. This argument is grounded in over a year of field research at a nonprofit resource and advocacy organization (QCR) that is conducting a messaging campaign to build public will for improving the quality of child care in Washington State. My work traces how participants translate for QCR's diverse stakeholders the state's official model for quality child care, and uses network theory to link the participant's rhetorical work to the material conditions of child care that research shows are essential for child brain development. Network theory is useful as an alternative to container metaphor-based constructs of writing context because it can better account for the complex situatedness (Mara & Hawk, 2010) of knowledge workers in a networked and globalized economy. My use of network theory also shifts the study's focus from the work that participants do in producing a wide-range of written genres to the effects of their rhetorical activity—the "net work" (Spinuzzi, 2008) of building and maintaining a network of relationships across organizational, political, cultural, and material boundaries. Better understanding how rhetoric, and rhetorical activity, builds networks contributes to a pedagogy for preparing students to work in the interconnected, globalized workplace where institutional and other boundaries have less meaning than they used to and where the value of work can be difficult to locate.

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