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The Rhetorical Process and the Communication of Expert Knowledge. From Text and Action: The Operator’s Manual in Context and Court By James Paradis. The importance of process writing.

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the rhetorical process and the communication of expert knowledge

The Rhetorical Process and the Communication of Expert Knowledge

From Text and Action: The Operator’s Manual in Context and CourtBy James Paradis

the importance of process writing
The importance of process writing
  • Procedurally sensitive processes often require that the operator adhere to specific protocols or operational sequences, which can be counter-intuitive.
the tool
The tool
  • A direct-acting studgun used to fire nails and other fasteners into various constructions materials.
operator s manuals
Operator’s manuals
  • Operator’s manuals typically employ four textual elements that attempt to bind the worlds of external objects with those of human behavior.
textual element 1
Textual Element #1
  • They construct a written analogue of the tool or process itself.
    • This reduces the tool or process to a series of verbal and visual terms that are, in fact, idealizations substituting for the thing itself.
textual element 2
Textual Element #2
  • The manual introduce a fictional operator who represents an average of suitably qualified individual.
    • This everyman is the agent, the guiding force, capable of making a range of commonsense decisions about how to apply the tool.
textual element 3
Textual Element #3
  • The material context of conditions and situations requisite for effective and safe use of the instrument.
textual element 4
Textual Element #4
  • The action—can be a loose narrative of representative steps the operator takes to apply the tool or a narrative sequence of precisely defined actions that furnish a behavioral template on which the operator must model his or her actions.
the studgun as mechanism
The Studgun as Mechanism
  • A versatile tool that is a blend of hammer function and firearm technology
  • It fires a variety of fasteners, including pins (nails) and studs (threaded bolts) into materials as different as wood, hard concrete and structural steel.
  • It has many options and is an enormously complex firearm technology.
2 court cases
2 Court Cases
  • Roger Gagne vs. Power Anchor Corp, et al
    • A Maine construction worker was trying to frame a window opening in a concrete basement foundation.
    • Gagne was struck by a coworker using a stud gun
      • The studgun’s fastener passed through wood, rebounded off a object embedded in concrete and struck Gagne in the back of his neck.
      • Gagne possessed an operator’s card; coworker did not.
ducharme v star expansion corp
DuCharme v. Star Expansion Corp
  • Aircraft employee was killed by a stud in free flight after it had passed through 3 layers of materials.
  • Neither the operator or the victim had an operator’s license.
ambiguities
Ambiguities
  • 1. In Case 1 the operator fired the studgun closer than 3 inches from the edge of the wood frame into concrete.
    • The operator’s manual had cautioned against firing “closer than 3 inches from the edge in concrete.”
ambiguities 2
Ambiguities, 2
  • In the DuCharme case, the operator fired a low-powder charge into very thin steel—not noted in the manual as unsafe.
problems
Problems
  • Neither worker had been licensed to operate the studguns.
  • There were no danger warnings on the studguns.
  • Neither manual mentioned that incorrect or casual use could lead to serious bodily harm or injury
rhetorical conventions
Rhetorical conventions
  • Typical instruction manuals have Taxonomies or terminological standards, conditional generalizations and segmented action sequences.
  • They reflect a rhetorical preoccupation with accuracy and clarity.
    • Ex. “To determine correct power load”
      • “Correct” is a misleading ideal.
consequence
Consequence
  • The reductive text’s usefulness is achieved through a simplification that does not acknowledge the complexity of the reality.
specifying actions
Specifying Actions
  • In the manual, Rule 3 directs the operator to begin with the weakest possible charge and to work upward in charge strength until the desired penetration is achieved.
    • It is an attempt to resolve the technology into a series of discrete operations that direct the human-machine interaction
    • The shortage of action statements forces the operator to formulate his/her own actions.
legal discourse
Legal Discourse
  • The document is a testament that the technology can be explained.
  • Texts are viewed as more stable than oral discourse
  • In both cases, the plaintiffs based their claims largely on an analysis of the studgun as it was represented in the operator’s manual.
what does this mean
What does this mean?
  • The manual, as a rational system, must be accessible to common sense.
    • Its world must to some degree be complete or self-sufficient.
    • Unfortunately, as procedures become elaborated in detailed protocols, they increasingly leave the realm of commonsense behind.
example
Example
  • “To vary the amount of penetration: fasteners can be positioned in the barrel by using the ramrod provided with the tool kit or using .22 caliber crimped loads Power levels 1 or 2.
  • Nowhere is it explained how the ramrod works, what “crimped” loads are or where Power Levels 1 and 2 fit into the scheme of ammunition used to propel the studs.
finding
Finding
  • Loose terminology
  • Incoherent syntax
    • These underscore the inconsistency of the action statements.
other problems
Other problems
  • Omission of prominent, explicit warnings
  • Issues of safety were relegated to list of “Safety rules” formulated as “Do nots.”
  • There was no effort to provide rationale for the rules.
why did this happen
Why did this happen?
  • An operator’s manual is a rhetorical field.
    • The tool is a different object to the various constituencies whose professional ends are in some way bound in it.
      • To engineer—Studgun is an expression of functions
      • To capitalist--An expression of production, marketing and finance
      • To operator—A utilitarian object whose purpose is to drive studs
rhetorical consequences
Rhetorical Consequences
  • Expertise is constantly reconstructed in behavioral terms of action for the nonexpert.
  • As a technology becomes more complex, it becomes harder to understand and to manipulate according to common sense.
  • We ask the operator to relinquish his or her individual inclination so as to conform to some technically prescribed activity and we expect principles governing behavior to not be arbitrary.
conclusion
Conclusion
  • The environment must be seen in terms of social circumstances and the artifact (technology) must also be considered to include rhetorical factors.
rhetoric of action
Rhetoric of Action
  • Operating procedures for the studgun show several rhetorical conventions of operational discourse
    • 1. A procedural outline exists for selecting a power load—”To determine Correct Power Load”
      • Not every operator will use this but the textual version governs all studgun uses.