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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “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.
  • 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.
  • 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.