S. Scott Graham
Rhetorics of Pain: Agency and Regulation in the Medical-Industrial Complex, in progress
The science and practice of pain medicine is a highly divisive area of technoscience. Many different multi-disciplinary stake-holders are actively vying for legitimacy and recognition for their understanding of and treatment approaches for pain. Additionally, the manifold regulatory forces of the medical-industrial complex may even rival the military-industrial complex of the cold war era. A veritable cornucopia of disciplinary sub-specialties, governmental agencies, and industrial corporations are involved in the perpetuation and policing of medical science and practice. Within this amalgam of forces, a would-be agentive group of pain management clinicians has been attempting to change the way the medical-industrial complex thinks about and treats pain. This coalition of groups is attempting to foster what Latour calls a nonreductive, nonmodern science of pain which would foster interdisciplinary treatment of pain patients. And while this coalition has made some significant headway in the past 30 years, it is continuously thwarted by various regulatory forces. In exploring both successful and failed agentive work of this coalition, I hope to shed some light on the nature of and problems for agency within networks of technoscience.
Noel Holton Brathwaite
A Perfect Storm: Reading Kairos, Exercising Agency, and Locating a New Publicly Engaged Scientific Ethos in the Biorenewables Movement, 2009
The end of the Cold War brought with it profound changes in the way that scientific research is funded and practiced. Aided by a culture that once largely promoted scientific objectivity and purity, scientific rhetoric traditionally eschewed arguments that relied on ethos. Instead, scientists during the Cold War era were able to adopt a persona of objective “invisibility” that occluded the material realities of “doing” science, preferring to use logos-based appeals to persuade. The decline in Cold War era federal funding, however, coupled with an intense public interest in the effects of global warming have increasingly prompted scientists to build what Miller refers to as “arguments from [scientific] authority” that communicate the pragmatic and applied value of their work to broad audiences. This project looks at the ways that scientists interpret their rhetorical situations or “read” kairos and attempt to exercise agency by developing a scientific ethos that is no longer invisible, transparent or isolated from public discourse. I focus on a group of scientists involved in the biorenewables movement, who, in their own words, have found themselves caught up in a “perfect storm” of kairotic circumstances that have enabled them to build a strong argument for the importance of biorenewable energy research. Some of these circumstances include widespread public concern over global warming and unstable oil prices. In this project, I sought to learn more about the nature and limitations of rhetorical agency, namely about how much kairotically sensitive rhetors can achieve in the face of determined structural hegemony. I did a rhetorical analysis of the chemurgy movement of the 1930s and 1940s that shared many similarities to the contemporary biorenewables movement and found that agency is inextricably linked to kairos and must be viewed through the dynamic lens of history.
Bridging the Valley of Death: The Rhetoric of Technology Transfer, 2009
My dissertation is a case study of a new university institute that was established with a $1 million state grant to develop university/industry partnerships as a way to stimulate economic development. During my observations, the institute was struggling to define itself as a viable structure in which these partnerships could be established and flourish. It needed to avoid the valley of death—a metaphor often used to describe the gap between university research and its commercialization. One key finding is a tension between traditional conceptions of research, in which knowledge “moves” from a disciplinary boundary out to a destination, and a more entrepreneurial mode, in which knowledge production is diffuse, crossing disciplinary and university boundaries. My question is how does this university institute and its entrepreneurial mode of research gain legitimacy through the discourse? This case study highlights important trends in technology transfer, specifically in how university research is valued, how success is defined by various stakeholders, and how those definitions structure and are structured by institutional practices.
Academic Research and Public Policy: Rhetorical Lessons from the Sophonow Inquiry, 2008
This dissertation is a language-based case study that examines the relationship between academic research and public policy to understand the role of language and rhetoric in how academic research influences public policy. Using one Canadian public inquiry (the Sophonow Inquiry) that clearly resulted in policy uptake of research, this study examines the manner in which academic knowledge and discourse enter public policy, the rhetorical transformation of these knowledge and discourse, and the relevant rhetorical and discourse factors that facilitate policy uptake of research. The analysis in this dissertation reveals that circulation of knowledge and discourse from academic research to public policy is mediated by what I call intermediary genres , and these genres simultaneously filter and validate academic knowledge and discourse into the policy domain through what Anne Freadman theorized as uptake . But this uptake process ironically obscures the epistemological origin of those knowledge and discourse by de-attributing them from academic genres and re-attributing them to other legal or policy genres. This process creates an impression that academic research is less influential than it actually is. Along with this description of the uptake process, this dissertation also identifies a number of rhetorical and discourse factors that facilitate this uptake process. Some of the factors are broad and theoretical (such as the configuration of the intertextual relationship), but others are much more specific (such as, rhetorical emphasis and discourse mode), providing potentially useful information for scholars who are interested in influencing public policy with their research.
James Robert Heiman
A Solution to a Worrisome Problem": The Rhetoric of Scientific Discourse in a Public Policy Dispute about the Environment, 2006
The goal of this study is to demonstrate how rhetorical analyses of public discourse artifacts and practices reveal science as a civic discourse—with highly epideictic and deliberative purposes—that guides public policy decisions made by non-expert, civic leaders. Though typically recognized for its forensic function, little is written about how the epideictic function of scientific discourse politically performs in public policy debates about the environment. Nor is much written about the connection between the epideictic and deliberative functions of scientific discourse and the resolution of public controversies. To demonstrate the intersection of the political and scientific, I present a case study in which two opposing scientists attempted to shape public policy using scientific reports. These reports contained conflicting evidence and claims concerning the suspected emission and deposition of dioxin from a Midwestern power plant to the food sources of the Inuit who reside in the Arctic Circle. Specifically, I analyze what rhetorical moves these scientists used to construct scientifically based arguments in both the initiation and resolution of the environmental conflict, and I speculate how expectations appropriate for scientific discourse complicated (and possibly conflicted with) understanding about what was suitable for discourse surrounding the controversy. Using the analytic categories of genre and delivery, frames and values, ethos and identity/image, I locate three rhetorical actions that may be helpful to professional communicators, civic scientists, environmental advocates, public officials, and general citizens when reading and responding to the discourse that is created to initiate and resolve an environmental controversy: (1) the use of warrants to express non-scientific values, (2) the difference in rhetorical situations and generic conventions that surround scientific and environmental discourses, and (3) the creation of a "web of discourse and activity" by scientists seeking change in public policy.
Blurred Boundaries of Science and Advocacy: The Discourse of Scientists at a Conservation Organization, 2005
In this dissertation I argue that, in the field of conservation, the boundary separating science from advocacy appears to be undergoing a shift as the number of research scientists at conservation advocacy organizations grows. Drawing on data from interviews with scientists at a prominent conservation non-governmental organization (NGO), I identify and analyze the kinds of rhetorical work NGO scientists engage in as they attempt to participate effectively in the forums of both science and advocacy. I also analyze the publications of one scientist at the same organization to identify features of the discourse of NGO conservation science that suggest a shift or at least a blurring of the boundary between science and advocacy in conservation. My discourse analysis focuses on publications from forums of scholarship and advocacy including, as a representation of discourse in the latter forum, an example of gray literature. Gray literature refers to reports, books, and other texts produced and distributed outside the channels of the academic and publishing industry. The study highlights the types of “boundary work” NGO scientists are engaged in to establish their membership in the scientific community as well as specific features typical of their rhetoric that result from their occupying a hybridized cultural and professional space where science and advocacy overlap.
"I Hope to Share My Struggles, My Successes, and Everything in Between": A Rhetorical Study of Health Blogs, 2008
Many patients who are experiencing a serious illness need a way to express their emotions and continue their everyday lives. For some patients, one outlet is through a health blog. Health blogs allow these individuals to share their emotions about their illness through narrative and with a wide audience over the Internet. The visual and textual elements of health blogs work together to create an identity that is unique to each blogger. As these visual and textual elements combine, one can see the narratives emerge. Through these narratives, the bloggers persuade both themselves and others that they can (to some degree) control what is happening to them. An analysis of these health blog narratives will show how their messages are persuasive. From this analysis, we can argue that using these health blogs for health information is not a viable application. Instead, the audience should understand health blogs as representing specific individuals and their experiences with illness as they try to continue their everyday lives.
Clean Coal Rhetoric: Engaging the Public on Informal Education Websites about Science and Technology, 2007
Some scientific and technological problems require public engagement. Engagement, defined in this situation as a level of interest or investment that fosters changing attitudes and behavior, can be achieved through informal education websites that present scientific arguments to a general audience. These websites function as boundary objects between the scientific community and the general public, noticeably affecting the audience’s attitudes and opinions about the science in question. This study focuses on several website elements stimulating engagement on two informal education websites that present clean coal technology, an advanced effort to increase the efficiency of coal power while capturing coal power’s greenhouse gas emissions. Informal education websites about clean coal technology are challenged to supplant the public’s misgivings about coal with acceptance and even excitement. To examine the ways in which these two websites attempt to engage their audiences and the ways in which those audiences respond, this study uses three methods. The first is a rhetorical analysis of the engaging elements present on the websites. The second is a user survey that collects data about a test audience’s response to those engaging elements. The last is an interview process designed to collect further detail about individual survey participants’ reactions. Generally, the study found that even if users react negatively to specific website elements, they are often willing to separate that reaction from their response to the information presented. The results suggest that website elements designed to engage the audience might be useful as long as they do not obstruct the audience’s access to content they find interesting. The results of the study further suggest methods to refine the study of audience engagement as a goal of online communication.