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- Writing on the factory floor
- Garcia, Elena (Elena Adkins)
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
The study of writing within industrial workplaces has been taken up by many disciplines and focuses of study, such as technical writing, engineering, management, literacy studies, and literacy education, to name a few. Industrial workplaces are highly complex--with machinery, robots, floor workers, engineers, and managers all working together--making them fantastic locations for studies of power, authority, labor, and text. In addition, industrial workplaces like factories represent labor...
Show moreThe study of writing within industrial workplaces has been taken up by many disciplines and focuses of study, such as technical writing, engineering, management, literacy studies, and literacy education, to name a few. Industrial workplaces are highly complex--with machinery, robots, floor workers, engineers, and managers all working together--making them fantastic locations for studies of power, authority, labor, and text. In addition, industrial workplaces like factories represent labor histories as well as the changing economic environment of the U.S., often making them a locus for both research and nostalgia. My own interest in conducting writing study research in factories is this locus of scholarship and nostalgic memory, for factory work is part of my family's identity. I explored existing literature on factory workplaces and the writing that is done there, with the goal to merge an interest in writing with working-class upbringing. I found a gap in the literature that troubled me--where was the research that focused on the shop floor workers and their writing? Where were the studies that viewed such individuals not as people who do not and cannot write but as important knowledge makers (the way I view my dad)? Then I wondered, in the complex physical and social environment of factories, what kinds of texts do shop floor workers write and how do they develop those texts? This dissertation grew out of my desire to answer the questions of what and how factory workers write. I developed a research approach that I call "case-study with a phenomenological sensibility" to help me, and through this research methodology I was able to learn about the writing experiences of two factory machine operators at a Post Cereals plant in Battle Creek, Michigan. Through the interviews I conducted I learned that, in the cases of the two particular machine operators I worked with, their workplace writing practices and processes were shaped almost entirely by the time and resource regulations of the factory. I also discovered that because both operators were highly invested in their work already, they felt pride and a sense of being valued when they shared their knowledge through writing. What this dissertation offers, then, is a glimpse into the workplace writing lives of two factory machine operators. Turning the research gaze to writing that these operators did on the factory floor reveals how the changing nature of industry--a national and global issue--has influenced the everyday working activities of factory floor laborers. More specifically, my own research gaze has revealed the growing importance for collaboration in writing in traditionally hierarchical factories, benefits gained through writing about work practices, and the significance of personal investment in the workplace lives of two factory workers. Though the claims made in this work are narrow in focus, they provide strong evidence for a need to focus industrial workplace writing research on all hierarchical levels, including the blue-collar laborer.