Carnegie Mellon University

A Temporal Approach to Organizational Rhetoric: A Case Study of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board

Author: Danielle Zawodny Wetzel
Degree: Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 2005

My dissertation is an observation-based study of the emergent rhetorical practices of a new organization. In the project, I use discourse analytical methods to explore how rhetorical practices are shaped by multiple constraints over time. Each chapter examines a critical rhetorical practice for the organization, including selecting a logo, interacting with the Pittsburgh public, reviewing citizen complaints, and drawing on procedural documents. The work suggests that because of the dynamic, shaping forces of multiple constraints, organizational rhetoric is both contingent and flexible. The project calls for a focus on temporality in rhetorical research, to see rhetorical practices as ad hoc rather than a priori or predetermined. A temporal perspective problematizes assumptions about what constitutes success for rhetorical practices in a new organization, since unfolding exigencies present individuals with continually new, unanticipated situations. This perspective suggests that pedagogically, we should design tasks and teach practices that enable student writers to identify constraints that shape rhetorical exigencies for writing, to meet the unfolding needs of an academic or other professional audience.