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I study human agency within cultural domains dominated by emergent technical discourse, especially the consumer electronics industry. For example, I study how the various embodiments of wireless networking technologies affect consumers. These embodiments are the points of contact that consumers have with the industry, and they range from advertisements to retailers to product packaging to congressional hearings on standards and protocols. Another area that I have studied is the computer game industry, a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that obfuscates the labor that goes into producing games made for consumers to play. I approach these research sites through rhetorical and cultural studies methodologies, and through political economy analysis.

With David Christensen, I am developing a methodology for investigating complex organizational contexts in which genres (or collections of texts with recurring similarities) like proposals, reports, and other forms of documentation play an important role. We are calling it Genre Field Analysis, and we have already applied it to several research sites.

Generally speaking, my basic methodology follows four steps:

  • locate a shift, contradiction, or new development surrounding a technology or technical practice that suggests an interesting site of contention or cultural training.
  • look for patterns of behaviors and practice that seem to explain the contradiction.
  • identify professional organizations, experts, or institutions that serve to mediate and shape cultural responses to the contradiction located in the first step.
  • discuss the impact of that mediation upon the further propagation of culture and artifacts.

This methodology follows a trajectory starting with Aristotle, who established rhetoric as the art of finding the available means of persuasion; the Scottish rhetoricians, especially Blair and Campbell, who applied rhetoric within the environment of a liberal education, linking it with psychology, philosophy, logic, and criticism; the Frankfurt School theorists (Adorno, Benjamin, Horkheimer, Luk√°cs, and others) who applied the concepts of rhetorical critique to what they viewed as the oppressive system of mass culture and consumerism; and rhetorical posthumanists like Richard Ohmann who apply rhetoric to the critique of systems that perpetuate mass culture: literacy, technology, monopoly capital, and marketing.

I teach this methodology to students as a heuristic set of questions that I call the "Rhetoric of Blank:"

  1. how does [fill-in-the-blank] create new ways of thinking and knowing? and
  2. how does [fill-in-the-blank] arise from and contribute to social conditions marked by time, place, and circumstance?
You can see how this plays out in a video I created for my Rhetorics of Mobility course here: http://rylish.usu.edu/courses/mobility/mobility_sm.wmv

links from here
From here, you can read about my research, my teaching, or view my curriculum vitae in PDF format. To view my cv, you will need Adobe's Acrobat Reader. Other links include my frequently asked questions page, my contact information, or my description at Utah State University.

Please feel free to email me at rylish[dot]moeller[at]usu[dot]edu.

©copyright 2008 Ryan M. Moeller