Writing Workplace Cultures: An Archaeology of Professional Writing

Synopsis

In this study, Jim Henry analyzes eighty-three workplace writing ethnographies composed over seven years in a variety of organizations. He views the findings as so many shards in an archaeology on professional writing at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

These ethnographies were composed by either practicing or aspiring writers participating in a Master's program in professional writing and editing. Henry solicited the writers' participation in "informed intersubjective research" focused on issues and questions of their own determination. Most writers studied their own workplace, composing "auto-ethnographies" that problematize these workplaces' local cultures even as they depict writing practices within them.

Henry establishes links between current professional writing practices and composition instruction as both were shaped by national economic development and local postsecondary reorganization throughout the twentieth century. He insists that if we accept basic principles of social constructionism, the text demonstrates ways in which writers "write" workplace cultures to produce goods and services whose effects go far beyond the immediate needs of their clients.