The Study of Writing in the Social Factory: Methodology and Rhetorical Agency

Grabill, J.T. (2006). “The Study of Writing in the Social Factory: Methodology and Rhetorical Agency.” Critical Power Tools: Technical Communication and Cultural Studies. Ed. By J. Blake Scott, Bernadette Longo, and Katherine V. Willis. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 151-170.


In this chapter, Grabill presents an overview of cultural studies, its transformative potential, and what it can offer to technical and professional communication scholarship to make it change-oriented. The highlight of the chapter is Grabill’s emphasis on methodology. Following Stuart Hall’s categorization of the way cultural studies is enacted (either culturalist or structuralist), Grabill highlights that English Studies has followed a tradition of structuralist cultural studies that is preoccupied with the abstract, ideology, and discourse. In order to work toward transformative, change-oriented technical and professional communication research, Grabill suggests that everyday workplaces and communities are social factories, sites for research, inquiry, and tangible change. To Grabill, community-based research is one way that enacts a more involved design that is concerned with the social factory. To conclude, he highlights a CBR project involved with experts and citizens in Harbor, MI. This chapter is immensely useful for my project as it explains the often unexplained (and assumed) connection between cultural studies and transformative research. The metaphor of the social factory is a useful one for engaging in thoughtful and thorough CBR that is in the best interests of creating better conditions for research participants.