Herndl & Wilson: "Commentary: Reflections on Field Research and Professional Practice"

Herndl, C. G., & Wilson, G. (2007). Commentary: Reflections on Field Research and Professional Practice. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 21(2), 216-226. doi:10.1177/1050651906297171



setup: Wilson is a new PhD working at LANL as rhetorician in Statistical Sciences group ("an interdisciplinary team there that elicits expert knowledge from scientists and technicians throughout the lab and then models the knowledge flow across divisions. [System Ethnography and Qualitative Modeling {SEQM}]). Herndl is prof in doctoral program in rhet/prof comm. (217)


SSG part of effort to find new methods to eval safety/reliability of nuclear stockpile since voluntary 1992 test ban.


Authors'' statement of purpose: "So in this commentary, we make an issue of our own alterity, our own boundary-crossing positions as academics and field researchers. But we believe that this conversation is important to our sense of our cultural location and politics" (218).


Carl''s Observations


safety/security: demonstrates how conveyed with artifacts of culture (coffee cup holders). Notes how the practices (screenings, etc.) become part of ''daily'' life but concepts/implications still in forefront. Interaction with ''Steve.''


Notes that the exchange more of a speculation about "the role of science in culture" (221). Carl asks, "My own work for years has been about ideological resistance, about cultural change, about theoretical resources for critique and action. So what is a nice boy like me doing in a place like this?" (220).


Impractical to think that researcher has "an unconflicted ideological position and a consistent,
easy research position and context" (221).


Cites Mouffe and Laclau''s and Grossberg''s theories of articulation: "First, the identity of any social element is not necessitated but determined by the formation into which it is articulated. Second, articulation and disarticulation are the processes of hegemonic power and change" (222).


Cites Steve''s reaction to Wilson''s ''misreading'' of his narrative to explain how he / we may "underestimate the politics of articulation already at work in this cultural site" (223).


"Field research produces the resources for insight and, possibly, a critical practice of rhetorical intervention" (223).


Greg''s Concerns


"A funny thing happened on my way to my being an English professor" (223). The situations that brought him to LANL. Challenge of self-definition (what it means to be an applied rhetorician). Challenge to adapt training/crit to environment (how to describe issues, report on them, etc.).





Generally, this is a model for what Herndl alludes to in earlier article; the researcher situating him/her- self in the context of the research.