Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Richard C. Freed


Based on three years of fieldwork in a "spin-off" software development company, this dissertation describes and discusses the impact on communication of current corporate restructuring. The ethnographic study focuses on the corporation's attempts to move from a hierarchical organizational structure to team-based management and on the communicative interactions that played a critical part in this change and were altered as a result. Motivated by disintegrating boundaries between the corporation, its coustomers, and its suppliers; by the breakdown of internal functional divisions into project teams; and by the altered power relationships between management and "knowledge workers," the corporation's employees and owners are creating innovative document formats and new information "pathways.";The following two main arguments are developed throughout: first, changes in corporate structure and management philosophies--influenced and enabled by technological innovation--are significantly affecting corporate communication; second, VisionCorps is an example of what I am calling rhetorical corporations. Although corporations have always been rhetorical, many are now engaged in significant management and organizational changes that include a new rhetorical and communicative awareness of person interaction. Rhetorical corporations foreground a focus on their customers in new and inclusive ways, and develop management theories which depend on communication of negotiation and interaction, rather than command and control. By exploring alternatives other than the meta-narrative of The Modern Corporation, VisionCorps owners' and employees' provide an impetus for professional communication teachers, researchers, and practitioners;A correlative purpose of the dissertation develops current issues in ethnographic theory for studying workplace communication. Based on discussion of interpretive ethnographic theory, these issues include access, textualization, ethics of interpretation, and cultural others. The dissertation traces interpretive ethnography in professional communication studies and suggests the potential advantages of an externalist perspective.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Jane M. Perkins



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

238 pages