Boundary objects as rhetorical exigence: Knowledge mapping and interdisciplinary cooperation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Wilson G
  • Herndl C
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Abstract

This article uses qualitative material gathered at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to construct a model of the rhetorical activity that occurs at the boundaries between diverse communities of practice working on complex sociotechnical systems. The authors reinterpret the notion of the boundary object current in science studies as a rhetorical construct that can foster cooperation and communication among the diverse members of heterogeneous working groups. The knowledge maps constructed by team members at LANL in their work on technical systems are boundary objects that can replace the demarcation exigence that so often leads to agonistic rhetorical boundary work with an integrative exigence. The integrative exigence realized by the boundary object of the knowledge map can help create a temporary trading zone characterized by rhetorical relations of symmetry mid mutual understanding. In such cases, boundary work can become an effort involving integration and understanding rather than contest, controversy, and demarcation. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Author-supplied keywords

  • Boundary object
  • Boundary work
  • Epistemic symmetry
  • Knowledge mapping
  • Rhetorical exigency
  • Trading zone

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Authors

  • Greg Wilson

  • Carl G. Herndl

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