Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English


Rhetoric and Composition



First Advisor

Libby Miles


This study explores the ways that firefighters’ utilize multimodal literacy practices to construct and communicate knowledge in environments where risk is present. Specifically, this dissertation sketches the interrelationships between alphabetic, aural, cognitive, gestural, kinesthetic, oral, tactile, spatial, and visual genres which evolve and circulate within embodied, analog, and digital media on firegrounds. A heuristic research methodology was constructed by borrowing and adapting components from extant multimodal and digital ethnography, community-based research, and writing activity and genre research. Using a range of emergent digital research methods, data was captured during six observational periods wherein 75 participants engaged in live-fire training activities; supplemental data was collected 16 participants who volunteered to discuss their practices during open-interviews. Data was analyzed using a framework that triangulated multimodal theory, writing, activity, and genre research, and rhetorical theory and included tools such as genre ecology mapping and rhetorical analysis. Analysis suggested that (1) firefighters leverage a wide array of literacy practices drawing from a full range of semiotic resources to construct communicative and mediational genres; (2) firefighters of different rank have access distinct genres and genre assemblages; (3) firefighters uses of multimodal genres were agentive, interpenetrated, pathos laden, and richly layered.