The story behind an organizational list: A genealogy of wildland firefighters’ Ten Standard Fire Orders

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To invigorate research on the dialectic between lists and stories in communication, this study recommends adding context back to text by focusing on the enduring problems these forms are summoned to solve. A genealogy of one significant organizational list, wildland firefighters' 10 Standard Fire Orders, shows how a list's meaning resides less on its face and more in the discourses surrounding it, which can change over time. Vestiges of old meanings and unrelated cultural functions heaped upon a list can lead to conflicts, and can make the list difficult to scrap even when rendered obsolete for its intended purpose. Reconciling these layers of meanings and functions is thus not a technical problem but rather a rhetorical one. Implications for communication research are addressed.