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Genres without Writers: Information Systems and Distributed Authorship

Genre Theory in Information Studies

ISBN: 978-1-78441-255-5, eISBN: 978-1-78441-254-8

Publication date: 6 February 2015



This essay demonstrates how information systems — collections of documents, data, or other information-bearing objects — function internally as sites for creative manipulation of genre resources. In the information systems context, these textual activities are not clearly traced to the purposeful actions of specific writers.


Genre development for information systems can result from actions that may appear individually to be rote, repetitive, passive, and uninteresting. But as these actions are aggregated at increasing scales, genre components interact and shift, even if change is limited to one element of the larger assemblage. Although these changes may not be initiated by writers in accordance with targeted work activities and associated rhetorical goals, the composite texts thus produced are nonetheless powerful documents that come to partially constitute the broader activities they appear to merely support.


In demonstrating “writerless” phenomena of genre change in distributed, regulated systems, this essay complements and extends the strong body of existing work in genre studies that emphasizes the writer’s perspective and agency in its accounts of genre development. By showing how continually evolving compound documents such as digital libraries constitute such sites of unacknowledged genre change, this essay demonstrates how the social actions that these composite documents facilitate for their users also change.



Feinberg, M. (2015), "Genres without Writers: Information Systems and Distributed Authorship", Genre Theory in Information Studies (Studies in Information, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 43-66.



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