Genre Theory in Information Studies: Volume 11

Cover of Genre Theory in Information Studies

Table of contents

(17 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages xiii-xvi
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Purpose

To provide a small overview of genre theory and its associated concepts and to show how genre theory has had its antecedents in certain parts of the social sciences and not in the humanities.

Findings

The chapter argues that the explanatory force of genre theory may be explained with its emphasis on everyday genres, de facto genres.

Originality/value

By providing an overview of genre theory, the chapter demonstrates the wealth and richness of forms of explanations in genre theory.

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Purpose

This chapter offers a re-description of knowledge organization in light of genre and activity theory. Knowledge organization needs a new description in order to account for those activities and practices constituting and causing concrete knowledge organization activity. Genre and activity theory is put forward as a framework for situating such a re-description.

Findings

By means of genre and activity theory, the chapters argues that understanding the genre and activity systems, in which every form of knowledge organization is embedded, makes us capable of seeing how knowledge organization, as a genre, both can be a tool and an object in genred human activities.

Originality/value

In contrast to much research into knowledge organization, this chapter does not emphasize techniques, standards, or rules to be the sole object of study. Instead, an emphasis is put on the genre and activity systems informing and shaping concrete forms of knowledge organization activity. With this, we are able to understand how knowledge organization activity also contributes to construct genre and activity systems and not only aid them.

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Purpose

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

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Purpose

In this chapter, I bring a rhetorical genre theory lens to the study of two sets of information activities: information seeking and informing in a clinical setting, and personal information management in the household.

Findings

I begin by characterizing each candidate genre and show how it is constituted, created, repurposed, and used. I then show how that genre is embedded within a local genre set. This analysis maps the institutional, interactional, and intertextual connections, showing how generic forms interact with other oral and textual genres within the setting. Finally, I situate the single genre and genre set within the broader genre system to show how individual genres are both socially and intertextually connected with institutions and organizations beyond the local setting.

Originality/value

A genre analysis shows how “information” is accomplished out of the social and documentary practices of participants in particular settings and elucidates the shifting and complex nature of contexts in which information actors operate. Combining three levels of analysis shows how the actions of individuals are locally negotiated but also situated within broader structural constraints and discourse communities. A genre approach therefore offers a window on the elusive concept of “context” in information needs, seeking, and use research.

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Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the relationship between and among genres, discourse communities, and their associated ideologies by means of a historical case study of the rise and decline of a particular archival finding aid genre, i.e., the calendar, within the Public Records Office of Great Britain (PRO) between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.

Findings

The study demonstrates the ways in which the calendar genre, as it evolved in the PRO, reproduced, framed, and perpetuated a progressive, consensual understanding of the history of the British nation, and worked to construct a community of historical workers comprising select members of the PRO’s professional staff and select users.

Originality/value

The study deepens and extends understanding of discourse communities and the ideologies they promote and suppress and contributes to the emergent understanding of archival finding aids as socio-cultural texts by exposing the ways in which they participate in the formation and shaping of knowledge.

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Purpose

This chapter explores the relationship of rhetorical genre studies with archival studies, and identifies commonalities and differences between the two fields. By complementing and expanding the diplomatics approach to the analysis of the documentary reality of organizations, rhetorical genre studies provides the records disciplines with sophisticated conceptual tools that may be used to enhance understanding of how records are made, used, and transmitted in workplace contexts.

Findings

All genres are sites of continuous social, cultural, and ideological negotiations, and organizational records make no exception. By recognizing that records are culturally constructed artefacts that shape and are shaped through social interactions, and recordkeeping is an inherently ideological discursive practice, notions such as evidence and accountability take on new, more dynamic meanings. Record keepers as well as the creators and users of the records become agents who continuously engage in the production, reproduction, and transformation of the documentary reality of their organizations.

Originality/value

Drawing on rhetorical genre studies, this chapter offers an inclusive, situated, and dynamic view of organizational records that is in line with postmodern accounts of recordkeeping. The new reading of basic archival concepts and methods proposed in this chapter especially contributes to enrich the theoretical framework of records management, which has traditionally been represented as a technical discipline supporting unspecific ideas of organizational effectiveness.

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Purpose

This chapter presents a case study of the communication of information in Copenhagen during the siege in 1807. The purpose of this chapter is to investigate how information was formed by different genres and how these genres relate to different genre systems. Finally, a purpose of this chapter is to shed light over how information from different genre systems merged into an information network mainly found on the streets and squares of Copenhagen.

Findings

This chapter has not aimed at generalized findings. If any findings should be recounted it would be that the chapter has mapped how, for example, a specific genre as the proclamation was shaped by different genre systems and directed its readers to a desired field of actions. Those actions depended on the specific purposes of the proclamations.

Originality/value

A traditional focus on the siege has been political and military issues. Lately, research has focused on a cultural approach within the frames of urban history. This chapter contributes to this cultural approach by investigating the informational aspects from a genre perspective.

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Purpose

Though contemporary Genre Studies, and especially American Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS), has made great progress through prioritizing the functional aspect of genre, there is now much to be gained by giving renewed space to the formal and thematic sides of genre as well, granting the concrete utterances, making up particular genres, equal weight in the theory and analysis of genre. The purpose of this shift is emphatically not to take anything away from current Genre Studies; I admire what is being done in genre research today and want to add to it and expand it by demonstrating some of the possibilities enabled by a modified approach.

Findings

Current Genre Studies, as encountered in RGS, is an impressive and highly organized body of knowledge. By re-introducing literary and high rhetorical subject matter, which has been under-studied in RGS, into it, the chapter demonstrates some of the complexities involved when Genre Studies confront genres whose utterances are more complex than the “homely discourses” usually discussed in RGS. Formal and thematic features play a far too significant role in literary works to be explicable simply as derivations from function alone. But this is not limited to works of literature. The chapter finds that though more complex genres, literary and high rhetorical, most consistently invite utterance-based interpretations, other genre-based studies can benefit from them as well.

Originality/value

The chapter offers a perspective on genre which gives renewed weight to formal and thematic interpretations of genre, by allowing the utterances themselves to re-enter center stage. This enables an improved understanding of complex genres. It also revives close reading as a viable approach to understanding genre and thus to inform the rhetorical, linguistic, and sociological perspectives dominant in current genre scholarship. Finally, it improves our understanding of genre in both a systematic and a historical perspective. The chapter demonstrates, thus, that an understanding which puts as much weight on a genre’s utterances, as it does on its function is viable as an interpretation of genres, and is fruitful as an approach to them.

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Index

Pages 183-184
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Cover of Genre Theory in Information Studies
DOI
10.1108/S2055-5377201511
Publication date
2015-02-06
Book series
Studies in Information
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-255-5
Book series ISSN
2055-5377