Monday, January 3, 2011

Genre repertoires

I have been reading on ecological approaches to genre for a while and this is one of the articles I found. I will be sharing more articles like this. 

Orlikowski, W., & Yates, J. (1994). Genre repertoires: the structuring of communicative practices in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 39(4), 541-574.

Abstract: In this paper we propose the notions of genre and genre repertoire as analytic tools for investigating the structuring of communicative practices within a community. As organizing structures, genres shape and are shaped by individuals’ communicative actions. Our empirical study examined  the communication exchanged by a group of distributed knowledge workers in a multiyear, interorganizational project conducted primarily through electronic mail. We found that the genre repertoire of this community revealed a rich and varied array of communicative practices that members shaped and changed in response to community norms, project events, time pressure, and media capabilities. Our analysis establishes the concept of genre and genre repertoires as a means of understanding communicative action as a central aspect of a community’s organizing process. 
This is a very interesting study, which I believe carry some ecological characteristics. For example, 
  • longitudinal research design (2.5 years)
  • role given to enactment
  • focus on multiple genres (memo, dialogue, proposal, ballot genre system)
  • its attempt to explain both stability and change (in addition to variability)
  • acknowledging the role of previous experiences of the participants
  • use of multiple methods (in this study text analysis and interviews)
  • acknowledging the possible influence of oral interactions
  • acknowledging the influence of material conditions (in this study the features of the software such as embedding messages or email subject line options provided)
  • seeking emic understanding
  • importance given to history  
 I really enjoyed reading this article. Yates and Orlikowski seem to abandon the term genre repertoires and use genre systems in their later work. Even though their work is not about second language writing I think it would be great to look into the same issues in second language writing.

Yates, J., & Orlikowski, W. (2002). Genre systems: structuring interaction through communicative norms. Journal of Business Communication, 39, 13-35. 

Abstract: In this paper we demonstrate that teams may use genre systems--sequences of interrelated communicative actions--deliberately or habitually, to structure their collaboration. Using data over a seven-month period from three teams' use of a collaborative electronic technology. Team room, we illustrate that genre systems are a means of structuring six dimensions of communicative interaction: purpose (why), content (what), participants (who/m), form (how), time (when), and place (where). We suggest that researchers and users may benefit from explicitly recognizing the role genre systems play in collaboration and from examining changes in these six dimensions accompanying changes in electronic technology. 

The study is interesting in that the researchers report how certain genre moves are interpreted by the participants. For example see the accounts of two of the participants below.

[Team room] made it possible for me to post something to the group. Without it, I would probably lave gone to [the team leader] with the idea and then discussed it with him, seen what he had to say, then present it at a staff meeting. But it would have gone through him first. This was sort of bypassed him. (p. 26)
The way that I feel if I put something in and no one comments on it, it's exactly like saying something in a meeting and having no response around the table. You just feel like--unless you really want to push it--say it again, say it louder, say it to somebody in particular--you just sort of say, "Well, never mind." I would always get a little perturbed by that. I don;t know how other people felt. Anytime I put a document in and no one comments on it, I think it's really rude I guess...It's like saying something out loud and having it go off into the ether. It' a disempowering thing, to be ignored. It's being ignored, basically. (p. 25)

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