Monday, March 30, 2015

Thoughts on genre

I feel like I'm retracing some old steps here. In my questing around Information Governance I've come back to the principles of activity and the importance of knowing what you do. A follow on is really looking at the documents that are generated as part of those processes. Ultimately, those documents provide the basis for knowledge exchange, knowledge preservation, etc. So, back to genres. I've apparently read some of these things in the past but, oh well, it's time to refresh my understanding:


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Orlikowski (2005). Material knowing : the scaffolding of human knowledgeability.

"Knowing is also always material"

"Everyday practices and the knowing generated as a result is deeply bound up in the material forms, artifacts, spaces, and infrastructures through which humans act."

All actions are dependent on materials.

"Without the material stuff of our everyday lives, human action would not be possible. That is, practice necessarily entails materiality."

Orlikowski notes that a number of researchers have been struggling with the concept of inter-relationships between the material and social (e.g., mangle, motley, ANT, entangled, etc.). She notes that boundary objects are perhaps the exception where people have operationalized the concept. She then introduces the concept of "scaffolds": they are temporary, they are flexible, and they are portable. They are also diverse, heterogeneous, emergent, offer stability, are dangerous, are generative, and are constitutive of both human activity and outcomes.

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Yoshioka and Herman (1999). Genre taxonomy : a knowledge repository of communicative actions.

Orlikowski and Yates provided a definition for genres: "socially recognized types of communicative action habitually enacted by members of a community to realize particular communicative and collaborative purposes." That is, genres of a recognized purpose and shared common characteristics.

So, actions and activities basically require particular types -- or genres -- of documents or other interactions. These documents must have characteristics and a purpose that are recognized by a social group. So my plunking around here on my blog really doesn't represent a genre because its purpose isn't social in nature. Instead, it represents my own personal activity.

Genres must reflect 5W1H (i.e., why/purpose, what/contents, whom/whom/partiipants, when/timing, where/place, how/form).

Genres evolve over time due to changes in business need, audience, or technology (e.g., the introduction of filing technologie or electronic email).

NB -- the genres are important because they represent specific document types that are amenable to classification/taxonomy and retention. We also have an opportunity to elaborate these genres because they might be mandated or exemplared by various governance frameworks. Genres or documents are the inputs and outputs of many SIPOC processes (supplier, inputs, process, outputs, customers). Compare DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control).

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