For this week’s reading notes, I tried to focus on the things that naturally jumped out at me. In previous weeks, I was working hard instead of working smart. So, I followed the established connections within the articles. The author’s referenced one another’s works, so I followed these connections to make sense of genre and network.
In Carolyn Miller’s “Genre as Social Action,” she presents genre as a social action wherein an “understanding of genre can help account for the ways we encounter, interpret, react to, and create particular texts” (151). Miller’s argument centers on the idea that “rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish” (151). Miller presents genre as dynamic.
Miller’s work directly connects to Lloyd Bitzer’s work on rhetorical situation. In Miller’s approach is a response to the traditional approach to genre. Genre is characterized by specific characteristics. The focus is on the text and the specific regularities presented in the text. Miller expands this conception of genre, focusing on the actions of the writes and the context in which the texts are created. Instead of genre following specific textual elements, Miller presents it as “typified rhetorical action” (151). Bitzer presented the rhetorical situation as “a natural context of persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance; this invited utterance participates naturally in the situational activity, and by means of its participation with situation obtains its meaning and its rhetorical character” (5). Miller argues that exigence is in the social. The rhetorical situation is socially constructed and involves the reader and the writer. Miller’s work leans more toward the work of Vatz. Vatz argues that exigences are not the product of events, but rather a matter of perception and interpretation” (Vatz 214). This places more agency with the rhetor. Miller places more agency with the social interaction; “a mutual construing of objects, events, interests and purposes that not only links them but also makes them what they are: an object of social need” (Miller 157).
Miller’s work provides an expanded definition of genre, which leads to the works of Bazerman and Popham. Bazerman’s work on activity systems, provides insight into how an understanding of the complexity of genre can help to improve writing. The texts that we utilize are “embedded within structured social activities and depends on previous texts that influence their social activity and organization.” Bazerman’s work connects back to Millers by presenting genre as social activity. Bazerman’s work also makes me think of networks in the sense that the texts are building on and connecting back to previous texts (as models guides for their role in the social interactions and their formatting/organization). The connection of genre to understanding rhetorical situations was significant to me. Many composition courses utilize genre. Students are taught particular characteristics and organizational patterns to aid in producing texts that fit within a certain situation. Bazerman posits that “understanding the acts and facts created by texts can also help you understand when seemingly well-written texts go wrong” (311). This rhetorical awareness is what composition instructors want to instill in students. I never saw genre as a path to rhetorical awareness because in composition courses genre is not always socially situated. Just as composition instruction falls short in presenting the complexities of rhetorical analysis, it also provides a limited presentation of genre that focuses on regularities in textual features and format. These works provided an expanded definition of genre that present genre as being more dynamic. Popham’s work on boundary genres expands on the concept of rhetorical situations and genres as dynamic.
Popham’s work on forms in medicine, science, and business provide a glimpse into how forms act as an “object of social need” (Miller 157). The forms are utilized across disciplines for different functions. The forms act as a genre system. They are interrelated and work to meet the needs of the medical, business, and science fields. They work across disciplines to get the job done. The boundary genres, just like genres in general, are active. They must be flexible in order to move across and between the different disciplines. They have to incorporate the necessary information for multiple disciplines within one form to be used in different context.
- Social Fact- “things people believe to be true, and therefore bear on how they define a situation” (312).
- Speech Acts-sets of words or statements that “[do] something, even if only to assert a certain state of affairs is true. Thus all utterances embody speech acts” (313-314)
- Genre-“recognizable, self-reinforcing forms of communication” (314).
- Genre Sets-“a collection of types of texts someone in a particular role is likely to produce” (318).
- Genre Systems- “several genre sets of people working together in an organized way, plus the patterned relations in the production, flow, and use of these documents” (318).
Connections to Personal Course Outcomes:
Coming into the course, my goal was to explore Snap Chat. My primary focus being the shift from timeline nature Facebook and Twitter to the immediacy of Instagram to the ephemeral nature of Snap Chat. After exploring the technical side of networks, rhetorical situation, Foucault, digital writing assessment, and genre, Snap Chat seems like a natural progression of the social media, sharing, and picture messaging. The static presentations of the rhetorical situation and genre were limiting my understanding of Snap Chat. In the context of these dynamic systems which connect to one another, grow, flex, and change based on the text, audience, and author, Snap Chat is an extension or expansion of an understood form of communication. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram no longer provided the right context for the needs of this community. My goal now is to make stronger connections between these ideas and what I’ve learned from Archaeology of Knowledge.
Bazerman Charles, “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People.” Eds. Charles Bazerman and Paul A. Prior. What Writing Does and How it Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Print.
Bitzer, Lloyd. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric. 1 (1992): 1-14. Print
Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167. Print.
Popham, Susan L. “Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Business.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19.3 (2005): 279-302.
Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric. 6.3 (1973): 154-161. Print.