Genre is a purposeful, goal-driven way of communicating. A genre first arises around a rhetorical situation, responding to a particular exigence (or issue). In “Generalizing about Genre,” Amy Devitt writes, “Genres develop, then, because they respond appropriately to situations that writers encounter repeatedly. In principle, that is, writers first respond in fitting ways and hence similarly to recurring situations; then, the similarities among those appropriate responses become established as generic conventions” (Devitt 576). Having previous examples of writers responding to similar situations allows us to respond more easily and effectively to a problem today. Returning to these examples, and knowing the conventions of the genre, also helps us to know “such things as appropriate subject matter, level of detail, tone, and approach as well as the usual layout and organization” (Devitt 577).
However, it is important to note that these formal features and conventions of genre do not define or constitute a genre. Rather, genre is defined by purposes, participants, and themes. As Dirk quotes Carolyn Miller, a leading professor in the field of technical communication: “a rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered . . . on the action it is used to accomplish” (Dirk 252). With this, we can “[t]hink about genres as tools to help people to get things done” (Dirk 252).
My definitions of genre have certainly expanded over the course of these readings. Before, I had always associated the concept of genre with popular art, such as film, music, and literature. For example, I acknowledged horror movies, country music, and romance novels as genres. But such popular entertainment genres are not the only genres. Under Kerry Dirk’s definition of genre, even user manuals, ransom notes, lectures, and introductory paragraphs should be considered genres of writing (Dirk 254). This is because scholars’ new concept of genre shifts the focus from effects (such as formal features and text classifications) to the sources of those effects (such as rhetorical situation and social climate). Basically, this is to say that the focus is placed on the purpose and motive of the writing.
Digital genres support these definitions of genres because they too were created for a specific purpose. For example, web blogs originally began as “a sort of digest tool for computing professionals and internet hobbyists” and has since become mainstream as “a form of digital personal diary, an outlet for citizen journalism, a community space for special interest forums, and a medium for more passive entertainment” (Morrison). In short, blogs offer an easy way to share information of interest; they serve a purpose.
I’m particularly interested in Wattpad and similar collaborative story-writing apps, though I’m still not completely certain that this is the best name for this genre. Basically, Wattpad is an online website where young writers post their unpolished stories chapter by chapter and get feedback from reader followers. This allows the writers to notice concept and grammatical issues in the course of writing, and edit their stories along the way–a chapter can be edited at any time. Furthermore, some authors will ask for readers to make suggestions about future plot ideas, and then use those comments to help write the next sections of their story. Such collaborative writing and reading websites cultivate a community and provide a high level of interaction between readers and writers.
However, I believe narrative iOS games like Never Alone will provide an equally-interesting fallback.
Word Count: 563
Devitt, Amy J. “Generalizing about Genre: New Conceptions of an Old Concept.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 44, no. 4, 1993, pp. 573–586., www.jstor.org/stable/358391?origin=JSTOR-pdf.
Dirk, Kerry. “Navigating Genres.” Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, vol. 1, 2010, pp. 249–262., writingspaces.org/sites/default/files/dirk–navigating-genres.pdf.
Morrison, Aimeée. “Blogs and Blogging: Text and Practice.” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008, www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/.