3: Genres as creating community

A genre is a form of communication that arises in response to a particular rhetorical situation. In “What is a blog? What is a wiki?” Greg Myers defines genre as “types of texts that share certain features because their users share certain purposes” (15) and notes that genres appear and disappear in response to the needs of their users. This idea is echoed by Kerry Dirk in “Navigating Genres,” who notes that “when something new happens that requires a response, someone must create that first response. Then when that situation happens again, another person uses the first response as a basis for the second” (252). Genres develop as many people find themselves in the position of having to respond to the same situation and create a set of conventions that allow them to craft that response more consistently and efficiently.  

I was exposed to many of these ideas about genre—and some of the same readings—last semester, when I took a class on professional & civic writing. Prior to taking that class, however, my understanding of genre was much narrower; as others have mentioned in their blog posts, I thought of genres in terms of genres of music, movies, or books. This wasn’t entirely incorrect, as those things are genres—but so are other forms of writing, like cover letters, emails to professors, text messages to friends, and posters for campus activities.  

I was really interested in the idea that in addition to communicating information, genres also create the community that both produces and uses that information; Meyers notes that genres “include and shape practices” (19) and that “users of these texts don’t just create genre, they create a social world” (21). Vivan’s post discussed genres as a social construct, something that is “created to fill a social need.” To that I would add that in addition to being shaped by particular communities, digital genres also further shape those communities, and can either reinforce or challenge its conventions. This is true of non-digital genres as well, of course, but because digital genres exist on platforms that allow more interactivity, the emphasis on community is greater and there is more pressure on the digital genre to mediate the relationships between its users.  

In thinking about communities and the way that digital genres are shaped and shaped by them, one of the first things that pops into my mind is YouTube videos and the way that different channels create different communities, and the way that communities develop between channels. Specifically, I’m thinking of YouTubers who have an activist or educational focus, and who might be pushing against the established standards of the wider YouTube community while developing a community of their own through collaborative videos and interactions with their viewers.  

Word count: 454

Sources: Kerry Dirk, “Navigating Genre.” http://writingspaces.org/sites/default/files/dirk–navigating-genres.pdf
Greg Myers, “What is a Blog? What is a Wiki?” https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mEMZFz3g4R9hA2zX86HAJiWAj5ba-WHS/view