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looking forward while linking back

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[originally published in the ambient structures blog – migrated in 2012]

writing things like this makes me feel like a dinosaur. it also leads me to wonder how we can draw the benefits of past research into discussions of emergent behaviour without being stuck with antiquated terminology and meaningless metaphors.

Genre research has experienced a surge of interest since the early 1990s, as more and more documents have moved from traditional print forms to electronic ones. The ubiquitous, atemporal, and collaborative nature of the internet has shifted communication beyond the reader-writer paradigm and given rise to new and rapidly evolving genres (Bauman, 1999). Internet genres, or “electronic texts which are implemented on the internet – first appearing electronically, never appearing as standalone texts” (p.273), have altered our understanding of the document. Texts are no longer static. Some evolve as an event develops or as more people join a conversation. These documentary forms come out of the cultural environment and influence it in turn. In this rapidly evolving context, we can look to genre to help “articulate the relative value of various information sources” (p.275).

terminology brings with it an understanding if you’re established in a community and helps expose its assumptions if you’re just looking in. past experience guides inquiry. and how can we build a common understanding without loading words with meaning?