Genre, Social Action and Social Intelligence

An important dimension that has not been investigated so far is the relatedness among genre, social action and social intelligence.

The interpretation of genre in terms of social action was put forward more than 25 years ago by Carolyn Miller (Miller, 1984) and backed up by recent empirical studies on web genres (e.g. Miller and Shepherd, 2004, 2009). Lately, the social implications of the concept of genre have been stretched up to support the claim that that teaching how to master genre since the primary school  is a way of implementing democracy and social justice (Martin and Rose, 2008).

I would suggest extending the social interpretation of genre even further by arguing that the recognition of social action is a sign of social intelligence. Simply put, social intelligence is the competence that lies behind mutual understanding, group interaction and social behaviour. Arguably,  genre competence would enhance social intelligence by providing invaluable cues that would help interpret, assess, and react to the social actions underlying documents encountered, retrieved or selected on the web.  Genre competence would make web users socially intelligent because, through the deep understanding of genre conventions and expectations, they would be able to evaluate the genuineness, reliability, authenticity, and the actual purpose of information distributed on the web.

In practical terms,  web users using a genre-competent and socially-intelligent information system would be helped in recognizing and assessing important elements, such as:

  • the actual social action underlying  web documents (e.g. persuading, selling, fishing, commenting, or informing). See also Puschmann (2009) and the identification of the faux blog genre.
  • the target audience of a document (e.g. web documents written for experts or novices)
  • the reliability of information contained in a web document (e.g., by the author’s prestige or by the source identification)
  • more

In short, genre competence and awareness would (among other things) increase social and mutual respect, thus reducing malicious manipulation of web users’ attitudes and emotions.

Marina Santini, 29 January 2012

References

Miller C. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70 (1984, 151-167.

Miller C. and Shepherd D. (2004). Blogging as social action: A genre analysis of the weblog. In Gurak L. et al. (eds).  Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and the culture of the weblogs < http://tc.eserver.org/24397.html >.

Miller C. and Shepherd D. (2009). Questions for genre theory from the blogosphere. In Giltrow J. and Stein D. (eds) Genres in the Internet,. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009.

Martin J. and Rose D. (2008) Genre Relations: Mapping Culture, Equinox.

Puschmann C. (2009). Lies at Wal-Mart: Style and the subversion of  genre in teh Life at Wal-Mart blog. In Giltrow J. and Stein D. (eds) Genres in the Internet. John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009.

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3 comments for “Genre, Social Action and Social Intelligence

  1. 3 February, 2012 at 07:54

    You> I would suggest extending the social interpretation of genre even further by arguing that the recognition of social action is a sign of social intelligence. Simply put, social intelligence is the competence that lies behind mutual understanding, group interaction and social behaviour.
    Me> 1. Think about the theory of embededness as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embeddedness
    2. I do not think that intelligence maz be diivided as a separate skill depending on what you use it for, e.g. emotion, reason, will, or more detailed abstractions within those as subjects. If you have a vehicle that is good for all roads, a map will not change your engine!s capability, neither can the driver chnage that or the terrain.

  2. marinasantini.ms@gmail.com
    5 February, 2012 at 09:32

    Hi,
    interesting point. Let me think about it…

  3. marinasantini.ms@gmail.com
    13 February, 2012 at 12:17

    I understand your point, Ferenc.
    In my view, social intelligence is not an intrinsic gift, i.e. either we have it or not.
    Social intelligence, like emotional intelligence, can be developed, enhanced and fostered through empathic social interaction and acceptance in a group or community. It is the collective behaviour, mutual respect, politeness, etiquette, acceptance of the diversity and so on. Therefore, I do not think that social intelligence is “embedded”. I would say that it is “elicited”.

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