Reflections by Marina Santini. Copyright © 2012, All rights reserved.
Genres of organisational communication are recognised types of communicative actions enacted by members of a community to perform organizational tasks. Organizational genres are based on a combination of technical, social and institutional forces underlying organizational “actions”.
Yates and Orlikowski (1992) were among the first ones who proposed genres of organizational communication as a concept useful for studying communication as embedded in the social process. Drawing on Miller’s concept of rhetorical genre (Miller, 1984), they argued that the concept could be applied to a wide range of typical communicative practices occurring in organizations, and it could provide a new perspective on organizational communication. In Yates and Orlikowski’s own words, “genres are typified communicative actions invoked in recurrent situations and characterized by similar substance and form” (Yates and Orlikowski, 1992). Within an organization, genres like letters, proposals, meetings etc. are the “actions” taken in response to recurrent situations.
Building upon Giddens’ structuration theory (Giddens, 1984) Yates and Orlikowski also pointed out that, although genres are typified, they are also dynamic entities, since “genre rules do not create a binding constraint” (Yates and Orlikowski, 1992). The migration of an existing genre to a new medium will thus modify and adapt the existing genre to the new communicative situation. Yates and Orlikowski (1992) support this view by discussing the case of the evolution of the memo genre in late 19th century to the modern email.
Typification, evolution and, I would add, expectations certainly characterize the genre of electronic meetings.
Meetings have been defined as (1) an organizational communication genre, part of the organizational repertoire of genres and genre system; (2) instances from a repertoire of meeting genres enacted by the organization to accomplish typical types of meetings; (3) recurrent structures (Costa and Antunes, 2001). That is, meetings materialize a genre or a genre system. Costa and Antunes (2001) identified the following meeting genres: “the agenda on the flip chart, decisions on the whiteboard, participant notes and meeting minutes”.
Antunes et al. (2006) argue that innovative and viable electronic meeting systems (EMSs) should be based on genre analysis in order to be effective. It seems to me that LucidMeetings — a recently launched meeting and web conferencing product — has been designed with genre-awareness, since a genre lifecycle is clearly visible in this system through the following practices and recurrent patterns of communication:
- follow-up emails
- searchable meetings
In short, the basic idea of this software is to set up repeatable processes, allow search, enforce re-use, and encourage a standardized meeting practice and etiquette.
Together with practical advantages, such as improved communication, streamlined processes, the possibility of retrieving information, screen sharing, collaborative decision-making, team building and all the economic benefits that these functionalities bring about, these features contribute, in my opinion, to the evolution of the electronic meeting genre and of the Electronic Meeting Systems (EMSs) in general. Since meeting practices reflect recurrent patterns, the genre-ification of the tasks is an easy and economic way to re-use and build upon previous experience. For instance, the creation of a new meeting agenda by copying one of the previous (stored) agendas can be conceptualized as the reinforcement of a textual pattern (i.e. the re-use of an existing item list) triggered by a recurring situation; both textual pattern and recurrent situation create predictable expectations. That’s genre! Genre analysis in this context help understand how virtual communities use digital communication to collaborate.
In conclusion, this meeting software is a good example, in my view, on how media and technology leverage on genre and how genres evolve thanks to media and technology.
Marina Santini. Copyright © 2012, All rights reserved.
LucidMeetings: http://www.lucidmeetings.com/ [Free trial available. LucidMeetings offers also 10% off the first year. This also includes a 30 day trial. If you’d like to redeem this, give this code: NY2012]
Antunes P., Costa C. and Pino J.(2006). The use of genre analysis in the design of electronic meeting systems. Information Research, Vol. 11, N. 3, April 2006.
Costa C. and Antunes P. (2001). Meetings As Genre Systems: Some Consequences For EMS Design. Proceedings of Group Decision and Negotiation,Delft University of Technology, 2001.
Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Miller, C. 1984. Genre as Social Action. Quarterly Journal of Speech. 70: 151- 167.
Yates J. and Orlikowski W. (1992). Genres of Organizational Communication: A Structurational Approach to Studying Communication and Media. The Academy of Management Review. Vol. 17, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 299-326.
Agre P. (1998). Designing Genres for New Media: Social, Economic, and Political Contexts. In Jones S. (ed). Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting MC and Community, Sage, 1998.
Furuta R. and Marshall C. (1996). Genre as Reflection of Technology in the World-Wide Web.Proceedings of the International Workshop on Hypermedia Design,pp. 182-195).
Handford M. (2007) The genre of the business meeting: a corpus-based study. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
Pemberton L. (2000) Genre as Structuring Concept for Interacion Design Pattern Language. Position paper for the HCI-SIG Workshop on patterns, Nov. 2000, London,