wec fall 2011 web 2.0 genre ecologies

Assignment Overview

Clay Spinuzzi and Mark Zachry (2002) advocate the term “genre ecology” for “conceptualizing and analyzing open systems of documentation” (p. 179). Specifically, they describe genre ecologies as including

an interrelated group of genres (actifact types and the interpretative habits that have developed around them) used to jointly mediate the activities that allow people to accomplish complex objectives. In genre ecologies, multiple genres and constituent sub-tasks co-exist in a lively interplay as people grapple with information technologies. (p. 179)

Spinuzzi and Zachry discuss genre ecologies in terms of various documentation systems. For this assignment, I am interested in understanding if genre ecologies also exist when people are interacting in and with Web 2.0 applications.

As our study has shown, Web 2.0 applications consist of multiple locations for and examples of writing. What we do not know is how people are actually moving between these spaces for writing. Where are the genres and how are they defined? What activities are these genres mediating? Are people moving between print and Web 2.0 spaces in ways similar to those described by Spinuzzi and Zachry to complete a singular task (such a call center employee entering call data)? Or, are Web 2.0 applications serving a purpose that is different (or even destructive) to the human’s activity? Or, it is something else entirely.

Assignment Specifics

For this assignment, I would like you to observe one person working in their formal or informal working space, observing how they are using and interacting with various online and print genres. The person you observe is up to you, but please exclude family members, significant others, and other students in #wecf11 from your potential options. Your observation should last at least two hours and could be accomplished in more than one sitting. Two hours should be enough time to allow the participant to become comfortable with you observing them. This comfort could also come in a second observation. It will be important that you know beforehand that the person does use Web 2.0 technologies during the time when you are observing them. “Use” can be as simple as having something like Facebook open in another browser tab that they interact with intermittently. Be sure to let them know that their name will not be used in any written or spoken discussion of the observation.

When observing the participant, note the various genres they are using. Look for and note patterns of use. You may ask questions as to why the participant is using a genre in a certain way. As you watch, think about the participant’s goals and objectives for a particular activity and how the various genres are mediating that activity.

After your observation, compose a 1 page, single space reflection of the observation. Include a diagram (handwritten or digitally created) that illustrates the genre ecology you observed. In your reflection, discuss the various digital and print genres you observed and how the impact the Web 2.0 genres have on the participant’s objectives. Be sure to cite from and reference Spinuzzi and Zachry. Post your response and diagram to Tumblr.

Due date: Sunday, 11/14, by 11:59pm

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