Genre Taxonomy: A Knowledge Repository of Communicative Actions
In this paper, we propose a genre taxonomy as a knowledge repository of communicative structures or "typified actions" enacted by organizational members. The Genre taxonomy aims at helping people to make sense of diverse types of communicative actions, and has three features to achieve this objective. First, the genre taxonomy represents the elements of both genres and genre systems, sequences of interrelated genres, as embedded in a social context considering the "5W1H" questions (Why, What, Who/Whom, When, Where, and How). In other words, the genre taxonomy represents the elements of both genres and genre systems in terms of purpose, contents, participants, timing of use, place of communicative action, and form including media, structuring devices and linguistic elements. Second, the genre taxonomy represents both widely recognized genres such as a report and specific genres such as a technical report used in a specific company, because the difference between a widely recognized genre and a specific variant based on the more general genre sheds light on the context of genre use. Third, the genre taxonomy represents use and evolution of genre over time to help people to understand how a genre is relevant to a community where the genre is enacted and changed. We have constructed a prototype of such a genre taxonomy using the Process Handbook, a process knowledge repository developed at MIT. We have included both widely recognized genres such as the memo and specific genres such as those used in the Process Handbook itself. We suggest that this genre taxonomy may be useful in the innovation of new document templates or methods for communication because it helps to clarify different possible uses of similar genres and explicates how genres play a coordination role among people and between people and their tasks.
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