Genre Navigation as Literacy
I am intrigued by some of the notions put forth by Carpenter when he discusses genre reconsiderations in dealing with presentation and literacy, specifically as he quotes Amy J. Devitt. Seeing multimodal sensemaking in digital culture as a genre consideration is a useful framework for analyzing learning engagement.
What can genre mean in this instance? A switch from academic to pop cultures? A switch in roles from student to teacher, from active creator of information to consumer? For learning, could genre refer to the silos of disciplinary understanding, the unique characteristics and schemas associated with that culture of learning?
All of the above are indeed possible, and it is the skill to pass comfortably across these genre boundaries that is prized. It represents transliteracy, certainly, but it does so in a way that has historical antecedents. This type of genre navigation is present in film, in literature, in art. A dualism, a sense of many roles, many states of being.
A fundamental feature of these genre reconsiderations is a shift from form to function, a move that foregrounds the role of agents and agency in its emphasis on rhetorical actions. The critical focus, then, similarly shifts from texts per se to motives and outcomes as genres come to be deﬁned, as Amy J. Devitt (2000) explained, “less by their formal conventions than by their purposes, participants, and subjects: by their rhetorical actions” (p. 698). According to Bazerman (1997), genres “are not just forms. Genres are forms of life, ways of being.
A shift from form to function, the role of agents and agency, forms of life, a way of being. In essence, we are making the case that genre engagement is an indoctrination into a way of life, in itself a conversion not unlike a religion.
Historically, this dualism has been portrayed in dystopian ways. A human with too many masters, a Jekyl and Hyde character split in two conflicting and competing halves. However, as we embrace learning of this sort, learning where the purpose is to explicitly develop this additional role (as scientist, or philosopher, or what have you) by genre engagement, then we need to shed the dystopian residue of cultural influences. We cannot be Jay Gatzby playing the role of a Long Island socialite, incredibly anxious as to being found out for being a fraud. We cannot be anxious as to our inadequacies in a particular role. As a way of life, a way of being, we need to embrace the schematic underpinnings of this community. Digital culture as a means of immersion will require this embrace with our new identities, where content takes a back seat to context.