894 Reading Notes: Spinuzzi’s Genre Tracing (Week 5)

My notes this week will be a bit sparse because life happened this week, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on this week’s reading because I really liked it Spinuzzi’s Tracing Genres Through Organizations. Spinuzzi’s notion of changing the frame of the conversation in system design of one of workers as victims needing to be rescued from designers to one the validates the ingenuity of workers and includes them in the design process as creators instead of clients made a lot of sense. As I was reading, my thinking primarily dwelt in three strains: appreciation of levels of scope for analysis, destabilization, and connections to education design programs and teacher economy.
Levels of Analysis


Concentric circle with the inner white circle having a line to the word Micro, the next outer red circle with the word Meso and the outermost blue circle with the word Macro
Image from https://jennysmoore.wordpress.com/2014/02/

One of the most helpful concepts for me coming out of this book was his discussion of the three levels of scope to approach and analyze genres: Macroscopic, mecroscopic, microscopic. The table pg. 45 was helpful to think about the connections between previous texts on genre from this class and others. I just felt like this was a wonderful layer to add to my thinking about genres.



As I read Spinuzzi’s discussion of system destabilization, including contradiction, discoordination, and breakdown, I found myself thinking back to Foucault and his focus on discontinuity. I just found it interesting that these theories start their analysis at points of disruption, rupture, or disunity.

Education Connections

While doing this reading I attended a meeting about OWI at ODU and VWC’s faculty assembly voted to move forward with the creation of online courses. Involved in these conversations were lots of questions about constraints of online course management and oversight. Many of these conversations demonstrated an uneasiness with learning management systems or instructional design which controls how instructors can interact with students and deliver content. While Spinuzzi’s workers and designers are thinking about efficiency, in this educational context the goal shifts to student learning. I found myself wondering what unofficial genres instructors might use and how Spinuzzi’s genre tracing method would be applicable to course genre ecologies. Spinuzzi actually touches on online courses briefly as an example of a system that often lacks community because of “impoverished set of online communication mechanism” (217). Distance education has become much more popular and widespread since Spinuzzi’s book and I think it is an area that would be a great site for his theory and methodology. I actually found a CCC’s article “Writing in Electronic Environments” by Jeremiah Dyehouse, Michael Pennell, and Linda K. Shamoon that drew on Spinuzzi’s notion of genre ecologies for a course, so this might be an area for more exploration in the future.



Foucault, Michele. The Archaeology of Knowledge. 1969. Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres Through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.


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