Book Announcement

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Sun Jun 06 2004 - 06:06:25 PDT

Cross Post (not too cross, I hope)

From: Clay Spinuzzi <>
Date: May 21, 2004 7:06:28 PM GMT+07:00
Subject: Book Announcement: Tracing Genres through Organizations

Hi, all. Jim Zappen suggested that the list might be interested in my
book (announcement below). CS

Tracing Genres through Organizations:
A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design

Clay Spinuzzi

In /Tracing Genres through Organizations/, Clay Spinuzzi examines the
everyday improvisations by workers who deal with designed information
and shows how understanding this impromptu creation can improve
information design. He argues that the traditional user-centered
approach to design does not take into consideration the unofficial
genres that spring up as workers write notes, jot down ideas, and read
aloud from an officially designed text. These often ephemeral
innovations in information design are vital components in a genre
ecology (the complex of artifacts mediating a given activity). When
these innovations are recognized for what they are, they can be traced
and their evolution as solutions to recurrent design problems can be
studied. Spinuzzi proposes a sociocultural method for studying these
improvised innovations that draws on genre theory (which provides the
unit of analysis, the genre) and activity theory (which provides a
theory of mediation and a way to study the different levels of activity
in an organization).

After defining terms and describing the method of genre tracing, the
book shows the methodology at work in four interrelated studies of
traffic workers in Iowa and their use of a database of traffic
accidents. These workers developed an ingenious array of ad hoc
innovations to make the database better serve their needs. Spinuzzi
argues that these inspired improvisations by workers can tell us a
great deal about how designed information fails or succeeds in meeting
workers' needs. He concludes by considering how the insights reached in
studying genre innovation can guide information design itself.

Clay Spinuzzi
Assistant Professor
Associate Director, Computer Writing and Research Lab
The University of Texas at Austin
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
1 University Station B5500
Austin, Texas 78712-1122
AIM: cispinuzzi
YIM: cspinuzzi

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