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Combining Actor Network Theory and Genre Theory to Understand the Evolution of Digital Genres

Magnus Bergquist
Gothenburg University, Sweden
Carina Ihlström
Halmstad University, Sweden
Jan Ljungberg
Gothenburg University, Sweden
Maria Åkesson
Halmstad University, Sweden

In this paper we argue that a combination of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and Genre Theory can constitute a theoretical framework for understanding how digital genres evolve. Genre theory states that genres evolve over time through reciprocal interaction between institutionalized practices and individual action; that they develop from actors’ responses to recurrent situations, and are shaped around characteristics as content, form, functionality and purpose. Genres emerge out of practice and at the same time they shape that practice. While genre theory can describe the characteristics of a genre, it cannot handle the process of how a genre is formed and what powers and forces are involved in this shaping process. In order to address this problem, several authors have incorporated structuration theory into genre analysis. However, structuration theory can only catch these constitutional processes of genre in a very broad manner. As a genre is evolving and stabilizing over time in interplay with different actors, it goes beyond what is possible to explain only by means of structuration theory. Instead, ANT could work as a tool to capture the process of how a genre takes form in negotiations with different stakeholders. In this paper we discuss how genre theory and ANT can be combined in a framework for analyzing emerging genres. We apply this theoretical framework on an e-newspaper project that embodies a new genre in the making. We will here show how evolving genre characteristics are developed, formed and stabilized in a negotiation and struggle between the involved actors when they translate their interests in ways that finally are resulting in a new genre.

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Reference:Bergquist, M., Ihlström, C., Ljungberg, J., Åkesson, M. (2008). "Combining Actor Network Theory and Genre Theory to Understand the Evolution of Digital Genres," Proceedings > Proceedings of JAIS Theory Development Workshop . Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, 8(20). http://sprouts.aisnet.org/8-20
Keywords:Actor Network Theory, Genre Theory, Evolution of Digital Genres
Item Type:Article - Volume 8 Article 20 (2008)
Email: Jan Ljungberg (ljungbej@ituniv.se)

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