Genre

The term Genre originates from literary studies and has been extended to describe the regular patterns of semiotic choices in multimodal communicative objects and events that are particular to specific communities and cultures

John Bateman has led research in this area, notably his book Multimodality and Genre (2008) with a focus on extending genre to the formally specified and technical usage within functional linguistics to provide a theoretical mechanism that is both predictive and explanatory to support the interpretation of genre as a socially significant activity. He now describes a multimodal genre as ‘a temporarily stabilized, conventionalized and structured bundle of adopted solutions to a socially recognized and for that genre distinctive communicative task among a community of users’. Genre is intimately tied to the modes made available by a medium, the social context and communicative purpose. Multimodal genres are, according to Bateman, ‘constituted by collections of rhetorical strategies deploying the semiotic modes provided by the medium within which the communication is being enacted. These strategies may vary in their form of realization over time and (co)operate (i) in order to achieve the genre’s socio-communicative goals and (ii) in order to support the genre’s recognition (i.e. over-coded expressions that indicate that the genre is being enacted)’. That is to use genre as a means to understand the link between social context and a meaning system.

Bateman analyzes page-based and filmic multimodal texts that combine modes in layouts that are becoming ever more sophisticated. The interpretation and effective use of these texts present serious challenges for document design and document interpretation. Bateman’s work is also significant in that it documents how genres change over time and why this forms an essential part of document production and analysis. John Knox is another scholar who has made a significant contribution to understanding multimodal genre in theorizing and empirically researching the changing genres of online newspapers. His work outlines a genre-specific visual grammar for online newspaper home pages is emerging in response to the demands of the new medium and historical and social trends in news reporting (Knox, 2007).

Editor: Carey Jewitt
Other contributor: John Bateman

Key References
Bateman, J. (2008)
Multimodality and Genre
Palgrave Macmillan

Knox, J. (2007)
‘Visual-verbal communication on online newspaper home pages’
Visual Communication, 6: 19

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