Plenary Speakers

Accounting for interdiscursive hybridity in the Digital World: Insights from Critical Genre Theory

Vijay K. Bhatia
Chinese University of Hong Kong

Digital media, in the last few years, has brought unprecedented opportunities and, at the same time, several challenges to academic publishing, especially in the context of what is popularly known as open science, which inspires large-scale dissemination of research-based scientific conclusions, sometimes even those that are pre-published scientific conclusions to wider audiences, specialists as well as lay masses. On the one hand, it seems to offer an opportunity to specialists to disseminate their findings timely; on the other hand, it offers a challenge for non-specialists to take such findings as factually established in the scientific community. Social media makes such challenges even more complex as it depends largely on text-internal as well as text-external appropriation and interpretation of scientific information for non-specialists, thus creating complex hybrid accounts of the original. To account for some of these challenges, one may need to take a theoretically informed approach.
Interdiscursivity as appropriation of text-external generic resources in Critical Genre Theory (Bhatia, 2017) seems to offer an insightful understanding of scientific practice. In this presentation, I will give more substance to this view by outlining some of the key aspects of critical genre theory, taking examples from a range of disciplinary practices, focusing specifically on the dissemination of scientific information in recent years.

Bhatia, V. K., (2017): Critical Genre Analysis: Investigating Interdiscursive Performance in Professional Communication, London, Routledge.

What problem can open science solve?

Benedikt Fecher
Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Open science is associated with the hope that digital technologies will render science more inclusive, transparent, and accessible. Yet it often remains unclear how these promises are to be realized. Depending on one’s perspective, Open Science may appear as an end in itself, a political movement or even a neoliberal project. The starting point of this talk is hence that Open Science needs to be operationalized in order to enable an informed discussion about the right kind of openness. To this extent, Benedikt Fecher introduces the main features of a theory of Open Science. Its core assumption is that openness can be analyzed along three dimensions of meaning, i.e. a social dimension (Who is involved in an interaction?), an epistemic dimension (What is the subject of an interaction?), and an infrastructural dimension (How does the interaction take place?). The gradual shift of scientific communication to the digital implies that established configurations of openness on these dimensions are being challenged. This can have positive, but also negative effects on science and society. To ground the theoretical framework, Fecher uses examples from his own research (e.g. preprints, academic data sharing).

Understanding specialized genres in the digital age: What can we learn from digital
literacies and CMC research?

Christoph A. Hafner
Department of English, City University of Hong Kong

In recent years there has been considerable interest in LSP and professional communication communities in understanding how the affordances of digital tools can be leveraged in specialized communication. As a theoretical framework, genre analysis has proved to be very resilient and adaptable when confronted with new kinds of digital practices and digital forms of representation. Scholars interested in the use of digital tools for communication among members of specialized discourse communities have largely been able to apply existing tools in order to generate useful descriptions of what is going on online. This work has highlighted the development of more multimodal genres, frequent hybridity, innovation and creativity, semiotic remediation between different generic forms, collaborative practices between readers and writers, and a general blurring of many of the taken-for-granted categories of genre analysis. At the same time, scholarly work on digital literacies and computer-mediated communication has also concerned itself with increasing innovation in communication practices. These are similarly prompted by the affordances and constraints of technological tools, which allow people to maintain persistent communication channels, entering into ‘ambient co-presence’ with friends, family, co-workers, and other members of their communities, across wide spatio-temporal boundaries. By focusing on concepts of 1) digital mediation, 2) affordances and constraints of digital tools, 3) mobility, and 4) chronotopes and socio-technical structures made relevant by digital platforms and interactions, such work offers additional conceptual tools that could be brought to bear in the analysis of specialized online genres. In this presentation, I outline recent work on digital genres and interactions as well as some potentially useful conceptual tools that might play a role in current conceptualisations of genre.

Featured Speaker

Genre: A Partly Personal Retrospective and Prospective

John M. Swales
The University of Michigan

This narrative begins with early precursors to my original concept of genre—Mitchell (1957), Propp (1958), Barber (1962) and Halliday et al. (1964). Waystage influences were Geertz (1980), Tarone et al. (1981), Fowler (1982), Hoey (1983) and Bhatia (1983; 1987), this last leading to an important contemporary surprise. Genres I originally thought of as formal schemata, template-ish guidances for linguistic and rhetorical achievements. Then, by Swales (1999), they seemed more like opportunistic responses to prevailing conventions, more like modulations of and engagements with prior tests. More recently, following Frow (2014) and Tardy (2009), it seems most appropriate to view ourselves as performing genres when we engage in and with established forms of oral and written discourse. Putting it another way, this narrative has turned out to be a story of increasing oral and written agency. In response to this conference’s theme, I close with some thoughts as to what it might mean to say that something is “a new genre or sub-genre”, rather than a cosmeticization or multi-model prettification of an existing one.