Writing in the 21st century comes in a variety of modes, each of which we have grown to develop an understanding of how best to use. This understanding is not something that is most readily recognizable when we feel less inclined to communicate certain messages through certain media, or when we have a preference of a certain mode for communicating. To make meaning of the most commonly found inclinations toward certain media, I have selected a few of the modes that I use most regularly and tried to imagine how the genres established by the history of their use affect the way one approaches communication through them. I have created scenarios that will demonstrate the instances where the choice of medium for the message communicated was not the best, with sensitivity toward how one’s approach to different media will play a part in what they expect to see from it and why. The different elements of the section below will show how someone might react, and why, when receiving news typical and atypical for the genre of mail, text, and Facebook.
The genre of letters is one familiar to anyone who has a mailbox. The most common expectancy is to find bills, advertisements from local businesses, subscriptions, and professional/casual correspondence. The arrangement of information in the contents of these types of letters is often the same; There is a formal/informal greeting, a body of alphabetic text(sometimes with images), and a signing off.
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– Atypical –
Typically in a letter, the tone set by the design of the packaging or the introduction within the body creates an expectation of the type of information to follow. In the first example, seeing a letter from an organization whose competition was entered created anticipation, and the first line delivers the positive news to be elaborated on by the rest of the text. In the second letter, the structure and design of the letter deviate from the expectation established from the first few lines. Seeing a letter from a loved one feels like a sweet gesture, with “momma loves you” on the packaging and word of celebration with family setting the tone, but when the arrangement of text takes an unexpected and unprepared turn it negates much of what was pleasant about receiving the letter.
The genres of texts are few. Either they’re an informal reduction of a conversation that would be had through another medium, or they’re a way to share information and media quickly without much effort. A noteworthy affordance of text is the ability to send information in a way that can reach its intended audience almost immediately, because of the likelihood of the recipient both having their mobile device on them and having an alert feature turned on to indicate the arrival of messages. Expectations for text messages often are to have prompt responses and clear, brief messages.
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– Atypical –
An area that lacks support from the mode’s afforances is emotion. Though it is certainly possible to convey emotion in text messages, it is highly reliant on punctuation and emoticons due to the lack of contextual indicators such as packaging or introductory remarks. Even then, interpretation of a message is not always entirely predictable. In the first example, texts were used to extend an invitation to an outing. The exchange of information happened within minutes, with both the sender and recipient responding quickly. In the second example, the sender of the first message is experiencing impatience due to a lack of response on part of the recipient. When the recipient is distracted and does not return any message, it is clear the sender has become frustrated and would benefit from any type of notice concerning the recipient’s pending response, but the recipient has no clue of there being this type of urgency to the conversation. In their exchange, there is no recognition of the upset that happened for the sender, so he will have gotten what he had initially set out to have returned to him, but he will also be left alone in his unresolved frustrations.
Facebook is a mode with several genres. A non-fan page/band page user of Facebook can communicate with others indirectly by writing a status, they can communicate directly by commenting on a post or image, and they can write private messages to one another. Through these many methods of communication, Facebook can fit the genres of self-promotion, forum-style discussion hub, soapbox, and an archive of one’s contacts. A combination of these genres yields a very active display of shared information containing items of varied significance and high predictability.
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– Atypical –
With the versatility of Facebook as a mode of communication, one will find all types of information shared across it. In both of the examples, someone is sent an event invitation to something of which they weren’t aware of prior. In the first example, the invitation is to a Halloween party and the recipient is someone who expresses great interest in attending. Generally when you become aware of an event on Facebook, the questions you’d ask yourself prior to deciding whether or not to go are “Is this something I would be interested in?” and “Do I have time to attend this event?” In the case of the second example, the person at their computer is made aware of the death of their grandmother through an event on Facebook. None of the expectation established by event invitations prior could have prepared him for it. A subject as sensitive as the death of a loved one would typically be handled much more personally and carefully, rather than through the social platform of an Facebook event invitation.