Digital Genres: A Challenge to Traditional Genre Theory

Inger Askehave, Anne Ellerup Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to account for the genre characteristics of non‐linear, multi‐modal, web‐mediated documents. It involves a two‐dimensional view on genres that allows one to account for the fact that digital genres act not only as text but also as medium.
Design/methodology/approach: The theoretical framework of the article is the Swalesian genre theory used in academic settings all over the world to investigate the relationship between discourse and social practice and to teach genre conventions to students of language and communication. Up till now most genre research has focused on the characteristics of “printed” texts, whereas less has been done to apply the genre theory to digital genres.
Findings: The article discusses the characteristics of digital genres, notably the media constraints that have a significant effect on the production and reception of digital genres and suggests an extension of the Swalesian genre model that takes the digital characteristics into account.
Research limitations/implications: The suggestion for a revised genre model is not based on an extensive empirical study of various types of web sites. The observation is restricted to a limited number of commercial web sites.
Originality/value: The article proposes new insights into the concept of genre adapting traditional models of genre theory to web‐mediated texts. A revised two‐dimensional genre model incorporating media elements into the concept of genre thus takes account of the particular characteristics of the navigation and reading elements of web‐mediated genres.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Technology and People
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)120-141
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

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