The History of Participatory Practices: Rethinking Media Genres in the History of User-generated Content in 19th-century Travel Guidebooks

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This article charts the historical stability and continuity of participatory and crowdsourcing practices. Theoretically, it suggests that the blurring of the boundaries between audiences and producers, with the ensuing result of user-generated content, is by no means solely the upshot of new media technological affordances but largely a function of relatively stabilized, genre-specific formal and functional properties, or ‘genre affordances’. Certain referential and performative genres enable interaction between audiences, texts and producers independently of new media technologies because these genres constitute what matters for both producers and audiences in specific historical circumstances. Genres make available shared cultural, social and pragmatic resources for appropriate and desirable being, doing, feeling and thinking. Empirically, this article builds upon an archival study of co-production related to the specific genre of travel guidebooks. It investigates (a) audience feedback in the form of handwritten letters sent to John Murray, a venerable 19th-century British publishing house, and (b) the ways in which John Murray’s yesteryear guidebook producers actively solicited and implemented reader-authored content in professional production practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia, Culture & Society
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)661-679
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Crowdsourcing practices
  • Genre
  • Genre affordances
  • History of digital technologies
  • History of participation
  • New media history
  • Participatory practices
  • Travel guidebooks
  • User-generated content

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