A Genre-Based Investigation of Workplace Communities

  • Fiorella Foscarini


This article discusses various key concepts involved in Rhetorical Genre Studies (RGS) and some of the theoretical frameworks frequently applied by RGS scholars, with the purpose of demonstrating their relevance to the archives and records management domain. By drawing on activity theory, distributed cognition, and situated learning in particular, the article explores the characteristics of professional communication practices, one of the central concerns of RGS. Understanding how organizational actors collaborate, how they construct and reconstruct their collective identities, and how they enact the genres, or cultural tools, that are the outcome and means of their activities is important to situate records creation and use within the actual practices of workplace communities. A genre-based investigation of writing as a complex, multi-functional, and multivocal activity and of learning as a continuous organizational process inherent in the active participation in professional communities will reveal underrated dimensions of record-making, thus contributing to the enrichment of the theory and practice of records management and archives.


Cet article discute de divers concepts fondamentaux utilisés dans l’étude de la rhétorique des genres ainsi que quelques-uns des cadres théoriques appliqués fréquemment par les spécialistes de la rhétorique des genres, dans le but de montrer leur pertinence dans le domaine des archives et de la gestion de documents. En s’inspirant en particulier de la théorie de l’activité, de la cognition distribuée et de l’apprentissage situé (ou contextualisé), cet article explore les caractéristiques des pratiques de communication professionnelles, l’une des préoccupations principales de l’étude de la rhétorique des genres. Arriver à comprendre comment les acteurs organisationnels collaborent, comment ils construisent et reconstruisent leurs identités collectives, et comment ils donnent force aux genres, ou aux outils culturels (qui sont à la fois le résultat et les moyens de leurs activités), est essentiel afin de situer la création et l’utilisation de documents d’archives dans les pratiques courantes des communautés de travail. Une analyse basée sur le genre de l’écriture comme activité complexe, comprenant plusieurs fonctions et impliquant plusieurs voix, et une analyse de l’apprentissage comme un processus organisationnel continu inhérent à la participation active des communautés professionnelles révèleront l’étendue sous-estimée de la création de documents, contribuant ainsi à l’enrichissement de la théorie et de la pratique de la gestion de documents et des archives.

Author Biography

Fiorella Foscarini

Fiorella Foscarini is an assistant professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and currently on leave from her position as assistant professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. She holds a PhD in Archival Studies from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Before joining academia, she worked as the senior archivist for the European Central Bank in Frankfurt am Main, Germany; prior to that, she was head of the Records Office and Intermediate Archives at the Province of Bologna, Italy. In her teaching and research, Dr. Foscarini uses diplomatics, genre theory, and organizational culture concepts to explore records creation and use, with the aim of enriching the theory and practice of records management.

How to Cite
Foscarini, Fiorella. 2014. “A Genre-Based Investigation of Workplace Communities”. Archivaria 78 (November), 1-24. https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13490.