Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shifting Grammar and Syntax to Meet Genre and Cultural Conventions

Today, we're going to examine the role of grammar, style, and syntax in understanding the conventions of genre.  This post complements Haley Stouffer's article "How i Lrnd 2 Txt: An Adventure in Genre."

Three Videos
First, let's very briefly consider three very different videos.  Although each of these videos are centered on the same genre - "education tips" for students - you'll notice that each video produces a vastly different rhetorical effect.  Why do you suppose this is?  (and you only need to watch the first minute of each video to see this effect.)

Video 1: The Business Professional
Anna gives a single, very brief tip.  Note what she told us before giving this tip, however.

Video 2: The Teacher
Graham Best is also giving study tips.  But consider how many tips he's giving.  Also, what is his tone of voice?  Who is the target audience?  Who is the real target audience?  (The video is 5 minutes, but you only need to watch the first minute or so.)

Video 3: The Student
From the very first, what's different about this video?  Why?  (The video is 3 minutes, but you only need to watch the first minute or so.)

Genre Depends Upon the Motives of the Speaker and the Expectations of the Audience
In the three videos, we can compare language, video quality, and quantity of information to draw conclusions about our speakers and their intended audiences.  In Stouffer's Article, we noticed similar differences between the narrator's love of texting and the relative inexperience and/or distrust shown by her older family members.

Let's break this down further.  Why do these differences come about?  Why don't her grandparents trust texting as much?  Why do she and her friends become masters in this new medium?  In her story, we see that her mastery of this new genre depended upon her mastering the expectations of the genre, including:
"Need for Speed": She and her friends were communicating about plans and gossip while surrounded by would-be eavesdroppers.
Price: Given the 160-character limit and the ten-cent price tag, she had to compress her thoughts into as few letters and numbers as possible. Words and phrases were compressed to conserve space.
At the same time, there are some definite limitations to this genre, making it unsuitable for some situations:
Driving: It's not good to text while driving.
Talking with Grandparents: Older family members find text communications to be too short and bereft of emotion.
If we examine other genres, we'll find a very similar interplay between the "needs" of the genre and the distinct physical limits of the medium.
Consider the following genres in terms of their needs and limitations:
Online Ads
Magazine Articles
E-mail Messages
Course Syllabi
Warning Placards (e.g. on an airliner)

Genre is a Distinctly Cultural Phenomenon
In considering the example genres, did you include the needs of the writers? What about the expectations of the audience? Do these genres always have a willing audience? Or is there some manipulation on the part of the writer?

Group Work
Think about which media you've used over the past couple days.  Have you been reading online articles?  Comic books?  E-mail?  Textbooks?

First, consider the different purposes of each genre.  Which ones aim to simply communicate information?  Which ones aim to change your behavior?  What rhetorical tools do these genres use in order to achieve their ends?


  1. Considering the genre of cigarette ads, I think the main target are people who are either young enough or impressionable enough to believe that the type of cigarette you smoke reveals your social image.

    Limitations on this genre include recent laws against advertising cigarettes to minors. Also, Facebook won't allow you to reference tobacco products in any advertising on the site.

  2. The genre we chose was Shark week on the discovery channel. the goals of this genre are to get as many views as possible. Also to inform people about sharks and the dangers of sharks. The limitation is that its only on one week a year, and you have to watch all day or you will miss something exciting. Its also not for little kids because there is graphic scenes.

    Teddy, Kelli, and Allie

  3. Goals: to reach an audience that uses the internet, and to research.
    Limitations: cant always get what you want out of it.
    audience: People using the internet and social websites.
    On the internet and social websites

    Maggie Duffner
    Denise Consorti

  4. We chose drama as our genre.We chose to look at Romeo and Juliet.Its a great play, although its limited by the English employed in the play.Its difficult for the audience to understand sometimes.Also the graphics are inferior compared to the ones in movies.For example, when Juliet killed herself, there was no blood, as would be seen in a real movie.

    Lindsey Greene
    Augustine Nwosu
    Brittany Hazek

  5. our genre:magazines targeted to young women(cosmo, 17, etc.)
    This genre is limited because it only includes information about makeup, clothes you should wear, and the kinds of men you should date. Magazines like these do not include information that is necessary for women to know, it categorizes them as less intelligent and pretty much set standards for what they should look like in society. It creates an image that young girls see and want to become.
    -Leah and Haley

  6. Actually from Monica, Kurt, and Kat.
    Paranormal Romance: Grew out of the Twilight success and has evolved into it's own genre of stories. The limitations include making vampires, something relatively dangerous, into a sex symbol and werewolves are shirtless sexy men. In this genre it seems like the only "paranormal" romance are only between vampires or werewolves. The women in this genre also appear really needy and needs that "escape" and to them a dangerous animal who can't control their emotions is their "escape". The target audience is preteen/hopeless girls because that escape is so tempting and an easy escape to get to inspiring a whole new generation of fictional character worship. The way it's advertised is that the male paranormal characters are attainable, but dangerous therefore making that escape appealing.

  7. Our genre was alcohol commercials, it targets anyone really, but with the main group having to be over 21 years old. The goal is to sell the product and make profit. Limitations would be that they can't try and make the add appeal to anyone under 21 because that would be illegal, but at the same time they would like to sell to minors too. Sean, Adam, Kathleen

  8. Our genre was smoking commercials. Over the years, the advertisement for smoking has changed. When smoking first came out, it was portrayed as a cool thing to do and everyone in the society did it. In today's modern society, smoking has found many health problems, so now it has changed to advertisements about quitting smoking. Jordan Fahel, Mike Kelly, Daniel Donnely

  9. Our genre was "Facebook". At first, facebook targeted college students, but quickly gained attention to the high school/middle school population. Over time, it populated to the adults. To the adults, it was a tool to check up on their children while still keeping in touch with their old high school friends. Amy, Sam, Fred.

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  11. The genre we chose was Movie Trailers. The target audience depends on what the movie is about and what the rating is. All horror and action films have a deep voice narrating the preview, while kid movies use a joyful voice. The goal is to get people to go see the movies, while making the trailer look appealing.

    Scott, Katherine, Jessica

  12. Mike Banks, Connor Prokop,John Mayer
    Above the Influence Commercials

    Targets young teens by scaring and intimidating the audience. The goal is to prevent teens from taking illegal drugs and to live above the influence. It is trying to reduce the amount of people that fall into peer pressure. These are generally seen on television, but there are also billboards that have the campaign logo on it. Primarily targets teens, but teens are not the only ones on drugs.

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  14. Our genre was makeup advertisements. It targets middle age women and teens. For middle aged women they pull them in with telling them they would be wrinkle free, and they show older women you have flawless skin. With all women the makeup companies pretty much say you should use our makeup or you will not look this pretty.
    -Melissa, Rachel, Nicole, Emily.

  15. our genre: country music
    Country music is for anyone willing to listen just like any other kind of music. Most country music is to tell a story or teach a lesson or even about having a good time. You will never hear a screamo version of country music because country is more relaxed. Its about kicking back and enjoying life.
    --> Jaclyn, Meredith, and Dawn

  16. Weight loss ads.

    Targets people who are desired to lose weight. It uses false facts and uncredable sources to lure people into there product. Has no limits because weight loss ads are everywhere.

    Pat and Josh

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