The international conference Genres and media landscapes in virtual-physical learning spaces. Moving frontlines?, GeM 2018, aims to create a multi-disciplinary platform for dialoguing on the every-day uses of modality rich, parallel, linked, and hybrid, communicative genres that are embedded in media landscapes and circulate in learning spaces inside and outside institutional settings. The digitized era and the global world of mobility and migration have brought about a shift for human-beings in general and the research enterprise more specifically, thus, making it necessary to (re)consider conditions for communication or languaging as well as for learning and identity production. Today, analogue and digital dimensions are seen as being blurred and interdependent, just as accumulation, density and change, are fundamental features of media landscapes. Genres for representation and communication are created, renewed, transformed and fluid in these flexible and expanding environments and times.
In an era when the conception of a society as diverse and multilingual is gaining ground, the sets of genres that develop in dynamic media landscapes in various domains of society can be observed as moving geographies where borders constantly are outlined, crossed, and erased. An understanding of genres as “on the move” acknowledge possibilities for inclusive learning spaces where marginalized cultural dimensions, as pertaining to groups, individuals and concepts, become salient. In fact, the ongoing and linked genre practices and development in and across media landscapes are the breeding grounds for ex/inclusive practices inside and outside institutional settings, including professional sectors. In this way, the focus on media landscapes and on genres that circulate within a variety of learning spaces offers possibilities for revisiting ways of dealing with challenges in the 21st century; these challenges include issues related to inclusion, equity, globalization, diversity and migration.
The dynamic environments created in media dense contexts question rooted sets and categories of different genre systems related to different areas and disciplines. Current genre cartographies are affected by ever-increasing opportunities facilitated by technology for interactivity, collaboration, improvisation, and participation. Furthermore, new practices for communication in the wake of accumulated opportunities for creating expressions and messages across traditional genre categories contribute towards blurred borders concerning, for example, context, authorship, space and time, formats and media, artefacts, versions and imitations. Moreover, media density, as well as stretched continuums (like analogue-digital, synchronous-asynchronous, and unilateral-bilateral-multilateral) that contemporary conditions for communication underscore, have opened new pathways for the evolution and emergence of genres. This is very much the case in teaching and learning processes, where genres offer possibilities for variation, individualization, participation, and awareness of power relations, identification processes, as well as of the close relationship between content and form. All school subject areas are, it can be argued, shaped by the media dense society, even though there is a paucity of research in some disciplines (e.g. natural sciences and mathematics) regarding communication, genres and media. The uneven development and awareness of ongoing genre construction and use in different areas, makes it urgent to share perspectives, knowledge and practices beyond disciplinary and intellectual boundaries.
The theoretical work on the construct of genres in two fields, aesthetic and pragmatic genres, reflects a dichotomized view on representations vis-à-vis pragmatic messages. Evolving media landscapes where modality rich expressions are becoming more and more frequent, challenge this “polarization” in research. The dichotomized field of genre research is in need of being interrogated through different disciplinary lenses. This has the explicit aim of contributing to taking the understanding of the area to a new level. For instance, of how genres are situated and used in diverse media landscapes, and bringing the area into conversations with learning research. Interdisciplinary aspects pave the way to go beyond traditional genre research that is entrenched in linguistic and literary disciplines. Furthermore, methodological and theoretical discussions related to data from everyday life spans over many research domains and professional sectors. This includes attempts to illuminate knowledge about the power of genres and the ways in which they shape ex/inclusion of groups and individuals in learning spaces (including conceptual ones). The forms of genres are not innocent, on the contrary, they shape content and communication. The relationships between genres and media, and between form and content are here open for exploration. These stances and interrogations situate GeM 2018 at the frontline of shifting contemporary conditions.
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