Escaping the Straitjacket: Expanding Our Understanding of Records and Relationships – Panel Discussion

Fiorella Foscarini, Gillian Oliver, Dominique Maurel, and Sabine Mas



This Research Presentation proposal has been developed as a Panel proposal. Each panelist will present on specific issues related to his or her research on the notion of genre system and its relevance to the field of recordkeeping.
Arguments for the relevance of rhetorical genre theory to archival science have been already presented (Foscarini, 2015; Gagnon-Arguin, Mas and Maurel, 2015). The concept of genre system, however, remains largely unknown and unexplored, yet has the potential to reveal the richness and diversity of the interrelationships among records and between records, actions and agents. Applying the lens of genre system facilitates the removal of constraints which restrict our understanding of records and records aggregations to information objects primarily associated with static documentary forms and sequential, linear functions. The genre system concept will assist in highlighting and developing issues relating to intertextual relationships and the co-creation of texts and contexts, and supporting an analysis of recordkeeping from multidisciplinary perspectives.

Panelists will explain the concept of genre and that of genre system, and will provide examples of their potential by making reference to different recordkeeping practices. They will discuss the mechanisms used by various discourse communities to produce, reproduce, interrelate, alter, and dismiss their own genres, thus shedding light onto the information culture of those communities. Taking a genre system approach helps reveal the official and unofficial forces that shape how collaboration takes place in specific contexts. The goal of this panel is to suggest new ways of looking at the “documentary context” as a frame to explore knowledge formation and bureaucratic production.

Foscarini, F. (2015). Organizational Records as Genres: An Analysis of the “Documentary Reality” of Organizations from the Perspectives of Diplomatics, Records Management, and Rhetorical Genre Studies. In Genre Theory in Information Studies (pp. 115-132). London: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Gagnon-Arguin, Louise, Mas, Sabine et Maurel, Dominique. (2015). Les genres de documents dans les organisations : analyse théorique et pratique. Sainte-Foy (Québec): Presses de l’Université du Québec.



Fiorella Foscarini is an associate professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, Canada. In 2014-16, she taught in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Fiorella holds a PhD in Archival Science from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Before joining academia, she worked as 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, she uses diplomatics, rhetorical genre studies, and information culture concepts to explore issues related to the creation, management, and use of records in organizational contexts. One of her current research projects, “Learning to Walk the Talk: Analyzing Information Culture,” funded by ICA-PCOM, builds on the methodology discussed in the book Records Management and Information Culture: Tackling the People Problem (Facet, 2014) she co-authored with Gillian Oliver. In 2015, she co-chaired I-CHORA 7 in Amsterdam. Some of the papers presented at that conference are now available in the collected volume, Engaging with Records and Archives: Histories and Theories (Facet 2016). Fiorella serves as co-editor in chief of the Records Management Journal.

Sabine Mas studied History at the University of Aix-en-Provence and Archival Science at the University of Mulhouse (France). In 2000, she started a certificate in applied informatics and a doctoral thesis in information science at the University of Montreal. Her doctoral research focused on hierarchical classification systems and the identification of digital records in a context of personal information management. While pursuing her doctoral research she taught at the University of Montreal and, in 2001, participated in a facet analysis for the classification of records on behalf of the Government of Quebec. In 2007-2008, she continued her research in France at the Technology University of Troyes, as part of a postdoctoral fellowship financed by the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC). Since 2013, Sabine Mas is an associate professor at the School of Library and Information Science (EBSI) at the University of Montreal. Her main publications relate to the typology of records in organizations, to the hierarchical and faceted classificatory models applied to archives, records and Web resources and to the theory of document genre. She recieved the Jacques Ducharme Price in 2012 from the Association des archivistes du Québec for her book Classification des documents numériques dans les organismes : impact des pratiques classificatoires personnelles sur le repérage.

Dominique Maurel is an Associate Professor of Information Science at the Université de Montréal. She holds a PhD in Information Science from the École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information (EBSI) of the Université de Montréal. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto. Her research interests focus on information behaviours and practices, knowledge management, information governance, and records and theory of document genre. She has established the Groupe interdisciplinaire de recherche en gouvernance informationnelle (GREGI), of which she is a member of the Steering Committee with Associate Professor Christine Dufour (EBSI, Université de Montréal) and Professor Natasha Zwarich (History Department, Université du Québec à Montréal).

Gillian Oliver currently teached and conducts research in records and archives at Monash University, Australia, and was previously based at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her most recent professional experience prior to this was as part of the foundation team established to initiate digital archiving capability at New Zealand’s national archives.

Gillian’s PhD is from Monash University, and this doctoral study was the catalyst for her ongoing research agenda in organizational culture and information culture. She is a co editor-in-chief of Archival Science.