Spinuzzi first identifies a problem that he sees in Information Design discussions, specifically focused on user-centered design. He identifies a common trope that labels the worker-as-victim that needs rescuing by the heroic designer. He says, “they assume that design solutions must spring from, or at least be ratified and promoted by, decision makers with specialized knowledge” (Location 95).  Instead, he says that workers should be involved more with the design in order for it to meet the needs of the workers. He proposes genre tracing, which he says “provides a way to highlight users’ experiences with official and unofficial genres and to compare them across communities or workplaces” (Location 325).  He discusses how “workers continue to innovate, adapting centrifugal genres to supplement the official (centripetal) genres; the ecology continues to develop” (Location 1204, emphasis mine).  Ultimately, Spinuzzi argues that workers draw on existing familiar genres to solve localized problems, and “in doing so, they build genre ecologies that collectively mediate their complex activities” (Location 2338).

Genre Ecologies or Genre Networks? 

As I was initially looking up more information about Clay Spinuzzi, I ran across a blog entry that he wrote in 2009 asking “What if I had called them genre networks?” In the blog entry, he notes that as he continued his research, he found that some of what he was doing didn’t fit into activity theory, but instead fit better with actor-network theory.

Genre ecology (network) diagram from Spinuzzi’s book, Tracing Genres through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design


This quote stuck out to me in particular: “But, yes, the genre ecology diagram is a form of network diagram. It maps out linked relationships among nodes. And a genre ecology diagram, like a network diagram, can show which node is most densely linked and to which others.”

I’m sure Dr. Romberger and Dr. Rodrigo had this in mind, or had even potentially read this blog post when they assigned the reading. But since it was set in the framework of networks, I could definitely see what he was talking about here. It also led me to begin thinking about these networks might work in World of Warcraft, my OoS, particularly in the work that players do to modify the game to fit localized needs.

Interface Modifications and World of Warcraft

I recently read an article, “A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft.” that looked at interface modifications made for WoW by players and why players choose to make mods for the game. The game even has communities and a large website ( that is all centered around player created interface modifications for the game. In fact, Blizzard has actually encouraged modding and provides a toolkit for players to get started creating mods if they are interested. Spinuzzi’s discussion of workers as able to create unofficial solutions by drawing on genres to localized issues seemed to fit closely with what these players are doing. The article even discusses that one of the reasons Blizzard may choose not to adopt the interfaces created by players is that while it is useful for individual players, and potentially for a large number of players, making it the official interface may cause issues for new players or for players that may feel like the “new” interface provides too much of an overload of information. By providing the ability to mod, or to download mods created by other players, Blizzard is able to allow players to have both official and unofficial genres within the game that they can enable or disable to fit their specific playstyle and needs. I’m still sorting through this in my head, but I’m definitely seeing connections here and it may be something that I play with for a future case study.

Works Consulted

Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003. Kindle eBook.

Spinuzzi, Clay. “What If I Had Called Them “Genre Networks”?” Web blog post. Spinuzzi. Blogspot, 09 July 2009. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <;.

Targett, Sean, Victoria Verlysdonk, Howard J. Hamilton, and Daryl Hepting. “A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft.” The International Journal of Computer Game Research. 12.2 (2012): n. pag. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.