Archival Science

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 437–460 | Cite as

Genre systems and “keeping track” in everyday life

  • Pamela J. McKenzieEmail author
  • Elisabeth Davies
Original Paper


Keeping track of what needs to be done and where and when and by whom is a common practice in Canadian households. The documentary tools used to coordinate the work of keeping track in everyday life are the focus of this paper. We consider these documentary tools as belonging to genres. On the basis of four in-depth interviews, observation, and photography, we identify four genres common to all participants: check-ins or status reports, lists, reminders, and calendars. We map examples of these genres to show that they are socially and intertextually connected—in genre systems—with institutions and organizations beyond the home. Archivists have much to gain by applying the concept of genre-as-social-action and using ethnographic methods to study personal records from the creator’s perspective. Such approaches provide insight into the contexts within which personal records are created and used, including the intertextual linkages between personal and institutional recordkeeping.


Genres Documents Personal recordkeeping Ethnomethodology Mapping Time management 



The authors would like to thank our participants for opening their homes and genre sets to us, our research assistant Lola Wong, and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies for funding support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Information and Media StudiesThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.HalifaxCanada

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