The genre of social media: Using LinkedIn as more than just an online resume

When you hear or read the word “genre,” you normally think of categories of literature or films – romance, science fiction, horror, drama, etc. Genre can be applied in a similar fashion to technical communications. In this setting, genre refers to a category of tools and resources used within the world of technical communications. For example, one genre might be paper-based communication tools such as letters, memos and reports. Another genre is digital-based tools such as emails, websites, and social media. We discussed in detail last week how information design and content management is changing from a paper genre to a digital genre.

This week, our readings put these changes into perspective when it comes to activity theory and human-computer interaction.  According to Longo (as originally stated by Kuutti), “Activity theory is a philosophical and cross-disciplinary framework for studying different forms of human practices as development processes, with both individual and social levels interlinked at the same time,” (p. 160). In this framework, “an activity contains a subject and object whose relationship is mediated by artifacts/tools to achieve an outcome” (p, 160). Refer to Figure 1 below which illustrates the basic structure of an activity.

Basic structure of an activity

Basic structure of an activity
Image source: Rott, L. (2013). Recreated from Kuutti, 1996.

To tie it all together, we looked at LinkedIn this week. LinkedIn is an example of a social media tool within the digital genre that shows us how the interaction between a person, materials and outcomes can occur through a computer-mediated interface.  In other words, LinkedIn is an online tool that is used to create a number of human interactions, using multiple tools, with various intended outcomes. These outcomes include:

1)      Staying connected to professional contacts

2)      Networking for future business opportunities

3)      Individual job searches

4)      Employer candidate searches

5)      Researching companies

Using the same chart as before, I filled in the specific areas (tool, subject, object, etc.) in reference specifically to LinkedIn and how interactions occur on this site. See Figure 2.

Image source: Rott, L. (2013). Adapted from Kuutti, 1996.

Basic structure of an activity – LinkedIn example
Image source: Rott, L. (2013). Adapted from Kuutti, 1996.

All of this makes me realize that the interactions and purpose behind social media is much more complex and intricate than I originally thought. When I first signed up for a LinkedIn account (it was just last year – yeah, I was a late adopter), I thought it would just be a nice way to reconnect with a number of past colleagues and perhaps connect with a few clients. And that it could act as an online resume. I really didn’t understand what all it had to offer until just recently. What happened recently? Well, first, I read the Maggiani and Marshall article a few weeks earlier than scheduled. Second, I received an email from LinkedIn (referenced in Figure 2 and embedded below) on ways to improve your profile.


Some of the things that I personally plan on incorporating into my profile are:

  • Posting regular updates on the industry I work in and concepts I am learning about in graduate school
  • Sharing information regarding events or conferences I attend, or even relevant books/research I’ve read or documentaries I’ve watched
  • Adding a list of specific coursework I have taken – the name of a degree can be a bit ambiguous so why not spell it out for a prospective employer?
  • Asking for references!

This last point is a heads up (warning?) to Professor Pignetti.  I may be asking you to write me a reference very soon for my LinkedIn page!

Posted on November 3, 2013, in Social Media and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I guess I would qualify as a non-adopter in this regard; I still haven’t joined LinkedIn. When I first heard of it, I thought it was another FaceBook. Now that I’m finding out that it is more of a professional networking site, it might be worth looking into. I will have to look into it a bit more, and decide whether I want to invest time into setting up a profile, knowing that I won’t be using it for anything until I start thinking about job searching again.
    Have others found that it is worthwhile to keep LinkedIn, even though you already use FaceBook and aren’t actively job searching?

    • I think the key thing to keep in mind is that Facebook and LinkedIn have different purposes and social circles. Facebook is personal. It includes my friends and family. LinkedIn is purely for professional reasons and includes my co-workers, past co-workers and bosses, clients and vendors. I would not want my clients to have access to my Facebook page due to a lot of personal information, so this is where LinkedIn can really come in handy.

      I believe it to be worthwhile to set up a LinkedIn profile before you start job hunting so you can work on setting up connections in advance. Even if you’re not looking for a job, it can give you insights into the industry that you want to work in – there are TONS of resources and articles to read and you can also see what groups your connections are involved with. For instance, just today, I saw my co-worker had joined a group called “Social Media Marketing for the Health Care Field.” This is of interest to me, not only because of this class, but also because I am trying to learn how to use social media more with my customers. I checked into this group and there was a lot of great info!

  2. evelynmartens13

    Hi Lori:

    Your charts reminded me of what we’re learning about in Visual Rhetoric this week — have you taken that already? It’s in the Kress and Van Leeuwen book and talkes about how lines, geomety, etc can shape a narrative (transmitter, goal, etc.). Pairing the reading with your post was one of those timely “learning moments” for me.

    I watched the video you posted and found it helpful (and concise!). One thing that continues to worry me is this move towards posting photos. It seems that there’s a lot of potential for abuse when hiring quthorities are able to take photos into consideration (age, race, gender, etc). Have you read anything about that? It takes me back to the day when it used ot be ok (encouraged?) to attach a picture to your resume and also include marital status, like “single.” Maybe “single” would suggest you wouldn’t get pregant and company won’t lose productivity. Conversely, “married,” might mean for a more reliable and stable employee.

    I mean, I know we’re not going to stop this trend, so I won’t fight it, but I just wonder if anyone else is worried that a completely glass house might be too much of a good thing.

    Nice post!

    • Hi Evelyn,
      Yes, I am in the Visual Rhetoric class with you right now! I haven’t done my post yet this week, but maybe I’ll use one of my charts as an example of how visuals works better than words. Thanks for the idea! 🙂

      I have thought a little bit about the photo conundrum. Before LinkedIn, I considered putting a photo on my resume, but I didn’t want that to affect the outcome. Somehow, it now feels different on a social networking site. I mean, if a future employer really wanted to find out what I looked like, they can probably find a photo of me online somewhere. Why not at least cast myself in the best light possible with a professional photo on a professional website? You know, try to control it as much as I can?

      I think it’s now illegal to ask job candidates about their marital status. My husband took a basic employment law class and I’m pretty sure that’s what he learned. You also can’t ask if they smoke. I’ve heard of hiring managers getting around this, however, by showing the candidate where the smoking area outside the building is. At that point, the candidate would volunteer the information with a response like, “oh, I don’t smoke,” or, “thanks, good to know.”

  3. evelynmartens13

    Yes, as I turned my attention to our Visual Rhetoric assignment that’s due tomorrow, I realized, “of course! Lori’s in my class.” (Sorry). I think the fact that we had a couple weeks break while we worked on our projects discombobulated me. I’m also taking 3 classes, so there are days when it all runs together…

    Good point about “controlling” the photo. I just worry that at my age, my age will become a factor. Oh, well, no turning it back…

  4. Lori, I need to start reading these posts when they come in because although you posted first, I’m commenting on yours last so I feel I’ve run out of LinkedIn points to make! I do like that you used this post as an opportunity to reflect upon your own use of the site and make plans for revision!

    Regarding the title of your post, might you ever consider a Prezi for your resume? I just came across this template and thought it was an intriguing twist on the “document”:

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