“When the newsfeeds had switched from local tabloid updates to the cheery pomp and circumstance of impending military action—it seemed to be a genre, something that the Teixcalaanli broadcasters simply knew how to do—”
-Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire
Lately I’ve been noticing what I ‘know how to do’ in different situations—or at least, what I find myself trying to do. While writing an Uproar post I try to include a personal story, a way that these ideas live through an experience I’ve had. While saying I love you to my partner, I tend toward phrases I like that I’ve heard people use to talk to their partners, or else in-jokes and references to things my partner and I have said together. A kind of shared pattern book of references and words and habits of expression. There are other examples, too: when I’m stressed out from working, I tend to play a game on boardgamearena.com, eat some potato chips, turn to my phone. Sometimes, instead, I listen to some music and move a little, or lay on the floor breathing, or write without worrying where the words go.
One word I’ve started using for all these different patterns is genre. One wonderful thing about genres is they’re shared. Perhaps it’s possible to have one that’s “just mine,” but most of these patterns are things I’ve seen people do. I’ve been around people who are eating potato chips because they’re worried. I try it, too. Another wonderful thing is that genres are all wound up in culture. As Martine points out, the things we ‘simply know how to do’—like recognizing when you’re being trolled, or posting pictures of your salad to instagram, or saying goodnight (as my family does) with I love you—have a lot to do with how my communities interact. One more thing that’s wonderful about genres is that they’re always changing. I keep wondering: what is possible that I’m not really seeing? What else might I try in this kind of situation? A “genre” doesn’t mean I need to figure out a “better way” right now. It just means that, day by day, I can notice/make/grow/play with these patterns. I can live out different versions of what if as I build these responses that I simply know how to do.