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Multiplatform Writing in University Admissions


Professional organizations frequently publish on multiple platforms, such as paper-and-ink, computers, internet, and mobile phones, to communicate with stakeholders. With more platforms has come more complexity for creating, publishing, and managing content. Over the past four decades, organizations have changed from using ad hoc approaches to creating and publishing content to developing intentional strategies for the publication and management of content on multiple platforms. However, little study in the areas of genre, multimodal studies, and professional writing has foregrounded how the intentional use of multiple platforms has changed and is continuing to change composition practices. Understanding how the use of multiple platforms changes composition practices would help organizations improve their messaging and prevent communication breakdowns, such as inaccuracy in content and redundancy of channels for their stakeholders.

To examine how strategically publishing on multiple platforms is changing composition practices, this dissertation examined the artifacts created, published, and managed on the multiplatform recruitment genre set of the UCSB Admissions Office. A model was adapted to look at the composition practices in terms of the genre set’s content substance and structure, intended function of artifacts, and the work practices of the organization. This model combined the content strategy model of Halvorson and Rach (2012), the second-generation activity theory model of Engeström (1999), and ideas from Boumans (2005) and Erdal (2011) on the interaction of platforms to examine the changes.

After examining the UCSB recruitment genre set, it was determined that the intentional use of multiple platforms with a content strategy had influenced changes to the content practices of the Admissions Office. The content substance was now based on six major themes (Research, Academics, Service, Community, Beauty, and Outcomes) to keep the content consistent across platforms; it also used various microthemes with unique examples on different channels in order to reduce redundancy. For content structure, each artifact was created to play a persuasive or informative role in the genre set. For genre, there was evidence that the Admissions Office was creating modular genres based on topic-based content to keep the interaction models consistent across platforms and to reduce inaccuracy of content. In terms of genre and modes, there was also the development of a flexible genre in the form of a PowerPoint, whose structure remained the same in terms of the visual slide content, while the verbal content of presenters could change to suit different stakeholders.

For intended function of the artifacts, each artifact played a role in the recruitment genre set. The Admission Guide played a lead role and all the other artifacts supported the guide in either informative or persuasive functions. For work practices, each artifact had an individual activity system to oversee the creation, publication, and management of the artifact over the Admissions Cycle. A single coordinator oversaw all the systems in order to keep the substance and structure of the content consistent and to reduce redundancy.

While the results of a single case study of one organization using multiple platforms are not generalizable to all organizations, there are several possible implications for the fields of genre, multimodal studies, and professional writing.

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