Discourse Communities

A discourse community is a “group that has goals or purposes, and uses communication to achieve these goals” (John Swales). What does that mean? Like a sports team or a non-profit group or even the skateboarding community, a discourse community:

  1. has a broadly agreed set of common goals.
  2. shares specific values.
  3. has a specialized vocabulary.
  4. uses specific genres to communicate with its members.
  5. has a threshold of knowledge/skill that someone must meet in order to join the discourse community.

In other words, a DC is a group with shared goals, values, skills, language, and ways of communicating.

Of course, that raises a question about exclusion: how does somebody join one? How do its members regulate membership?

Here’s an example of how you might map a discourse community: DC example_1

And here’s how one high school student mapped a web of her own discourse communities: DC web

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