The Concept of Discourse Community: Star, Problem Child, Cash ...
The Concept of Discourse Community: Star, Problem Child, Cash-cow or Dog? John M. Swales [email protected] The Colonic Title THEME TOPIC THEORY AIM
GENERAL DEVELOPMENT COMMENT APPLICATION METHOD SPECIFIC SENSE NONSENSE
EARNESTNESS FRIVOLITY The Boston Product Portfolio Matrix CASH COW STAR Current situation DOG
PROBLEM CHILD Future potential How can we keep the cash-cow going? Would a marketing blitz turn our problem child into a star? Is it time to retire dog? (Products? publishers lists? departmental courses? A universitys academic units? ) Your own products/productions?)
DOG John Swales & Paul Fanning (1980) English in the Medical Laboratory (London: Thomas Nelson) This book describes a laboratory procedure [mouth pipetting] which is now banned in the U.K. All copies of the book should be withdrawn and destroyed. (Registrar, London hospital) PROBLEM CHILDREN Other Floors, Other Voices Incidents in an Educational life
Speech Community v. Discourse Community SC: A homogenous sociolinguistic assemblage of people who share place, background, language variety, cultural values, etc (Marthas Vineyard, the outports of Newfoundland, Warm Springs) DC: A heterogenous sociorhetorical assemblage of people who broadly share occupational or recreational goals and interests. (Particle physicists, an animal clinic, a local tennis club)
Of course, you say, it is not as simple as that The effects of national media, globalization, international trade Place and occupation intersect: university towns (Cambridge, Heidelberg) sporting towns (Saratoga, St. Andrews) government towns (Washington, Ottawa) religious towns (Assisi, Mecca) fishing towns, mining towns, gaming towns, etc
Family traditions, caste restrictions, class preferences So, is discourse community A term of art? The center of a set of ideas? (Herzberg) A convenient covering metaphor? A deluding utopian fiction? (Harris) A robust social construct? Can it be suitably defined?
Google Scholar The concept of discourse community Wikepedia. Swales presents six defining characteristics: A discourse community: 1) has a broadly agreed set of common public goals 2) has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members 3) uses its participatory mechanisms to provide information and feedback 4) Utilizes and possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims.
5) in addition to owning genres, it has acquired some specific lexis. 6) has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise. Extracts from published work (Wardle & Downs; Eric Borg; Swales 1998; 1987 CCCC talk; Beaufort; Ann Johns, etc) Established Websites (Researchomatic; NCTE Issue Brief on Discourse Communities,
etc Blog Posts (instructors; Students; about half summarize and apply the six criteria) (very few demurrals; One (Jordan Rosa: Questions I still have: Are these the only characteristics of a discourse community, or My third surprise (Vainglorious) gratification, but a sense of dismay at the inertia. (Acceptance of something that was written in the late 1980s before the undergrads were born, before globalization, and
before social media) (Theoretically, worries about the concept) PROBLEM CHILD (Practically, class participants use the six criteria to investigate DCs that they are familiar with). CASH-COW Heather Waynes slide show Using the 6 criteria, are these discourse communities? 1) A soccer team 2) A sorority/fraternity 3) UCF 4) Publix employees
5) The Hong Kong Study Circle 6) Republican voters 7) College Democrats at UCF 8) Composition scholars 9) Occupants of Nike dorms 10) Our class Problems with the six: 1) A static world, with fixed structure and hierarchy: little movement in or out The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre Observe degree, priority, and place
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, Office, and custom, in all line of order; O, when degree is shakd, which is the ladder of all high designs, The enterprise is sick. How could communities, Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities, Peaceful commerce from dividable shores, The primogenity of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels But by degree stand in authentic place? Take but degree away, untune that string, And hark what discord follows.
No more Utopian fantasy; Untuning Ulysses string without total discord Heronstein Smiths observation that too many scholars miss and obscure each individuals membership in multiple communities, communities that require many social roles, and subsequently a collage of allegiances, beliefs and sets of motives A Professor of Linguistics and Director of the ELI A Professor of Biology and Director of the Herbarium
See the same man, in vigour, in the gout; Alone, in company; in place, or out; Early at business, and at hazard late; Mad at a fox-chace, wise at a debate; Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball, Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall. (Alexander Pope, Epistle I: To Cobham (1734) Problem 2: The Burkean Parlor & Entrances and Exits
The 6 criteria piece was written late 1980s. In a changed world, more attention in entries, re-entries, exits. Lave & Wengers community of practice deals with this aspect Qualification/admission/entry Apprenticeship/probation/acculturation
membership seniority old-fartage Three types of DC 1) Local: Betsys Hair Salon The local food co-op The local historical society (EMU for an outsider; where is everything?
The short building names; which doors are locked and when? Do lectures start on the hour or ten after? How do I make a photo-copy? Etc) 2) Focal : The American Studies Association North American Butterfly Association EPPCN (The European Particle Physics Communication Network) Whovians (Regional, national or international assemblages,
networks, organizations) Mertons invisible colleges 3) Flocal: The American Studies Dept at Michigan A local branch of your bank Local chapters of various national organizations Mixed loyalties; both centripetal and centrifugal forces (teaching/departmental service v. research/publication)
Discourse community reconsiderd 1. A DC has a broadly agreed set of goals 1a. A DC has a potentially discoverable set of goals. These may be publicly and explicitly formulated (as in mission statements), and/or may be generally or partially recognized by its members; they may be consensual; or they may be separate but contiguous (Old Guard and Young Turks; academic researchers and practitioners, as in the just-holding-together American Psychological Association). (A darker world, not excluding Al-Qaida, cabals, industry
pressure groups etc) 2. A DC has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members 2a. Little change, but for new digital channels, interactive websites, blogs, Twitter, texting etc. (So subscribers to the NYT or Direct TV are not members of a discourse community.) 3. Uses it participatory mechanisms to provide information and feedback
Always sadly incomplete. 3a. Uses its participatory mechanisms to manage the operations of the DC and to promote (usually) change, growth and development and to orchestrate (rarely) retrenchment and demise. As Jim Martin said Genres are how things get done when words are used to accomplish them. 4. A DC utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims. (Possesses?)
4a. A DC utilizes an evolving selection of genres in the furtherance of its sets of goals and as a means of instantiating its participatory mechanisms. These sets of genres are often particularized. (The genres are performed, re-performed and refined, but rarely owned (i.e. uniquely theirs.). (The Friday afternoon get-together: Happy Hour; Birthday Celebrations; the 4 p.m. Departmental seminar; Help Please and Progress. ) 5. In addition to owning genres, it has acquired some
specific lexis. 5a. A DC has acquired and continues to refine DCspecific terminology. Classically, these consist of abbreviations and shorthands of all kinds, not excluding things like The tuna sandwich in the corner wants a refill; the meatloaf is 86-ed. (In the older ELI; A new student may be described as She looks like a 73 across the board. Code 236 on floor 6. 6. A DC has a threshold of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and
discoursal expertise. 6a. A DC has an explicit or implicit hierarchy and/ or structure which, inter alia, manages the processes of entry into and advancement within the discourse community. 7. A DC develops a sense of silential relations (Becker) whereby there is a sense of things that do not need to be said or do not need to be spelled out. (Members of a Bridge Club)
Discovery of a new (larger) mammal Discovery of a new bird Bunchosia itacarensis W R Anderson, sp. nov. Type: Brazil. Bahia: Mun. Itacar, 3 km S of Itacar, forest at edge of ocean, Dec fl, Mori et al. 13081 (Holotype: MICH! CEPEC, NY, not seen). 8. A DC develops horizons of expectation, defined rhythms of activity, a sense of its history, and value systems for what is good and less good work. (Stocktaking on Tuesdays; Artsoppa on Thursdays)
In NUBS (!) The Computer Center: A shelf-life of months The ELI: Several years The Herbarium : Several decades A DC example: NABA A complex website: Mission Statement, Shop, Interactive feature (hot seens), political action (saving the Miami Blue) An annual convention
A quarterly journal An embryonic National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas Local chapters (few but growing) NABA butterfly counts NABA Butterfly Counts: Annual Report 335. Wake Co., NC. Yr 17, 35.8563, -78.6599, center at Shelley Lake Park. See 1995 report for habitats. Habit changes since last year. Arboretum annual beds were moved but remain available. 31 August 2011; 0900-1700 hrs; sun AM & PM 76-100%; 65-88F;
wind 0-5 mi/hr. 8 observers in 3 parties. Total party-hours 15; total party-miles on foot 15. Observers: Pipeline Swallowtail 20, Black Sw. 4, E. Tiger Sw. 29, Spicebush Sw.7, Cabbage White 3, Clouded Sulphur 4, Orange Su.4, Sleepy Orange 61, Gray Hairstreak 5, Red-banded Ha 6, Total 43 species, 759 individuals. Immatures: Monarch 41 eggs on com. Milkweed; Pipevine Sw. 3 caterpillars on Dutchmans Pipe. Field Notes: Hurricane Irene barely reached Wake Co., but may have affected numbers of Cloudless Sulphur and other southern immigrants.
A different example: Whovians and a Whovian Carson Maynard Early Whovian history November 2013, London: Dr Who 50th Anniversary Celebration Talks, Panels, merchandize, autograph booths, hand-on demonstrations, kids shows His collection, his favorite episodes His regret that theres no local chapter/meet-up group
Whovians (2) Personal kudos: Waris Hussein; Delia Derbyshire North American Doctor Who Appreciation Society Gallifrey Conventions Fanzines Websites, podcasts, discussions boards, fan productions (June, 2009, 40,000 members of discussion forum) Trock music Tardis, a room or building that is actually larger
than it appears Final Considerations Two Quotations The term discourse community is useful for describing a space that was unacknowledged before because we did not have a term for it. The term realigns the traditional unities writer, audience, textinto a new configuration. What was largely scene before, unnoticed background, becomes foreground. (James Porter, 1992) Why has DC theory have such strange features: instant
adoptability, resilience in the face of critique, resistance to calls for theoretical specification, the protean character of its fundamental assumptions as it migrates across theoretical and empirical traditions? (Paul Prior, 2003) But is it a robust social construct? Probably not. A historian might say it doesnt account for social, economic or political forces that impact a DC. A sociologist might say it doesnt acknowledge
the effects of broader social structures. An educationist might say it downplays acquisitional trajectories as well as the roles of individual agencies. An anthropologist might say it ignores important aspects of cultural history If it is not robust, does it matter? Probably not. Like Porter, it can be argued if your focus is on rhetorical principles of organization, on discoursal expectations, and on telling
linguistics tokens, it provides insight into what at first sight might seem standard, ordinary and predictable. Even if, DC descriptions are blurred snapshots, always imperfectly pinning down conventions and topoi that are in flux (Laura Wilder, 2012) So, theoretically, DC may still be a PROBLEM CHILD, although (hopefully) moving toward a more settled adolescence. But, heuristically and pedagogically, it has the potential to be
a STAR if: The available definitional criteria are critically evaluated rather than being tamely accepted. 2. Reflections on student-experienced DCs (working in a car wash, skate-boarding groups, animal hospital interns) can be used as a bridge to academic DCs. 3. The associated genres are viewed not just as products, but also in terms of their production and reception 4. Discourse communities are aligned with disciplinary tribes and territories. 1.
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