The Pros and Cons of Joining in a Discourse Community

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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Two people, one language, one communication path. This is what we would define as a discourse community. While Dr. Tripp easily defined this for us, Ann Johns spent considerable time dwelling on this facet of what a discourse community is. In her essay, “Discourse Communities and Communities of Practice: Membership, Conflict, and Diversity,” Johns breaks down discourse communities in many ways. Certain discussions, touching on points of being involved in different groups, reminded me a lot of my college experiences.

“As this discussion indicates, individuals often affiliate with several communities at the same time, with varying levels of involvement and interest” (502).

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Johns makes it a point to get the reader to understand that you may be a part of a group because of agreement on certain topics, and as time goes on, the group can evolve, and that might change your level of involvement. When I first rushed Pi Phi, I was barely involved at all. I never came around, and in reality, that was because I didn’t understand anything that was going on. On top of Pi Phi, I had a job, school, and was involved in many other groups. I also tend to sign up for too many things at the same time, so there’s no way I can be heavily involved in all these different discourse communities. As time went on, things evolved and my views and involvement level changed between my different groups. I went from being heavily involved in work and other activities to being mostly involved in Pi Phi and school. To this day, things are still changing, but I’m mainly involved in the same activities. This proves John’s point of joining and involvement.

Alongside this, she provides us with a conflict brought up in joining a discourse community and staying involved. As a personal choice, you choose to join and stay involved. I joined Pi Phi because I wanted to be part of a sorority. Yes, it was my choice how involved I got, and in hindsight, I’m glad I followed through. During rush, I started to realize how selective they could be. Johns states, “In some cases people are excluded from communities because they lack social standing, talent, or money, or because they live in the wrong part of town” (511). I now understand how ruthlessly these sororities can be when eliminating girls for reasons just like this. The one comment she made that related most to my Pi Phi experience was where a “community membership requires a long initiatory process, and even then there is no guarantee of success” (511). Pi Phi and every sorority require a long initiation process to become a sister. Even being a sister, there can still be cliques within the sorority that can differentiate them from the entire group.

With a discourse community like this, you see many positive and negative aspects; numerous group bonding experiences, but also many conflicts. No discourse community is perfect, but depending on how involved you are, your standing and view on that group may vary. Being in many groups can show you the differences in being involved in different discourse communities. These communities “are useful to study because they can share conventions, values, and histories” (516).

Works Cited

Johns, Ann M. “Discourse Communities and Communities of Practice: Membership, Conflict, and Diversity.” Writing About Writing. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 498-519. Print.

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The Pros and Cons of Joining in a Discourse Community. (2022, Nov 18). Retrieved from