Discourse Community: Kickstarter

Blog » Discourse Community: Kickstarter

Posted on 07 Mar 2013 03:47

The goal of this blog post is to present a detailed analysis on the following discourse: Kickstarter. John Swales’ definition of a discourse will be used in this piece.

Kickstarter is website that allows people and/or companies to raise money through crowd funding, or garnering contributions from the general public over the Internet. People may use Kickstarter to fund a variety of projects from new technology to fashion to food. Every project creator sets her project's funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Incentives are given in the form of perks that range from t shirts to products, depending on the project. People will only be charged if the project reaches its funding goal. If the funding goal is reached, then Kickstarter will take a cut of the funds.

The document to be analyzed is titled “Jiva- Coffee Cubes & Hot Chocolate.” The document – a successfully funded project that I backed - may be found at the following website: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jivacubes/jiva-coffee-cubes-and-hot-chocolate-cubes. The “About” page of the Kickstarter website will also be used. The website will first be scouted for information on how the Kickstarter platform fits the six criteria John Swales sets for discourses. The six criteria for a discourse as described by Swales are as follows:
1. Commonly held goals
2. Mechanisms of intercommunication
3. Participation used to provide feedback and information
4. Uses genre(s) to help achieve goals
5. Developed specific lexicon and jargon
6. Has members of various expertise
Information from the document will then be analyzed to determine the role of the document within the discourse as well as the author of the document. Possible roles include providing information, giving directions, or putting forth an argument.

As “What is Kickstarter” page states, Kickstarter’s goal is to provide a platform for people to share their project ideas and support projects people find and like. However, different people in the community have slightly different goals within the common goal. Specifically, Kickstarter wants to profit and see ideas come to fruition. Project creators all want to fund their projects in order to achieve fame, success, profit, or some other motive. Project backers want to find interesting projects that match up with their beliefs and interests.

From the document, six methods of intercommunication are present: Project Descriptions, Backing, Comments, Updates, Notifications, and Emails. Each of those methods allows people to participate, give information, and/or provide feedback. Project creators to inform potential backers the important details of their projects through Project Descriptions. Backing allows a person to show his/her support by making a monetary contribution to the project. Comments serve as a forum to allow backers to give feedback on the project as well as raise questions. Project creators use updates to inform their backers/potential backers of any new information regarding the project. Notifications inform any users of important actions that occurred while they were away, including project updates and comments. Finally, emails are used in the same way as updates; emails allow people to see what’s going on without logging on to the Kickstarter website.

All of those methods of communication tie into Kickstarter’s goal of presenting and funding intriguing and interesting projects people come up with. In particular, descriptions, comments, emails, and updates basically combine to allow creators and backers to share their ideas on how the project can be improved and to clarify terms. Also, Backing is the ultimate way people can show their support for a project and/or its creator. For example, the document clearly shows that over 2,700 people have provided monetary support for the Jiva Cube project. A glance at the updates page shows that the project creators are eager to provide new incentives for backers to stick with the project and others to support the project.

As seen above, Kickstarter users have developed specific lexicon. For example, the term “backer” refers to anyone who has pledged money to support a project. “To back” means to support a project with money. “Perk” refers to a reward that is given for a monetary contribution. “Pledging” is to promise to contribute a certain amount of money if the project-funding goal is reached. “Updates” refer to any new information the project creators have provided.

Of course, levels of expertise range from the Kickstarter newbie who doesn’t know how to differentiate projects that seam like a hoax from legitimate projects to the super-involved user who is very active in backing and commenting on projects.

The particular document I chose was written by both backers and the project creators. The document was noticeably written by an insider because it showed evidence of a person(s) proficient in getting information about a product across in an interesting and concise manner. The author shows a video first to bring life to the project, following with project updates and a FAQ to show the author’s investment in the project. Since the project earned nearly six times its funding goal, it is safe to say the author was an insider.

The document helped the Kickstarter community achieve its goals because it is an example of a successfully funded project. For a project to be successfully funded, the project creators must lay our their project descriptions clearly. On the document, it is very easy to see what the project is because the first item a person will notice on the document is a video describing Jiva Cubes.

Project creators must also provide frequent updates to show the backers that they are involved and heavily invested in the project. Backers themselves were also very active in learning about the project, posting a combined 137 comments on the project and hundreds more on each project update.

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