Midterm Revision Proposal--Reddit: When Genre Dictates a Community

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Posted on 05 May 2013 02:36

Midterm Revision Contract


In my original midterm piece, I attempted to study a popular Internet forum, Reddit, as a case of a discourse community, based on the models of discourse communities developed by John Swales and James Paul Gee. I collected very interesting data, and invariably, satisfied my own expectations for analyzing Reddit through the lens of the Gee and Swales models. It occurred to me, and was pointed out, that the particular community I had chosen exhibited very interesting preference for certain genres, in such a way that it seems as though the entire community is based specifically on the continuous use of those genres. For example, Redditors typically communicate via “threads” of comments wherein they can keep replying to every new comment made by each Redditor. Similarly, Redditors have adopted popular Internet fads, known as “memes”, where in a character, word, place, or object that exhibits specific characteristics is often reused for humor, or as a means to spread information to a larger subset of Redditors who prefer familiar images to text.

Having recognized the influence that genres have on entire communities, I would like to use the revision to expand on the concept and describe exactly what roe genre plays in the Reddit discourse community.


My intended audience for this piece is the academic world of sociolinguists who have special interest in discussing discourse communities and understanding how the Internet has both complied with and expanded previous definitions of discourse communities, and who have specific interest in the role that genre plays in cyber discourse communities. I'd like to be speaking to academics so that I can keep with the jargon that I had developed in my original piece and so that the significance of all of the definitions is appreciated by my audience, rather than skipped over. I originally wanted to appeal to anybody trying to integrate into the Reddit community, but I have since realized that anybody with some background knowledge of the importance of things like genre and discourse would be very bored by the information I'm providing for them. Academics, however, can consider my research seriously and learn from it, because it is a case study of a very large and game changing discourse community: the World Wide Web.

Key Questions:

What is Reddit and how is it a discourse community?
What are the genres that define communication within it?
How do Redditors communicate? How do the genres used on Reddit keep the community intact?
How do the genres used on Reddit create unwritten guidelines for participation?
Why are guidelines important within discourse communities?

Writerly Challenges and Concrete Goals:


This piece presents me with many challenges, some of which I don't even understand yet. For starters, I've chosen a rather bold statement as my thesis: that genres are the glue of discourse communities. While I believe this to be true of Reddit, I'm weary that I might need to format this essay in a way that doesn't imply it is about all discourse communities, which I don't know to be true. Second, I am still not quite sure that this is true. While the genres used on Reddit do provide a method of communicating, whether it is a "meme" or the thread, I still feel that what actually holds the particular sub-Reddit r/atheism together (or any sub-Reddit, for that matter) are the common goals and ideals of its subscribers. This is something that my original piece points out, through a very slow and drawn out description of the community in general. However, since this revision is meant to be exclusively about genres, I'm not entirely clear on how I wish to describe the community so as not to stray too far from genres. At the moment I feel like there will be very much new writing and a very faint remnant of the old piece. I'd like for this to not happen.


I want to use in-text citations more often in this piece, as I didn’t do it at all in the original one. I want to maintain the calm, authoritative writing style that I had in the original piece, because I feel it was the first time that I exhibited such a good habit. I want this to be a genuinely useful piece that I can confidently give to people who need information on Reddit and how to integrate into the community.

Genre Models:

The end product is going structurally look very much like John Swales's essay "Worlds of Genre—Metaphors of Genre". This particular essay of his is a very authoritative explanation and analysis. He begins by introducing and motivating his subject and then he explains each important concept, its relevance and what it means to his thesis. I intend to use most of my old piece and to reorganize it in the Swales fashion, in accordance with my own thesis. Instead of being organized like a research study, it will be organized like an authoritative explanation that draws from a case study done by me adjacently.

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