According to James Herrick, a discourse community is defined as “one that permits ‘people to think and act with unity to address a wide range of serious social problems’ and that it can run efficiently without the members actually knowing one another.”
There are many types of discourse communities that exist in society, banded together by a similar mode of thinking, ideological views, opinions, or ways of speaking. One example that is readily brought to mind and ties in to the readings of this week is a discourse community of individuals who defined themselves as “feminists.” Though this term varies depending on whom you speak to, at the core I think it is safe to assume that feminists believe that there should be equality among and between genders and that the same opportunities should exist for men and women. I would consider myself to be a part of feminist discourse. I’m also aware that I am part of a class discourse. You simply can’t exist in society without being a part of that group. The discourse communities we belong to are primarily made up by what we consider to be our identity. For example, I am a 24-year-old female of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent, I am a college graduate, as of this summer I will possess a master’s degree and in the fall I will be part of the doctoral program in journalism here. So just from that one sentence (which doesn’t even really begin to define *me* as an individual person), you can discern that I am a minority (being female and non-White) and that I am highly educated. So just right off the bat there, I have entered (whether consciously or unconsciously) into various discourse communities. We value our community discourse comrades because we feel they possess a specialized knowledge, insider view or at least a basic knowledge or awareness of the same things we think about or hold dear. For example, people who belong to a “gaming” community share a common ideology that video games are fun and worthwhile, along with some specialized knowledge of which the average population may be unaware.
I think another important aspect that was part of the original definition is that the members of the community don’t have to all know each other. I don’t know all of the females in the world, all of those who share my same ethnic background, all of those who are graduates of my universities, etc. But when I meet them, a common thread bands us together. Such as my classmate Carina, who also attended Florida State for undergrad. When we began discussing that, we felt a certain sentiment of camaraderie because of that. Whenever I meet another Persian or Turkish person (especially ones who possess the ability to speak my language), I feel a certain type of connection because I feel that they share something that we both have in common. They possess a specialized knowledge that many others may not possess. I think the same is true for basically all discourse communities, irrespective of what/who is involved in each of them. At the risk of sounding trite: birds of a feather flock together.