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Author Topic: The Forge as a community (Thread #5 of 5)  (Read 26383 times)
wraeththu
Member

Posts: 13


« Reply #30 on: December 03, 2002, 10:27:46 PM »

I've been reading the Forge Forums for several months now without trying to really reply or interact with many of the threads.  I can say from a sidelines viewer's point of view that this site very much has a "Community" feel.  You can't wander in without noticing that it's very much a discussion community that has obviously been sitting at the bar and gabbing together for a long time now.   As in all social settings, the established foundations appear slightly daunting to the outsider, but I have gotten the feel that newcomers are welcome here.  So, as an odd overview - congrats on the creation of this community.  No matter what Ron and Clint aimed to do a year ago - they created something wonderful.

As a game designer, I've found a ton of useful information on this site.  I stumbled onto it by accident one night and fairly devoured all the various posts and threads.  I've been watching it avidly ever since.  Ron seemed confused that someone would view this place as "primarily of/for designers."  To me, that just seemed plainly obvious.  It's all about Design and Launch and Support of RPG's.  Much of what I've read here is mainly of interest to me as a designer first and as a player second.   <chuckle> when I bring this stuff up in conversation to players around me, most get that glassy eyed look as if I'd started going on about quantum mechanics.

Anyway, this thread really does have a very Sienfield-esque quality.  Since we were discussing Community though, I wanted to bring up the facts that
1. the community does exist.
2. it's an amazingly fun set of viewpoints being shared
3. it's a unique place with a unique offering.
and most importantly -
4. The Forge is highly appreciated

-wade jones
dialectic llc
atlanta, ga
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-wade jones
developer for Gnostica
dialectic LLC
www.gnostica.biz
Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #31 on: December 03, 2002, 10:45:33 PM »

Ok, a lot of interesting stuff has been brought up since I posted.  I’m back to plug away at my angle on one thing that the Forge is to me-- a “discourse community.”  As Mike and Ron have pointed out, sure, I can say “the Forge is a discourse community,” and I can even provide evidence for my statement...  

But so what?  

What is a discourse community, and what does conceptualizing the Forge as a discourse community do for us?

First, I’ll provide a quick definition of discourse community in the sense I’m using it.  Then I’ll get right into the issue of what it does for us.  

Definitions: I’m approaching the concept from the perspective of applied linguistics, specifically genre analysis (one analytical tool commonly used in the field).  John Swales, a University of Michigan linguist, is my main influence here.  He uses the concept of discourse community as a part of how he analyzes genres of text.  His focus is on the academic research article, and thus on the discourse community that uses it.  So genres and discourse communities are related in that different communities use different language structures to get things done.  When I identify the Forge as a discourse community, I’m saying we are a community that shares a bunch of (primarily written) genres.  Once that is established, we can safely start to analyze what those genres are, which then allows us to help others get involved in the community by becoming competent in using those genres.  Swales, as I mentioned, uses it to analyze academic and research writing.  His discourse communities are primarily the discourse communities of academia, particularly the sciences.  He has done a lot of work analyzing scientific discourse, which he has then applied pedagogically to teaching non-native English speaking graduate students how to use language more effectively in their academic communities.  As for a straight up definition of “discourse community, Swales uses this as a basis: the notion is “that language use in a group is a form of social behavior, that discourse is a means of maintaining and extending the group’s knowledge and of initiating new members into the group, and that discourse is epistemic or constitutive of the group’s knowledge.”  This definition, by the way, is from a 1986 paper presented by Bruce Herzberg.  

That’s a short definition, and it’s longer than I’d hoped it would be.  Now I’ll get to what understanding our status as a discourse community does for us.

My answer is that it is one way to analyze how the Forge helps community members use language to achieve community and individual goals.  And once we start to really understand how we are doing this, community members are more prepared to provide new members with tools to do the same.  

From this perspective, Ron’s “set of five,” particularly this thread, is all about gathering input from the community about what the standards of the community are.  The first criterion of a discourse community is the presence of a “broadly agreed set of public goals.”  The community is continually evolving in its relationships to these goals, and as a number of people have pointed out in this thread alone, although individual members may have different ideas about how these goals are prioritized, we do broadly agree on what these goals are.  An example of this is the “improving play” vs. “supporting design” issue, which to a large extent isn’t really an “either/or” issue.  Instead it’s an issue of identifying our individual priorities and how they influence what we each interpret the community’s priority to be.  It may not be necessary to really define which priority is our primary one.  Both are accepted as goals shared by the community.  I haven’t seen anyone argue that either of these goals is not important.  Rather, the discussion is centered on which is most important.  

Next, where I see the “discourse community” concept becoming particularly useful is in raising our collective awareness of what we are doing when we’re talking about language.  As a discourse community, we share a set of genres and vocabulary items.  Again, individual members have varying degrees of expertise, but by and large the generic structures and vocabulary are shared.  The Forge is somewhat famous (or infamous) for its “lingo,” which is just our shared vocabulary.  Every discourse community has one—ours is just more, well, rigorously defined.  But I would argue that our word use isn’t even the most important part of how we use language.  Although many new members and non-members claim difficulties due to “Forge lingo,” I think they are more often really having troubles at the post and thread levels.  In language terms, they are having problems at the genre level, and all the more so because they are having difficulties identifying this.  The “Etiquette at the Forge” thread formalizes some of the post and thread level expectations about language use.  It provides a really useful introduction to the way we use language at the Forge.  That said, I suspect a lot of folks don’t read it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t read it at first because I’ve trained myself not to read those things.  Instead of reading it, many folks learn through more direct initiation by the experts—the Forge members who have been around and figured this stuff out.  Many new members learn through engaging in discourse directly with the rest of the community.

On this note, I think one of the most vital aspects of keeping a discourse community alive and vital is ensuring that we have a high enough ratio of active experts to novices to keep the community’s identity clear.  Again, the “set of five,” while perhaps doing a number of other things, has done a lot to bring the ideas of expert members and novice members together.  The Forge has grown a lot over the last year, and it’s not surprising that this has been pointed out most often by the expert members, who are feeling the pressures of keeping the discourse community going while introducing new members to its goals and concepts.  The new members, for their part, are bringing a lot of new ideas of their own and expanding the meaning of “what the Forge community is.”  Furthermore, everyone who is reading the Forge regularly is also becoming a part of the discourse community and becoming familiar with how language is used here.  I suspect that this “set of five” has done more to show new members what the Forge is about and how language is used here than the “Etiquette” thread, not only because it is compelling, but also because it is current.

Now, the term “discourse community” is really focused on discourse carried out through text.  Because the Forge community interacts through text, I thought it might bring some tools to our toolbox of talking about what we are.  I think the usefulness of identifying ourselves as a discourse community is partly in just coming to an understanding of how we communicate in and support the Forge community.  As we do this, we also have the option of exploring successful language use within the community.  For example, we might begin identifying “successful” and “unsuccessful” language use at the Forge and describing the structures that have made it successful or unsuccessful (I’m purposely not getting into defining “successful” or “unsuccessful” just yet).  By doing so, we could more quickly help new members join the community effectively.  

That’s what I see “discourse community” adding to our understanding of the Forge.  

As I said at the beginning, this is only one aspect of even my own answer to what the Forge is, as a community.  There are a number of other issues in this thread, a number of other aspects of the question that others are currently exploring.  I’ll let others explore those for now simply because I’m exhausted :)

Rich
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MK Snyder
Member

Posts: 116


« Reply #32 on: December 04, 2002, 12:17:20 AM »

Hmmm, Ron, your first post in this thread seems to me to be a bit overly pessimistic in tone. Maybe it is because the Forge has been generating materials of late that are useful in diagnosing disfunction in the Social Contract, and we are low on success stories.

When I came to this forum, I thought it focussed on the design, production, and marketing of Independent RPG's. I now see that in addition to that, this forum has also been generating other resources useful to the RPG community as a whole, such as analyses of the industry, examination of the player base demographically, examination of player motivation personally-- and my personal favorite-- play diagnostics.

It has been of great help to my gaming group as I have started using concepts from here to interview my fellow players and encourage discussion of our table contract. My gaming group is made up of my entire nuclear family and intimate friends, as well as gaming acquaintences.

I have not found the "split" Ron specifies, that intimates make better co-gamers than those who have come together solely on account of gaming. Rather, gaming style preferences are strongly linked to personality and cognitive style. That may account for some of the emotional resonance and passion that gaming preferences evoke from gamers; clashes in style do not remain emotionally neutral events for long.

All is not hopeless, however. While preferences are deeply rooted and dearly held, it is possible to negotiate compromises that lead to an overall more satisfying gaming experience for the group as a whole.  It has also given us some direction in choosing new games to try, and expanding our expectations of one another.
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A.Neill
Member

Posts: 62


« Reply #33 on: December 04, 2002, 03:11:06 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards


So, in conclusion, here's my proposal for what the Forge is for: it is a social means by which we improve our enjoyment of role-playing. I've said this before, but now, in the context of the Infamous Four So Far, the topic of "role-playing" has moved a bit outwards from, say, Fortune-in-the-Middle and its relation to Narrativist play. It's moved into issues of people, relationships, self-image, and groups - or rather, I've pointed out that these issues must be addressed in order to discuss such things as the funky rules and theory stuff. If the Forge is to achieve the goal of aiding people's enjoyment of their hobby, then identifying the source of one's own unhappiness becomes a serious issue.



Yes! I’m a leech at the Forge. I take, take and take. Sucking it all up, cognitively munching what’s produced and regurgitating for my own gaming enjoyment (and the enjoyment of ‘my group’). Like a good parasite I want more. GNS has changed my perception of games and increased the fun I have playing. I’ve played more goddamn indie games over the last 18 months than I have in the twenty gaming years that went before. Now I like the increasing number of threads on sociological issues. We could go on to explore the ergonomics of a good gaming environment etc. Of course there’ll be the risk that shinning a light into these dark areas will result in the usual accusations of gaming elitism. But the forge “heavy-hitters” already have to put up with that guff.

Is there a danger though, that if “social means by which we improve our enjoyment of role-playing” becomes the mission statement, the special place for indie design will be diluted?

Alan.
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


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« Reply #34 on: December 04, 2002, 06:36:35 AM »

That Discourse Community stuff is fascinating Rich.  Perhaps for archival purposes it would be a good idea to copy it over to a thread of its own for future reference...or even better write up an article on it.

Perhaps in the process you could define how "genre" is being used in your write-up.  I followed it from context, but its a somewhat different context than I'm used to seeing it used in.
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Clinton R. Nixon
Member

Posts: 2624


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« Reply #35 on: December 04, 2002, 08:02:18 AM »

Just to second what Ralph said - Rich, if you write an article on 'discourse community' and what it means to the Forge, I'll post it in the Articles section.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Irmo
Member

Posts: 258


« Reply #36 on: December 04, 2002, 10:42:05 AM »

Quote from: Rich
As for a straight up definition of “discourse community, Swales uses this as a basis: the notion is “that language use in a group is a form of social behavior, that discourse is a means of maintaining and extending the group’s knowledge and of initiating new members into the group, and that discourse is epistemic or constitutive of the group’s knowledge.”  This definition, by the way, is from a 1986 paper presented by Bruce Herzberg.  


Rich, I found your post very enlightening, but I have some questions and challenges on the applicability I'd like to hear your opinion on. As far as the above paragraph is concerned, I'd like to ask:

To what degree is this happening, and what is the pool you see the Forge initiating new members from? Looking at the member list, and the activity of the individual members suggests that the initiation to the Forge is extremely selective as to the cultural background of the members. As such, to what degree the group's knowledge is significantly extended can be seen as questionable depending on what the group's knowledge is supposed to be applicable to.

Quote

On this note, I think one of the most vital aspects of keeping a discourse community alive and vital is ensuring that we have a high enough ratio of active experts to novices to keep the community’s identity clear.  Again, the “set of five,” while perhaps doing a number of other things, has done a lot to bring the ideas of expert members and novice members together.  The Forge has grown a lot over the last year, and it’s not surprising that this has been pointed out most often by the expert members, who are feeling the pressures of keeping the discourse community going while introducing new members to its goals and concepts.  The new members, for their part, are bringing a lot of new ideas of their own and expanding the meaning of “what the Forge community is.”  Furthermore, everyone who is reading the Forge regularly is also becoming a part of the discourse community and becoming familiar with how language is used here.  I suspect that this “set of five” has done more to show new members what the Forge is about and how language is used here than the “Etiquette” thread, not only because it is compelling, but also because it is current.


But as you pointed out above, the use of language is "a means of maintaining and extending the group’s knowledge and of initiating new members into the group". For that latter goal, a high number of what you call expert members, can be hindrance more than help, since it can favor inertia over innovation, and hinder challenges of preconceptions, especially where the expert members share a common background and thus represent a largely singular perspective (although, of course, there may be differences in the details).

Use of language is not the least influenced by cultural criteria but also individual priorities, and insisting on one specific way of communicating information, while maybe making it easier to understand for some hinders the speed at which information flows. This is perhaps best illustrated by the frequent example of reviewers looking at the names of authors of scientific manuscripts (or not even that, but just the address of the submitting institution) and dismissing phrases with "We suggest having the manuscript reviewed by a native speaker", oblivious to the fact that it had in fact been written by one, or reviewed and revised by a technical editor who is a native speaker. While one expert considered the language effective, another did not. That other being in the position of making the decision on whether the specific use is acceptable or not hindered the flow of information and the extension of the knowledge of the community.

It is, I think, important to keep in mind what the goal is and what the means is to get there. At times, it can be that other means are more efficient.

Language can be a tool to benefit the flow of information, but it can also be a tool to limit it. Inasfar as that prevents valid perspectives to be represented, it threatens to invalidate the general applicability of the knowledge of the discourse community as representing merely special circumstances, namely those represented by the expert members.
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Emily Care
Member

Posts: 1126


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« Reply #37 on: December 04, 2002, 01:35:18 PM »

Quote from: Rich
When I identify the Forge as a discourse community, I’m saying we are a community that shares a bunch of (primarily written) genres. Once that is established, we can safely start to analyze what those genres are, which then allows us to help others get involved in the community by becoming competent in using those genres.
 

So, it seems that one aspect of a discourse community is that it establishes a certain body of knowledge that can be agreed on and applied, and then it welcomes in others and communicates this knowledge to them, allowing them to make use of it.  The benefits of working in community like this are great--cross-fertilization is possible, encouragement is available, and resources are shared giving everyone access to exponentially more than they would have otherwise.  Part of the magic of the web, and the current era.  The shared terminology can be a barrier, but it is also part of the boundaries of the group.  The focus of the discussion allows a much higher level of understanding to develop, since energy can be devoted to new discoveries, instead of having to be diverted to constantly re-hashing basic issues. (Well, that's the goal. It has seemed at times that that is not how it has felt to everyone.)      

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm not really sure whether a diverse group of role-players has ever had such a community at its disposal, unlinked to a particular group or company. There are bigger forums/boards on the internet, but they are more like a sea of individuals rather than a community such as I'm describing, and discussions tend to be isolated and abandoned rather than treated as an archive.


The forge reminds me quite a bit of the online community that formulated the original Threefold Model (GDS). Although I was more of a secondary observer in that group, it seems to me that there is more of an emphasis in the Forge on helping newcomers to understand the common terminology.  There is even a certain amount of mentoring of newcomers by experienced members that happens.  The members of this group demonstrate commitment to our common goals and to eachother.

--Emily Care
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #38 on: December 04, 2002, 01:56:08 PM »

Irmo,

Sounds like standard deconstructionist talk. Next you'll be telling us that the Forge shouldn't use English, as that biases it's production in a way that makes it less useful for people who don't have English as their first language.

When, in fact, it can be seen that the site has very little use for anyone who does not speak English (Fang's posts aside).

As such, yes, I'm willing to admit that the site has an English speaking, even American bias and further is biased towards those willing to "subjugate" themselves to the "tyrany" of our specific jargon. Hell, it's probably even "male-oriented", and "white".

Guess it's good to be a white American Male, then, who speaks GNS fluently.

The only problem with this sort of analysis is that discourse requires participants, and there is no way to cease bringing your bias. So, if we are to have a Forge at all, with real participants, we have to start with what we have no matter how imperfect, and go from there. If you don't like the jargon, or any other biases that we bring, then, well, sorry. Nothing we can do about it, without ceasing to be The Forge.

To suggest that we chuck the specific language of the site is as non-sensical as trying to make all Americans stop speaking English (perhaps we shoud be speaking Navaho). In the end we're still using language, and no matter what we'll be just as bad-off as we were when we started.

Apollogies. Deconstructionists get my goat. If you want to discuss the usefulness of particular terms. Be my guest. But I for one see the value of the terminology and will continue to use it with gay abandon.

Mike
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Clinton R. Nixon
Member

Posts: 2624


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« Reply #39 on: December 04, 2002, 03:15:05 PM »

It's a good thing I have "Teach Yourself Esperanto" on my bookshelf. Starting Jan. 1, all Forge posts must be in Esperanto.

(First, of course I'm kidding. Second, I already know about the Western European bias of Esperanto. Strangely, that doesn't stop the Chinese government from using it for much of their official communication, a little known fact I delight in.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Kester Pelagius
Member

Posts: 508


« Reply #40 on: December 04, 2002, 10:46:39 PM »

Greetings wraeththu,

In this, my first post to you, let me just said:  Well said!

Quote from: wraeththu
...

No matter what Ron and Clint aimed to do a year ago - they created something wonderful.

...

As a game designer, I've found a ton of useful information on this site.  I stumbled onto it by accident one night and fairly devoured all the various posts and threads.  I've been watching it avidly ever since.  Ron seemed confused that someone would view this place as "primarily of/for designers."  To me, that just seemed plainly obvious.  It's all about Design and Launch and Support of RPG's.  Much of what I've read here is mainly of interest to me as a designer first and as a player second.   <chuckle> when I bring this stuff up in conversation to players around me, most get that glassy eyed look as if I'd started going on about quantum mechanics.


That's kind-of how I originally stumbled on this forum also.

Course there a bit more depth to the forums, something few of us probably realize that just lurk.  But, once you log in, start to participate in discussions, you find a lot more going on.

Course, at times, you might feel like you've alienated people with comments about this or that without meaning to alienate anyone.  But such is life, sadly.

Great place to get design feedback, if what you post intrigues the denizens.  Oh, how hard it is to grab the attention of the denizens!

I should know, I am one of them.   Then you already knew that, being a denizen yourself, didn't you?  *smirk*


Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
Rich Forest
Member

Posts: 226


« Reply #41 on: December 04, 2002, 11:57:08 PM »

Wow.

A lot has been said.  

I’m going to try to address some of the things that have arisen in this thread, and I hope that I’m not missing anything important.  I'll also add a disclaimer--just now, as I'm posting this, I've noticed about four new posts that I hadn't read when I wrote this thing.  I haven't read these posts carefully enough yet to incorporate them into what I'm saying, mostly because it's pretty late and I'm tired :)

I’ll begin with Irmo’s initial questions about my last post, and go forward from there.  I’m going to mostly stay very far away from most of what Irmo and Mike, and particularly Irmo and Clinton have been working out amongst themselves.  I think it’s gone through the heaviest point and will be moving on to something more constructive pretty soon, given Clinton and Irmo’s most recent posts.  

So I’ll start with your main questions for me, Irmo.  This is how I read them, and clarify me if I’m wrong: 1) What group(s) are we drawing new members from? 2) If we are drawing from only a limited set of cultural backgrounds, how does that limit the development of the knowledge of discourse community?  

As an aside, I think these are good questions, and they aren’t really in disagreement with anything I’m proposing.  In fact, my main job, I think, is to clarify “foggy” language use on my own part.  

Given that, my best answers are these:

1) What group(s) are we drawing new members from?  

We are drawing new members from a much larger group, which is not in itself a single discourse community, but which has a set of members with, I propose, at least one thing in common—they are all roleplayers who are active on the internet.  More than that, I can’t really say because even the member list is fairly limited in what real data it provides.  At this point, I’m also going to say that I’m using “active” to mean “active in using and reading the internet.”  I am not using the term to only refer to those who actively post on the internet.  Later, I’ll explain why I'm using it this way and how that relates to the concept of discourse communities.      

2) If we are drawing from only a limited set of cultural backgrounds, how does that limit the development of the knowledge of discourse community?

This question is interesting, but it is based on an interpretation of discourse community that it slightly different from what I was trying to present.  I think I failed to make it sufficiently clear what I meant when I used the terms “expert” and “novice,” and this is what lead to the confusion.  When I use the terms “expert” and “novice,” I am referring only to expertise in using the language (both lexical and generic) of the discourse community.  So when I say “expert” or “novice,” I am not talking about subject knowledge at all.  A novice member is one who has relatively little knowledge of how discourse works at the Forge.  Whether that member has subject knowledge or not isn’t part of what I meant by the terms.  Of course, the terms themselves are used most often in common parlance to refer to subject knowledge, which is what caused the confusion in the first place.      

 Now, this lets me get at your next main question, which I’m going to quote a portion of:

Quote
Language can be a tool to benefit the flow of information, but it can also be a tool to limit it. Inasfar as that prevents valid perspectives to be represented, it threatens to invalidate the general applicability of the knowledge of the discourse community as representing merely special circumstances, namely those represented by the expert members.


I think I can also answer this question partly by clarifying what was not clear in my previous posts.  I didn’t actually mean to imply “a high ratio of experts to novices,” although I can see how the wording could lead to that interpretation. What I really meant to express was something more like, “enough experts in the language structures and vocabulary of the community to help novices become sufficiently competent in those structures to effectively join the discourse.”  

So a high enough ratio doesn’t actually mean a lot.  It just means enough to help new people gain entry.  Whether too high a ratio of experts leads to greater barriers to entry depends on the degree to which those experts actively help others join the community.  I think this has less to do with the lexis and genres of the community (my focus), and more to do with other social and personality factors of the experts.  Perhaps I should revise my initial statement to say, “enough experts in the language structures and vocabulary of the community who are active in helping novices become competent enough in those structures to effectively join the discourse.”  In a related note, I don’t think it is necessarily true that the presence of too many experts will unavoidably create greater barriers to entry.  It may.  It may not.  I think it depends more on the social and personality factors involved.  But I’m out of my area here, as I’m really primarily trying to talk about community language use when I talk about discourse communities.  

On a related note, the danger of having too few experts is something like this: if there are not enough experts in the language structures of the community to initiate new members, the community will change to such an extent that it becomes a different discourse community.  This is only a danger in that it may lead to a certain degree of “starting over” in terms of establishing the generic and lexical structures of the new community.  This is not necessarily “good” or “bad.”  Such a change in the nature of the community may either degrade its usefulness or improve its efficiency.  I can’t say which.  All I’m trying to say is that if the structures of the community change, there will be a great deal of work involved, and this work will require energy that might otherwise be applied to developing the subject knowledge of the community.

One value of a discourse community is that it develops a set of ways to communicate, and once this set of ways is understood, anyone can contribute to the community.  Now, I don’t want to get into the issue the biases of the Forge because I don’t see gender, cultural, or even linguistic background as ultimately limiting factors in joining a discourse community.  Regardless of your background, and regardless of the backgrounds that created the discourse community, if the discourse rules are understood clearly, then anyone can learn to use them.  It is true that some will have more new rules to learn than others.  This means that it will take more effort on their parts and on the parts of the expert members to give them the tools to use the community most effectively.  Whether this work is being done is another question, and one that I’m not ready to get at yet.  My focus, at the moment, is not on evaluating the effectiveness of the community.  I’m still trying to describe how language is being used here—something I don’t think I’ve done successfully, yet.  

Also, I think Emily really hit something important when she emphasized that the structures are “both barriers and boundaries.”  In fact, regardless of the circumstances and cultural influences that helped form the structures of the discourse community, the community must have such structures to be a discourse community, and those structures will simultaneously limit and support the discourse.  Limitations in how language is structured are not necessarily limiting to what subject knowledge can be expressed within the structures of that language.  The forms of language used do not preclude the expression of new ideas or the evolution of existing ideas.  Language, by its very nature, is not static.  If terminology or generic structures are lacking, additional terminology and structures will be created to enable communication of new ideas.  And in fact, limitations (read: "rules") of how language is used within a community support communication and also support the development of new ideas by providing a useful framework for the presentation of those ideas.  Besides, ultimately it is only the consensus of the members of the community that makes these rules stick.  

Next, I’d like to address the issue of membership in regards to the concept of discourse community because it differs, I think, from the concepts of what “membership” means that I’ve heard in this thread so far.  With regards to the discourse community, the membership is not limited to those who speak, nor is it limited to those who have signed up formally as members of the forum.  These limits may very well apply to membership in other aspects of the community, but the more I think about it, the more I think that “community” as Ron initially used it means something slightly different here than the "community" in “discourse community,” and it is only now that I’m starting to really see this.  Membership in a discourse community is contingent only on understanding of and involvement with the discourse, where “involvement” includes reading and keeping up with the discourse.  Members who are signed up but never come and read what’s going on now are not members of the discourse community.  They were members, but they are not currently.  Conversely, folks who read the Forge regularly can be novice or expert members of the discourse community insofar as they actively follow the discourse.  Just reading this stuff is involvement.  Anyone who puts in the effort to come here, regularly, and keep up with the state of the discourse, is a member of the discourse community.  

As an example, Wade, who has been reading the Forge for several months now, is part of the discourse community, and he has been for awhile.  Kester's post recognizes this.  Notice some signs of Wade's expertise in the discourse: even though his screen name, wraethu, is not his real name, and even though it was only his third actual post, he signed his post with his real name because that is one of the “ways” language is used at the Forge.  In fact, he did this in his very first post.  We tend to use real names here, as often as no one objects.  He knows this, and I bet he has a solid understanding of how vocabulary is used here as well.  (I admit that it is possible that he "followed the discourse rules correctly" by accident because it is his own habit to sign with his own name.  I suspect his knowledge of the discourse community was the real reason, though.)

In fact, take a look at my own number of posts.  Compare it tothe date of when I signed up as a member.  Now, consider how long I may have been purely lurking before I did this.  Am I an expert or novice member of the discourse community?  Does my actual number of posts reflect this, particularly given how long I've been coming here?  I don’t think it does.  Now, does my actual number of posts reflect how much I am a member of the community in other ways?  I think it does.  Current active members might not really even be aware that I've been here for awhile because I don't post much.  So I'm not (socially?) a member of the community in some ways.  But taking it further, even my visibility as a poster doesn't reveal how I may be a member of the community in other ways.  By acting as an editor for Jared, I’m active in a fairly quiet manner through my contacts with him (and I should be editing right now, by the way, instead of writing these long, long posts—sorry Jared, I'll get back to work, right away, I promise :).  I’ve also met some other community members at Gen Con and roleplayed with them, so I have faces and voices and experiences to put to names.  But all of this is irrelevant to how expert or novice I am as a member of the discourse community.

And Wade, Welcome to the Forge!—just in case no one has said it yet.  

Of course, the way we use “Welcome to the Forge” is also a part of the rules of the Forge discourse community, even though it is not a welcome to the discourse community itself (Wade has been a member of the discourse community for a few months).  It is actually a welcome to the community of posters, which has a lot more aspects than I’m dealing with in my posts.  

Ralph—I promise I’ll get at how I’m using the term “genre" in the future, but I'm not going to go into it at the moment.  You are right that I’m using it in a very specific way, which differs from how it is used in more than one other field as well as in common parlance.  I should also point out that I’m using “generic” differently as well--as an adjectival form of the “genre” I’m talking about.  I’ll try to get to it soon, I promise.  Clinton, I’d love to turn this into an article.  It could take some time, of course.  I’ll contact you about it when I get something and see if you’re still interested.  

Finally, I think in a number of ways we have strayed from our own discourse rules in parts of this thread.  And we recognized it.  And look, now that we're following them again, we're getting back to the main point of the thread.  I think that's the best example of discourse community in action that I could possibly ask for.  

Whew.

Rich Forest
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Emily Care
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« Reply #42 on: December 05, 2002, 07:21:55 AM »

Quote from: Rich Forest
I think, from the concepts of what “membership” means that I’ve heard in this thread so far. With regards to the discourse community, the membership is not limited to those who speak, nor is it limited to those who have signed up formally as members of the forum.


The pool of non-posters-who-read are actually part of what makes this, and any, community, viable.  Did I say this already? Sorry if so, but--any group gains and loses members. That's just a natural part of the way people engage in groups.  The core group holds the central indentity and message of the community, allowing it to have continuous existence, and much larger groups of people come in and leave, having taken part at a much wider variety of levels of involvement.  The silent participaters represent a pool of potential active participants. They are taking part in the ways that Rich describes, and waiting to be "activated" by something that catches their interest and prompts them into active participation.

The group will die/end if that pool becomes depleted.  The group will die/change if the core gets depleted or obliterated.  The group will live/evolve as the core remains strong--and this membership will change over time as well--and the potential pool is large and continually being added to.

Profiling threads often get people to speak out once, but not necessarily to become active.  I'd think that when an area of someone's interest and/or expertise arises they are likely to get involved. That's a question, what brought out all of those who are active? And for those who are silent what are you looking for?

And finally, I'm not saying anything needs to "be done" for or about anyone who reads and doesn't post.  I just acknowledge that they are a vital part of the Forge, in a different way than one might normally think of it. And they will take care of themselves--no special effort needs to be made. It's a process of self-selection that gets people active, as it should be.  However, if there are barriers people who don't normally post experience, then that information would be valuable to get.

--Emily Care
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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Clay
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« Reply #43 on: December 05, 2002, 09:23:52 AM »

Before we get all self-congratulatory about this "Discourse Community" concept, let's sit back and look at what it's actually saying:

1. People adapt their language and behavior to the accepted norms of a community.

2. Their language and behavior in the community is different than when out of the community.

3. People are rewarded for this behavior by advancing within the community.

I'm pretty sure that I've summed this up correctly, although if I've missed something, please enlighten me.  Sentences which match my attention span (very short) are preferred.

More to the point, what does this nice theory get us? So far the only thing we've identified is that there's a certain way we act here that doesn't apply elsewhere, and there are certain topics of conversation which are appropriate and others which aren't (genres).  With all of the words that have been expended, I hope there's a payoff.
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Clay Dowling
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Rich Forest
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« Reply #44 on: December 05, 2002, 10:47:15 PM »

Hi Clay,

Ok, I’ll keep this one short, for a couple reasons.  The first, of course, is that it’s what you’ve asked for.  However, I also think I’ve already answered your main question (What’s the payoff?) in my second post, to a large extent.  And besides, I couldn’t write another long post about the topic for the fourth night in a row even if I wanted to.  

So short answers: First, I think you’ve got 1 and 2 right.  

But I’m not sure about 3… depending on what you mean by “…are rewarded for this behavior.”  If you mean something like, “are able to communicate more effectively in the group,” I’ll take those three as good enough.  Of course, I do think there are genuine, valuable pieces that your summary points overlook, which is why I wrote my own posts up at such length (I'm not using "all those words" just to hear myself talk, I promise).  But a summary is a summary, after all.

Next, I’d like to add a short note about genre: I’m using the term “genre” as it’s used in linguistics, which is, in very broad strokes, something like “format/organizational scheme.” It isn’t topic or topic area.  Again, you couldn’t have known that because I didn’t really explain it clearly.  Of course, if I wanted to really give a good definition, it’d take more space and words than I think you want or I have the energy for, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.  

The main point—what’s the payoff?  For one, I think that the more we understand how a discourse community works, the more we can do to keep our own community fit.  I think Emily is exploring some of this in her post, above.  Also, the more explicitly aware we are of the way our discourse works, the more efficiently we can use it to communicate within the community.  This is even useful for experts, and it’s very useful for novices to the community who want to get into the discourse quickly and efficiently.  Finally, for me anyway, just having a variety of ways to understand the community is valuable in and of itself.  

Hope I’ve addressed your questions,

Rich Forest
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