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Hellen Tran

The Volunteering Discourse Community

Although the concept of a discourse community may seem unclear, it is certain that most
of us belong in some sort of discourse community. According to John Swales, a linguist who
studied discourse communities, in order to be deemed as a community, they must meet the six
criteria that he developed. These include sharing common goals, having ways of
intercommunicating, participating in ways that improve the community, genres, lexis, and a
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balance between novices and experts. For example, the group of volunteers at the Riverside Arts
Swales. Along with Swales, Ann Johns also studies discourse communities and lenses in them as
well. The lenses that appear in within this community include identity and power.
As a native of Jacksonville, the Riverside Arts Market is known to be one of the highlights of the city. From different local artist to various food vendors, the Arts Market is a vibrant
attraction that many of Jacksonvillians and tourist tend to go to on their Saturdays. The
Arts Market was chosen because it is a place that I enjoy going to in my leisure time as well as a
place that is exciting to volunteer at. Volunteering at the Arts Market not only lets me become
more involved in the community of Jacksonville but also allows me to be a part of a special
tight-knit group (the group of volunteers). Being a volunteer at the Riverside Arts Market also
has its perks because every volunteers have access to free food and drinks.
Prior to moving to Orlando, on most Saturdays I spend my time at the Riverside Arts
Market to do my share of volunteering. However, before volunteering, one must first submit an
online application and be at least 16 years old. This process is important because in discourse
communities, gatekeeping is necessary because it regulates information to determine who can
and cannot be a part of the community. After completing the application process and choosing a
time slot, it is very important to arrive on time because the supervisors tend to give designated
jobs to the volunteers along with the how-tos and instructions of everyones role. As a past

member of the volunteering discourse community, my job was to first set up the booths and sell
water. Then, after every two hours, volunteers would alternate jobs from selling water to
cleaning up vendor areas. Thus, all of the volunteers had to communicate with one another to let
each other know when to switch and with whom theyre switching with. Though sometimes
working in an outside environment may seem too exhausting for some, it might be too cold or
too hot, knowing that being a member of the Riverside Arts Market discourse community makes
it worthwhile. In the end people within the community benefit by becoming closer because we
all achieve the goal of improving the community.
The volunteers of the Riverside Arts Market is its own discourse community because it
meets Swales six criteria. The jobs of the volunteers include passing out waters to the shoppers at
the market, pick up loose trash, and to assist the vendors whenever it gets too busy. Therefore,
the volunteers share the common goal of wanting to improve the community we live in and to
sell as many water bottles as possible. In order to do so, the volunteers have a method of
communicating with each other face to face as well as meetings at the end of the day. With one
on one interactions, members get to exchange information about switching jobs and shifts so that
the market runs smoothly. Genres within the community include the name tags that the members
have to wear on their t-shirts. The name tags allow other volunteers to recognize who they are
working with so that there wouldnt be any confusion or tension between the members. Lexis
associated with the Riverside Arts Market would be R.A.M. and ,sometimes, the supervisor
would call the group of volunteers a ramily. These custom made names make our community
even more exclusive. The community of volunteers also has a mixed amount of novices and
experts. For example, some of the volunteers have been volunteering for a longer time than other
members. Also, the group of volunteers range from different ages. There are parents,
grandparents, teenagers, etc.
In this community, lenses allow researchers to see the systems within the community in a

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whole new view. For example, at the Riverside Arts Market, identity is a lens that plays a major
role. Identity deals with what and who someones values and beliefs are. Identity helps those
with a common interest or common ground to come together and volunteer with one another here
at the market. Another lens would be power. Power is divided in the community between regular
volunteers and the supervisors. The supervisors are entitled to much more responsibility and can
tell what the volunteers what to do. It is also expected that the volunteers follow those
Although something like volunteering at the Arts Market may seem so simple, on the
inside the volunteers are able to form a discourse community of its own. From having a diverse
range of people to having special names that we call ourselves, the community of volunteers are
able to form a unique tight knit group of our own. Not only are we members of something so
close to our hearts, but we also get to help out our local community (Jacksonville). Being a
member of the volunteering discourse community for the past two years allowed me to meet new
people and sometimes seeing the same faces as well. Who knew passing out waters and
switching shifts with members could have resulted to becoming a discourse community all on its