“Community” and Our Writing

The word “community” typically has a sense of togetherness or sameness to it. This term becomes challenged and evaluated through the writing of Joseph Harris, Bartholomae, and Bathes. When it comes to community in writing, many people are confused about what exactly this means. After reading the article The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing, I now better understand the meaning of what it means in relation to writing and education, but also how it contradicts many preconceived notions most people have about writing. Something that is typically misinterpreted about the word “community” is that it reflects upon multiple people. I have come to the understanding that “community” actually leans more towards the word “individual” in terms of community in writing.

Harris agrees with Bartholomae when he says that we “write not as isolated individuals but as members of communities whose beliefs, concerns, and practices both instigate and constrain, at least in part, the sorts of things we say” (p. 3). In addition, he also agrees with Bathes statement, “We do not write simply as individuals, but we do not write simply as members of a community either” (p. 10). I believe what they are saying is that, when we write, we begin based off of our own individual ideas but what actually ends up happening is that a sense of community is developed in our writing by the similarities it has to others similar thoughts and ideas. We write as individuals with our own opinions, but somewhere along the way, we accumulate a sameness to others through our writing, thus creating a community. My conclusion of community in writing is that, individual writings of similar minded people, create community, rather than a community influencing an individuals writing. One example being, a group of 50 people from different areas of the globe may not even know they have the same views of opinions in their writing, being unaware of the “community” in their writing. However, without knowing each other’s ideas or views, they write very similarly thus creating their own community.

One word that could be closely related to “community” is “discourse”. Swales’ observations of discourse community could be somewhat attributed to what Harris writes in The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing. Swales’ talks about the key factors that define a discourse community and that everyone in such community works towards a common goal. I believe this to be somewhat true with community in writing, however most of the time I don’t believe it to be intentional. Maybe once people have become aware or are in contact with others in their community of writing, they might openly work amongst each other towards a particular common goal. Most of the time however, it is my opinion, that unless it is a required sort of academic writing community, many people are unaware and just speak and think freely towards what message or goal their writing persuades.

In conclusion, I can say that I agree with much of what Harris, Bartholomea, and Bathes say about “community” in writing. It is something that is individually driven but group resolved. Many times people feel confined to a certain way of writing, but writing communities can help to individualize and expand ones true way of writing. It is important in academics to have a certain type of community in writing, however one that does not fully take away from an individuals true self in their writing. The importance is in the balance between the academic community and the individuals preferred community.

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