For as long as I could remember I have always had a strong addiction to reading. As a child I was the cliché shy, quiet girl who would always have a book in hand and get lost in the world of the story until someone physically dragged me away. It was not until my freshman year of high school when I was introduced by a friend to the website titled Wattpad. com that I became a member of an amazing community that fit me perfectly. One of the main goals of the Wattpad discourse community is to inspire others through reading and writing.
Many of the members are coming together for the birthday of this amazing community and sharing how Wattpad has impacted their lives. These outstanding stories range from a solider from the army overcoming PTSD, a girl obtaining a movie deal based on her novel, a group joining the fight against bullying, and even driving eighty two year old author Gwen Madoc back to writing. Though at first sight a website about books may not seem like much to examine, Wattpad. com exhibits characteristics of a discourse community in its own right.
What started off as just a little website that was created seven years ago, has transformed into place of social media interaction and an area for undiscovered or unpublished writers to get their work noticed. Through this discourse community the members, writers and readers, are able to explore diverse genres of literature from poetry to fan fiction and interact similar to a social networking outlet, like Facebook. Wattpad is a unique discourse community and unlike any other.
Due to the fact that it is partly composed of a social networking site, which can be considered a discourse on its own, members are not confined to just the United States and are given the opportunity to contact others in the community internationally. The members that make up this community are the writers and the audience, which are both fundamentally crucial in order to keep this discourse alive. This website was created along with electronic books, ebooks for short, and has allowed many unknown writers to be discovered by companies such as Barnes and Noble.
As a member of the Wattpad discourse community you must be familiar with the term or phrase “Watty”, which can be considered part of the lexis (473). A “Watty” or “to be up for a Watty” is when an author enters one of the largest contests worldwide. Through these seasonal contests called The Watty Awards authors are given the challenge to complete their work-short story, novel, poem, and so on- within a year to be judged, and the prizes can range from money to publishing opportunities. According to Gee, this could be considered both a secondary dominant and non-dominant discourse.
A dominant discourse because of the “status or social goods” acquired and non-dominant due to the member becoming “solid” within the social networking community (485). Also as a primary discourse Wattpad provides a foundation for its members to communicate worldwide, while still being in the comfort of your own room. Entering the discourse community was difficult at first, and until now I did not realize how many obstacles I had to overcome to truly be a part of it. Four years ago as I was still trying to figure out the infamous social media site Facebook, I was simultaneously processing the inner workings of Wattpad.
Thankfully my friend Dayna, who had introduced me to the community, helped me submerge myself within the discourse as a reading member. Swales defines discourse communities through several characteristics, one of those is a method of communication and feedback (472-73). In Wattpads case, this is accomplished through an online messaging, posting, and a voting system. The voting, or message system, was set in place for readers to rank the books in each genre and be able to comment or communicate with the author about their chapter/novel.
Through my first few months as part of the audience in Wattpad, I found myself going through the first two areas of Wardles three modes of belonging: Engagement and Imagination trying to master the voting/message system (524). However, I did not enter the Alignment phase until I started to write stories of my own and post them for the community to critique. In doing so, I was able to take on a new form of literacy and membership with my new status in the community as a writer.
Through use of multiliteracies in my new membership, as Mirabelli defines them, I was able to use the situation to react and respond on the comments made by my fellow members based upon my work (538). In obtaining my new status I now come into contact with the experts, the members who both read and write, in the community. There is no authority figure within the community other than the co-creators. The only time they take major action is during any attempts of online bullying, which they have all but ruled out of the community through a set of policies and rules that is signed by the new member at the entrance of the discourse.
To be a part of a specific discourse community can be a great thing. As young students we do not even realize that many of our day-to-day activities or hobbies are considered discourse communities. When I joined the Wattpad community I had no idea that I would be able to expand my literacy skills, make new friends, and discover a part of me that I had no idea existed. I can say with absolute confidence that I will continue to be a member of the Wattpad discourse community for years to come.