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Running Head: Discourse Community Ethnography: League of Legends forums.

Discourse Community Ethnography: League of Legends Forums

Juan M Gama T.

University of Texas at El Paso

October 12, 2017



According to Swales (1990) Use of the term discourse community testifies to increasingly

common assumption that discourse operates within conventions defined by communities, be

they academic disciplines or social groups (p.217). With this said we can define a discourse

community as a group of individuals that share different characteristics, like interests, goals,

Lexis etc. What Im going to do in this paper, is to introduce a discourse community (The

League of Legends Forums) and with that Im going to try to analyze if fits in the Swales idea

of a discourse community or the Porters one. I choose this discourse community because for

me is a very close and important community, I have been in that community for about 4 years

now and I think I can explain how is this community communicating and if it fits in the

discourse community category. Also, its a very big community with at least 100M monthly

players, that maybe half of them are in the forums, so it is indeed a large community thats

worth analyze.

Literature Review

Swales starts his article by explaining how other instructors and researchers already

use the discourse community topic before, but they just do it by giving an example of a

discourse community and how it works. They start asking questions like: how a particular

discourse community gain new members? or how a discourse community relies on certain

beliefs?; although this questions are good for the debate says Swales, he thinks that first we

have to ask how a discourse community became what it is? and with that to quote him "We

need to clarify, what is to be understood by discourse community, and, perhaps in better

circumstances, it is better to offer a set of criteria sufficiently narrow that it will eliminate

many of the marginal, blurred and controversial contenders". Then he talks about how a

discourse community is different from a speech community, and explaining why one has to

do with the other but don't affect his individual rules, after that he propose 6 characteristics of

the discourse community that we would revisit later and ends the article with an example of a

discourse community with the use of this 6 rules (Swales, 1990).

Porter's article starts with the definition of intertextuality, and explains "the web of

meaning" or logos. Also he is saying that looking for intertextuality is looking for "traces" of

how the writers gets his inspiration from, and he tells us that the propose of the text is to

explain how intertextuality matter in rhetoric studies. Then he starts explaining the presence

of intertext in structuralism and post structuralism. Then he points out two types of intertext:

iterability, which is the repetition of textual fragments; and presupposition, the assumptions

that a text might be there but it is not 100% explicit. He also talks about the power of the

discourse community by explaining what it is, giving examples of what they do, and showing

4 rules that all the discourse community should have (Porter, 1986).

We can say that both of the texts have certain similarities, for example they both talk

about how the topic of discourse community lack of a real and concrete meaning, also they

both give you their versions of the characteristics that a discourse community should have.

They both think that they have common interest but Swales thinks that those interests have to

become public goals. Also they both have mechanisms of intercommunication but Porters

says that the mechanisms have to be approved and have to had specific rules, which I think its

brief and wrong to think that just that kind of communication is valid. One of Porters

characteristics is that if the text doesn't add knowledge, it is not accepted but for Swales its

different, for Swales all of the texts and communication its valid information, but the

community has the obligation to give feedback about it. For Swales is very important that the

community creates his own lexis, an especial vocabulary that only them would know how to

interpret, that would make a lot of discourse communities out of Swales perception that's why

I think Swales is wrong with that. The last characteristic from both authors for me makes

Swales more credible, because I think in a community should be order and for that it has to

be levels of expertise and leadership in the community, not normal leadership like politics but

someone to look up when you need advice with something. In conclusion we can say that

both have their points, but I think they are too rigid and the meaning of discourse community

is so vast that just because a community does not have a characteristic means that they are

disqualified to be a discourse community, maybe another author would make a summarize of

both Swales and Porter and make a more flexible definition in which a lot of communities

can be on.


My strong source of information its going to be the League of Legends forums page

itself because I think there is no better way to get to know a community and what are they

doing as watch it for yourself. In this page we can see a lot of discussion about the game but

also about another topic that doesnt fit in the game category such as the community

category, so its going to be very helpful for the investigation, that we can see how maybe

one moderator or a player can be in both forums and be participative of it. Almost all of the

texts that Im going to analyze are going to be the forum entries but Im going to have also

the rules of the page and even some forms of personal communication like a response in a

forum or an email from a moderator.


When I was navigating from page to page in the board of discussions I get into the

boards welcome page, in which says the board objective which is in Keyrus (a worker for

Riot Games) words Our goal here is to encourage discussion about how we can further grow

the community here on the Boards (Welcome to Discuss the Boards! May, 2017). This show

that the community that are in the boards, have their shared goals, such as the discussion and

feedback of topics about League, so it fits in the first criteria of Swales and Porter. About the

mechanisms that they use to communicate are primary the boards themselves, but the

moderators also used sometimes emails to make the players that his post in the boards was

answered or to clarify something in particular. Also we can say that they use not only words

but videos, gifs, emoji and even images that make you understand better some of the points

that the board is saying, and all of the boards in the board page are validated by the Rioters

(The Riot Games workers) so if some board breaks the rules it is erased from the page. This

gives us the chance to see that in fits in the second criteria from swales that is mechanisms of

intercommunication and the Porters criteria of approved channels of communication.

The board is always getting new entries, some of them are made by the players themselves,

others are made by Rioters who want to start a conversation of a topic that matters to all

players, and the moderators want that the players always get their answer if they have a

question; Thats why they try to answer a lot of the posts that the people do, so we can see

that they care and we can make a discussion not only with players but also workers for the

company. So in the information and feedback criteria of Swales I think they are very covered.

Although The forums have a lot of ways to write an entry, there are only that entries, so in

paper, there is not a lot of genres only the forums and the emails that maybe a moderator can

send you but is not in all of the cases, so in Swales perspective, there is a lack of this

characteristic in my discourse community. In Porters characteristic (1986) A text is

acceptable within the forum only insofar as it reflects the community episteme (p.39), its

almost impossible to a community this big to have all the texts to add knowledge so they can

be acceptable, so in this case it fails in Porters perspective.

The fifth characteristic of Swales article for a discourse community (1990) is: In addition to

owning genres, a discourse community has acquired some specific lexis (p.222). When I

read this characteristic I immediately knew that this community it has indeed a lot of lexis,

its not a defined lexis that is in a dictionary or something, but I manage to found a wikia

made by League fans that has the meaning of a lot of this words:

Babysit: For one champion to continually assist another champion in order to assist them in

getting more powerful. For a champion (usually jungler) to cover a lane and see to it that the

minions don't push to the friendly tower, while the usual laning champion is temporarily


Bait: To feign weakness in order to lure the enemy into a trap.

Backdoor: To attack an enemy tower or base without the support of a minion wave.

Typically, this is done by sneaking through the jungle and only becoming revealed to the

opposing team as late as possible, in order to delay a reaction.

BG: Bad Game.

Elo: A mathematical rating system for a player's relative skill level.

Farm: To seek out and kill minions to obtain experience and gold.

Minion: The computer-controlled unit spawned from the allied structure (nexus or capture

point) to march to the opposing structure along the designated lane.

And like this we have at least a hundred more of it, this are more of an in-game lexis, but we

can see all this lexis plague in the forums, so basically are the same.

The last Characteristic for Swales discourse community (1990) is: A discourse community

has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal

expertise (p.222). We can compare that with the forums, and say in obvious words that yes

in fact they are a number of individuals that are approved by Riot Games to be the

moderators of the forums, they have to know a lot about the game, and about the community

to fill this position and know when a post has to be erased, a player has to be banned, etc. But

this fact, makes the forums break the fourth characteristic of Porters, that says that there is no

clear leadership involved.


When I started the comparison with Swales and Porters article with my discourse community

I notice that, the similarities between both terms of discourse community are a lot, but the

difference is based on the last 2 rules of Porters, when he gets a little rigid with the

characteristic saying that if it doesnt add knowledge then it doesnt count, for me this is not

true because maybe doesnt add knowledge but makes people open a conversation, a

discussion about a topic and creates knowledge in the long term. But in Swales hand I realice

that the forums fit almost perfectly with the Swales idea of a discourse community, the only

thing that lacks on is the genres, but I think that characteristic is the less important for a

discourse community to have so, in my opinion the League of Legends forums are a Swales

approved discourse community.


League of Legends terminology. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2017, from

New Player's Guide to League of Legends. (2011, February 03). Retrieved October 14, 2017,


Keyru (NA) submitted in Discuss the Boards. (2017, May). [] Welcome to Discuss the

Boards! []. Retrieved October 14, 2017, from


Swales, John. The Concept of Discourse Community. Genre Analysis: English in

Academic and Research Settings. Boston: Cambridge UP, 1990. 21-32. Print.

James E. Porter. Rhetoric Review, Vol. 5, No. 1. (Autumn, 1986), pp. 34-47.