Community Building


Community building amongst online groups can be seen throughout the internet. Generally an online community is made up of an audience of people with similar beliefs or goals in mind. Many of these people use online communities to seek information and share ideas about certain topics. Community Building is often a motive of digital writers. This is in some ways depended on genre, because the author aims at building a community based on the similar interest on the readers or participants. Miller and Shepard describe a relationship between genre and community in this way; “When a type of discourse or communicative action inquires a common name within a given community that’s a good sign that it’s functioning as a genre.” Genre plays an important role in the kind of relationships seen in certain online communities. Generally if a person is seeking advice concerning a certain topic on an online community they are responded to by someone also active on the site. This give and take is important in building a relationship and is an exchange of information amongst its users.

“Many bloggers see blogging as a way of developing relationships, via linking back, with an online community: the linking that happens through blogging creates the connections that bind us (Hourihan, 2002). They also manage those relationships through both linking and commentary, which become forms of social control, signs of approval, acceptance, value” (Miller and Shepard).

Kairos used in rhetoric is a very appropriate term when concerning online communities. When responding to a possible question or comment of information from a blog site, the responder will use kairos whether they know it or not. Kairos is what causes readers to respond the way in which they do. It calls for certain information while limiting others. This makes sure that relevant data is what the person chooses to respond with in concerns to a certain question or piece of information. It deals with the processing of information in order to return with a valid response.


In digital communities, the audience is composed of members of the community coming together to discuss a common interest or work together to accomplish a common goal. In these communities, the audience can also act as authors and participants. Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd analyze that the anonymity of the audience in many forms of digital writing facilitates self-disclosure which is a popular motive of bloggers and digital authors.

In their article Blogging as a Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog, Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd delve into the motives behind bloggers and blogging. They summarize, "Self-expression is a salient theme among some bloggers, who find the same opportunity that television talk shows afford their participants: the opportunity to tell their stories in a mediated forum to a potentially large, though distant and invisible, audience." Using blogging as an online diary, authors of blogs and other forms of digital writing can expose personal information explicitly or implicitly, get something off their chest, or seek advice from a general, anonymous audience. By adding forums for commentary, they request feedback and validation from a group of people that may share common interests without sharing physical proximity and/or the same circle of friends and associates. In this way, the awkwardness of certain subjects, when brought up in face-to-face interactions, is diminished. However, because a virtual audience does offer a sense of anonymity, it is not difficult to forget that many digital places are very public and any hope for anonymity is diminished as well. In the Facebook and Twitter communities, some individuals can suddenly find themselves uncomfortably confronted or even fired from their job for certain things posted by or about them online. In a milder case, Ilana Gershon in her book The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media quotes an interview that she had with a young man named Frank about an embarrassing confrontation with his parents. The particular post that caught his strict Baptist parents' attention was one which discussed his sex life.

And I was just like "my friends read this. Twenty-year-olds are reading this. Not like your friends, not other fifty-year-olds" Their justification with this, and I don't know, it is something a logical debate could be held over it, I was saying, "This is private. And it was linked from my facebook so my peers could read it and not you guys."…They were really upset about how I was representing them, like I said. Their rationale was: You put this in a public forum, anybody could read it. Why couldn't we?"

When he originally constructed the post, the thought obviously had not crossed his mind that his parents might stumble across his revelations because, to Frank, online communities such as Twitter or Facebook were frequented only by a more computer literate crowd like his friends and peers when in reality, public includes anyone, of any age, with internet access, who desires to look. In situations like this, certain online posts can become regrettable decisions.

To read more about the idea of public vs. private and how this plays into audience read more here.


In digital writing, genre pertains to the type of text. There are various genres across the internet medium. Genres are like categories; when various texts have similar aspects they would be categorized into a genre. When looking at genre within community building, different examples become present. Genres evolve over time; some are added while others become outdated. For a comparison of the genres of blog and Facebook, read this article.

Examples of genre within community building are blogs, social networks, and online communities.
Subscribing/ viewing websites— This may entail uploading pictures to a website, adding new information or updating existing information, re-posting text from others, adding friends, etc.

"In perceiving an utterance as being of a certain kind or genre, we become caught up in a form of life, joining speakers and hearers, writers and readers, in particular relations of a familiar and intelligible sort" (Bazerman, Charles).


In rhetoric, kairos is a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.
According to Burton, Gideon, Kairos usually refers to the way a given context for communication both calls for and constrains one's speech.
A speaker or writer takes into account the contingencies of a given place and time, and considers the opportunities within this specific context for words to be effective and appropriate to that moment. ("Silva Rhetoricae" (

In their article Blogging as a Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog, Carolyn Miller and Dawn Shepherd explain that:

“Kairos describes both the sense in which discourse is understood as fitting and timely the way it observes propriety or decorum and the way in which it can seize on the unique opportunity of a fleeting moment to create new rhetorical possibility” (Miller, 2002).

“The cultural moment in which the blog appeared is a kairos that has shifted the boundary between the public and the private and the relationship between mediated and unmediated experience”

“A Darwinian approach to genre requires an understanding of what makes a rhetorical action fitting within its cultural environment. In other words, we must see genre in relation to kairos, or socially perceived space-time. What Bitzer called a fitting response will survive to become recurrent and thus generic if the kairos also recurs, or persists (1978, p. 168). Kairos describes both the sense in which discourse is understood as fitting and timely the way it observes propriety or decorum and the way in which it can seize on the unique opportunity of a fleeting moment to create new rhetorical possibility” (Miller, 2002).


Online communities are specific in what kind of audience they have. They audience more often than not shares a common interest with the pertaining to the online community. People with interest in a certain topic will continue to stay involved in the community to seek and share new advice and information. This results in users returning to a community and building more relationships or strengthening ones already created within this online space. The genre of the online community is tied closely with the audience in that the audience will generally steer the genre of the blog to what they want to see and change what they want over time. Genre sets the stage for what could be considered appropriate interactions amongst its users. The use of kairos sets up the interactions between users in there attempt to share information. Giving appropriate information at the correct time that is relevant makes the interactions between users transition more smoothly from idea to idea much like the flow of a face to face conversation would go. All of these ideas play a large part into how an online community is built and interacts with each other.

1. full source reference

Gershon, Ilana. The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media. Cornell UP, 2010. Print