Academic Cypher

In hip hop culture, the cypher is a circle of MCs, B-boys/B-girls, beatboxers, etc who freestyle and/or battle one after the other without interruption, exchanging rhymes and flows back and forth or around. The cypher is where training takes place and skills are tested, where people collaborate, and where people create "off the top" or written/choreographed, tapping into the place where thought and action come together to share energy and advance the craft...the Academy should aim to do the same.

Visual Argument

For my visual argument, I made a collage of screen shots from a recent episode of the Jeopardy! College Champions episode. I utilized a YouTube video to capture the screen shots. The video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Visual Argument

Click to enlarge


  1. In this image I see the potential for multiple arguments, which focus not on what happened but why it took place. The argument that first came to my mind is, the white college students are reluctant to discuss African-American history since this history is still relevant in regard to contemporary oppression, prejudices, and bigotries. Or perhaps they don’t realize (or “don’t realize”) that such history is still relevant – a “Why are we even talking about race?” sort of reaction, I guess. Another potential argument is, the white college students are reluctant to discuss African-American history because they only have a basic, elementary school-level knowledge of African-American history… which highlights ignorance on their part and coincides with the first potential argument. Regardless of which argument(s) we see upon looking at this visual, the students’ clearing of categories such as Kiwi Fauna (???) and International Cinema Showcase, which likely offered questions with obscure answers (or answers with obscure questions, since it’s Jeopardy!), before addressing the category involving African-American history is both disheartening and telling.

  2. Wow, so this clearly makes a statement about avoidance and ignorance. It is a narrative, telling a story of an episode of college jeopardy, where three white students avoid the African American History section. It suggests they have no knowledge of Black History because they avoided it altogether. It argues that because they have no knowledge (as star students), most students in the country do not. It makes a statement about the continuing need to support Black History month and other educational/celebrational opportunities.

  3. These apparently well-read and obsessed collectors of knowledge apparently don’t know much about Afro-American history. If they knew about it, they would choose it for the money even if it isn’t a particular area of interest. Thus, they are displaying not only their ignorance but the marginalization of a strand of American history. Afro-American history is apparently not priority knowledge.

  4. WOW! Powerful argument here! VERY nicely done!
    The three pictures create a story showing the full game board at the beginning of the game, with all categories displayed. Then it shows the game board after the game has progressed, with all of the categories cleared out completely — including an obscure one “Kiwi Fauna” — except for African-American History, which has not been touched at all, not even one clue opened. The final image of the three contestants — all are white. I cannot read the names of the schools on the two female contestants, but the male contestant is from a southern school. The implication by association here is that African-American history is “untouched” by white society, and unknown, and even scary. The contestants preferred to attempt questions on Kiwi Fauna and Weather vocabulary than to attempt even the $200 easier question on African-American history. The further implication is that white contestants are not exposed to African-American history and do not know it or feel comfortable with it. While I date of the episode is not given, this post is in February, African-American History month, adding another layer. The implication is that this is not the kind of knowledge that these “college champions” possess. It also demonstrates who tends to be the contestants on Jeopardy, — a lack of diversity in contestants and knowledge.

  5. Echoing Maury here to say WOW! The argument here is that a diverse education is not a priority for white society. The image shows the untouched category of “African American History” while the other five categories have been completed. All of the contestants are white and wearing college sweatshirts. To me the sweatshirts make this argument very powerful—although these contestants are portrayed as educated, there is an entire category that they don’t feel comfortable even touching. College is touted as a place to gain worldly experience, but obviously that isn’t happening.

    The layout of the images is important to the argument. We go from the motion of the top two images (showing the game progressing) to the grinding halt of the last image. The figures in the last image don’t even show motion—they are still, with blank faces. No one knows how to move forward. This also shows how uncomfortable people feel discussing race, suggesting the root of the problem.

  6. This compilation of screen shots from a recent episode of Jeopardy is making an argument about the lack of knowledge of the experiences of people of color in the United States. The first image shows all of the categories from the round. They are: Thomas, Write?, Weather Verbs, International Cinema Showcase, Talk Nerdy to Me, Kiwi Fauna, and African-American History. The first thing that struck me about the first image is that several of these categories are very narrow, while a category on the history of an entire group of people and their entirety of experience in the nation is very broad. The introduction of this category next to Kiwi Fauna and others suggests a bit of trivialization. The next image is the screen after all other categories have been played through. No one apparently wanted to play that category. The final image is of the players, who are all white. The collection of images is making an argument about the lack of knowledge of an important part of America’s past and the lived experiences of those in it. It seems shameful that college students can more effectively answer questions about the native animals on another continent.

  7. I love this set of screen shots! It definitely seems to argue that America has a huge problem with Black history. Not only is there not even one A-A student on the panel of college contestants, but none of the questions from that whole category have been touched. Not even the $200! A Jeopardy champion is supposed to have a plethora of knowledge in all subject, so why don’t any of these white college students dare even breech the category? ‘

    Coming during Black History month, this is a really striking set of images. One month is not enough.

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