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.

Tag: Case Studies

Re-proposing my Oos

 In my original proposal on Snapchat. I stated that I was interested in  Snapchat because it “encourages users to connect between 1 and 10 seconds at a time” instead of creating profiles akin to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I wanted to explore: What impact does this have on the concept of social networking? What does this new, ephemeral form of communication mean for social networking and mediated communication?  I felt this was useful for English Studies because it offered a glimpse into rhetoric of messaging and study of time/space in communication. I stated, “SnapChat offers an exploration of kairos and spontaneity, privacy concerns, ephemeral nature of social media, and the role of body in communication.” I

After completing two case studies, I’m no longer interested in exploring Snapchat. Much of that is connected with my perceptions of Snapchat through research and the rhetoric that surrounds Snapchat. Snapchat is often discussed as a social network. I argue that Snapchat is a photo messaging application that is apart of social media. Snapchat is a network the same way that the text message function on a cell phone is a network. Yes, Snapchat does offer the potential to find and connect with people even if you do not have their number, but it does not provide the same chance for connectivity and flow of information apparent in social networks. Connectivity and network are not the same thing. Snapchat provides a connection, but it does not provide a network without continued and consistent effort on the parts of the users. I don’t want to present this as traditional versus nontraditional social network, but the conversations about Snapchat are moving in that direction. If Snapchat is going to be considered a social network: Does that redefine network? Does that change what counts as a network?

If I were to shift to a new Oos, I would expand from Snapchat and examine all of the ephemeral, disappearing, and privacy applications being presented as social networks/media. I wouldn’t focus specifically on Snapchat because of the aforementioned thoughts on Snapchat as a network. In a sense, I would move from examining these specific applications as networks to examining the idea of social network/media that focuses on moving data with the purpose of erasing or hiding it. These new services, such as Snapchat, Wicker, iDelete, and Facebook’s Poke, all provide a way to communicate and share information that will disappear. While the applications Secret and Whisper (which is a digital version of PostSecret) promise anonymity over ephemerality. It is important to think about Snapchat and these other services as networks to make the distinction between social networks and social media. Moreover, we may have reached the point where it becomes necessary to identify not only types of networks but also what each network affords.

As far as the significance of this Oos to English Studies, I think the significance lies in the study of communication (how we communicate, why we communicate, when we communicate, and in what medium). This mediation of text and photo messaging can be utilized to examine rhetorical activity, to facilitate composition pedagogy, to expand cultural studies. It could simply offer a glimpse into a shift in the way that society perceives and participates in social networking/media.

Case Study #2: SnapCHAT and ANT

Literature Review

Snapchat  is a photo messaging application that is often discussed as a social network. Many of the conversations about Snapchat are taking place on blogs, news organizations, magazines, and other mainstream/popular media outlets. However, there is little scholarship about Snapchat. As much has not been written, this review will examine emerging scholarship on Snapchat, which has focused on two areas: ephemerality and sexting (both rooted in privacy)


Photo messaging is nothing new. What makes Snapchat so significant is that the messages disappear.  Kotfila argues that Snapchat, and other self-destructing applications, are the “solution, shifting control over digital communication back to owners” (12).  People have traditionally trusted that their private communications were beyond the reach of the public, until technology enabled massive data aggregation. Some information, even if it has been publicly available, is shrouded in “practical obscurity,” because the cost of retrieving it is excessive. But practical obscurity has been diluted by data recording, copying and easy dissemination. The tide is turning with emerging technologies incorporating self-destruct functionalities that obliterate images, texts, videos and pdfs in a time period specified by the owner. Similarly, Shein explores the societal desire for and implications of these new technologies. Shein argues that ephemeral data is the wave of the future because people are more concerned about the traces that they leave online and the potential for the data generated to harm them in the future. Social media was designed to store data. However, people are moving toward replicating the ephemerality of real world conversation in the digital world. Shein goes on to examine the motivations behind the desire for ephemeral data. Shein concludes by discussing the fact that the data is not in fact ephemeral. There are ways to circumvent the software via screenshots, hacking, and using other devices. Because of the advances in technology, software and hardware are designed to store information, so the applications are in a sense faking the ephemerality.


Snapchat and sexting have become synonymous since reports of teens using Snapchat for sexting and cyberbullying surfaced in 2013. Poltash presents that personal pictures have been a very common part of social media for years. It often happens that photos are usurped and used for ulterior motives, which has brought about privacy concerns. This issue of privacy is exacerbated by Snapchat and further complicated by sexting. Poltash notes, “the company’s deletion of messages from its serves has led to a widespread alternative use for Snapchat: sexting” (11). The idea that snaps self-destruct, giving users (especially teens) a sense of security because their discretions, supposedly, will not come back to haunt them.  Poltash also notes that Snapchat is being used to share explicit drawings, to share underage drinking, and to cheat on tests. From the a legal standpoint, sexting is a dangerous endeavor for teens. If these explicit snaps are revealed, through screen capture, secondary photo, or technological infiltration, teens risk damaging their reputation, hindering job opportunities, and being bullied.

Trust and Snapchat

Jenny Davis complicates the discussions of ephemerality and sexting by adding the concept of trust to the conversation. Davis argues that although Snapchat solves the problem of sharing sensitive (erotic) communications via a network, it has “unique” and “possibly problematic” implications. Davis presents that within the network limited agency resides with the person who produces an image. However, once the image is put out into the network “it belongs–rightly or wrongly–to The Internet.” The image can either be unseen or spread quickly through the network. Snapchat can prevent this spread from occurring. Davis states, “Snapchat ostensibly helps users circumvent privacy concerns within networked publics. Or, more specifically, Snapchat should alleviate the worry inherent in digitally mediated intimate contact.” However, there is a major issue with Snapchat. Through the lens of technology as mediated action, Davis argues that Snapchat causes the “displacement of trust from a message recipient, to the technology itself”. Sexting is an intimate act, which means there is a certain level of trust between the sender and the receiver. Davis argues that Snapchat changes this trust. It provides users a sense of safety and privacy, but “the technology now–not the recipient—is the trusted object”. The unstated code of Snapchat users (not taking a screenshot or picture of the snap) and even more so, the application, itself, prevents the information from reaching the networked public.

This is significant in regards to thinking about Snapchat as a network. Explorations of Snapchat have not moved much beyond disappearing snaps and privacy/security issues. As Davis identified, trust and agency are significant elements of the conversation. Looking at Snapchat through the lens of the network will allow examination of agency. So, for this case study, I will use Prior et. al and Latour’s discussions of activity to analyze Snapchat as a  network. These theories offer a way to explore activity and agency.

Source KPCB estimates based on company data retrieved from NoraBella

What is the network?

CHAT could possibly define Snapchat as a combination of production, representation, distribution, and reception of practices within a laminated chronotope. The communications within Snapchat are produced by users within a particular context or moment. These communications are “entextualized in talk, text, and mind” by users through the addition of  text or drawing to the snaps, which are then disseminated to other users via the application. The user modifies this distribution by deciding how long the recipient has to view the communication. The last part of the activity centers on the “actual reading/viewing/hearing and response” to the communication. As a tool that sends interactive messages between users, activity within Snapchat is “situated in concrete interactions that are simultaneously improvised locally and mediated by historically-provided tools and practices” (Prior et. al). The snaps or communications are made concrete (although temporarily) with smartphone cameras by users, who wish to capture a fleeting moment using a mediation of SMS.

ANT could possibly define Snapchat as a network of actors circulating intermediaries or traces of connections between actors. Actors in Snapchat would include the application, users, service providers (and their hardware–cell towers), and the server on which the data is stored. Additional actors could be added depending on the number of people who receive the snap and their individual service providers (and their hardware). ANT would probably include all aspects of the system which enable the communication between users to take place. If networks are formed by actors sending intermediaries among themselves, then Snapchat is a network, as users send snaps among themselves. These specific data transmitted between users disappears (is hidden). However, the interactions themselves are not. The application creates a best friend list for users that shows which users interact more with one another. For example, if user A sends the majority of their snaps to user Z, user Z will be listed as user A’s best friend. The interactions between users are recorded and the level of activity described.

What are Nodes?

Nodes within CHAT are literate activity. Literate activity is “action and cognition[…] distributed over time and space and among people, artifacts, and environments […]” (Prior et. al). Therefore, nodes within Snapchat would include the users, who send communications to one another. The software would also be a node within the network because it facilitates the activity. In addition, the hardware would be a node. The smartphones, on which the application functions, facilitate distribution. Furthermore, the service providers and the servers are apart of the network due to their control over access and data. Within the ongoing conversations about Snapchat, these nodes would create the literate activity within the social network.

ANT defines nodes as actors. As mentioned above, the actors are numerous. Every aspect of the network—both human and nonhuman—can have agency. This means that the hardware and the software involved in making communications in Snapchat possible are apart of the network. Latour presents that “anything that does modify a state of affairs by making a difference is an actor” (71). He presents that when deciding about actors one should ask: “Does it make a difference in the course of some other agent’s action or not? Is there some trial that allows someone to detect this difference?” (71). I would argue that because the application is designed to hide the data from users, stored on the servers, and can be hacked by others (users and non-users of Snapchat) that the hardware and software are actors in the network.

Agency of Nodes

Through CHAT the agency would shift between hardware and the software. The users of Snapchat are responsible for the production, representation, and reception of the communications. They have primary agency as creators of the data that moves through the network. The service providers can be said to have greater agency as they control access to the network and allow the data to travel through the network. Also, once the time for the snap has lapsed, the technology and its creators (service providers and servers) would have primary agency. They alone would have access to and control over the communication. The user would be unable to access the communications without technological know how. It seems that primary agency is with the users; however, after the snap disappears the users have no agency. The agency shifts to the company, itself. Technically, the agency lies with the technology; it is with the server on which the snap is saved.

Within ANT, the temporary connectivity that the snaps provide and the “disappearing” of the snaps are enabled by the hardware and software. The users would not be able to utilize the network without these technologies. However, these technologies would lie dormant if users were not creating and sending snaps. So, the object actors and the human actors both have agency. There is no primary agency in this instance, as all parties are needed for the network to function

Location of Nodes

Although the agency shifts within the network, Snapchat’s nodes would be located within different categories in the Remapping Rhetorical Activity: Take 2. There is a hierarchy with the network. The users operate within the literate activity part of the system; they are a part of “individual and collective invention,” “style and arrangement,” “the way particular media, technologies, and social practices are disseminated,” and “how meaning is made under what conditions and for what ends.” (Prior et. al). The application developers, service providers, and the actual technology operate on the literate activity and the functional level of the system. This aspect of the network is responsible for the distribution of the data within the network. Those who control the hardware “tie together people, artifacts, practices, institutions, communities, and ecologies” (Prior et. al). Snapchat facilitates literate activity (snaps within the application space) within the functional system of the social network for a specified period of time.

As there is no primary agent in ANT, the nodes are not situated in categories or hierarchies. Latour argues for “keep[ing] the social domain completely flat” (171; original emphasis). I interpreted this as avoiding hierarchies. This is important as hierarchies would situate human actors higher than nonhuman actors. The lack of hierarchies make the relationship between the hardware, software, and the users both necessary and interrelated.

Relationships between Nodes

CHAT and ANT would present the relationship between nodes as centered on interaction.  It functions as an “interlocking system within which rhetors are formed, act, and navigate” (Prior et. al). CHAT emphasizes ecologies, which operate within literate activity and function systems; ecologies “point to the biotic and natural world, which enables and constrains all the previous functions and which may also be a domain of rhetorical action” (Prior et. al). In this context, the users of Snapchat enter the application, which the developers created, create their snaps and send them, utilizing the technology and data of the service providers. Once the snap has been viewed by the recipient, the snap disappears from all users. In actuality, the snaps are only hidden from users and stored by providers. Snapchat’s function is a system in which users, creators, and hardware work together to mediate activity. The relations have to remain active in order for the network to continue. The users of Snapchat must continue to send snaps in order for their connections and the network to remain active. There is an emphasis on the and information flow among the nodes (Latour 217).

Movement within the Network

In Snapchat, data (in the form of photo messages) moves within the network from one user through the application and the service provider to the recipient and then to hide on the server after the user designated time has lapsed. Through the lens of CHAT the movement of data would be distribution. Distribution is “the way particular media, technologies, and social practices disseminate a text and what a particular network signifies.” Distribution takes place on the part of the users and the controllers’ of technology. The users decide on when to deliver the communication and how long recipient(s) will have to view the communication. The controllers’ of the technology also control distribution by facilitating (and to some extent controlling) the movement of the data through the network from one user to the other.

Snapchat’s Best Friends List retrieved from

ANT may describe the movement within Snapchat as traces or assemblages of connections within the social network. The network part of this is clear. The social part is defined, by Latour, as “made to circulate inside tiny conduits that can expand only through more instruments, spending, and channels” (241). Moreover,  Snapchat would be a part of society; it is “what travels through everything.” (241). The interactions on Snapchat are connections among users within the network. These interactions are traced by the software and stored on the hardware. These relations are a process that must continuously performed for the connections to persist and for the data to move through the network.

Meaning within the Network

Within CHAT meaning is literate activity, specifically reception and socialization, in the functional system. Reception is defined as “actual reading/viewing/hearing and responses, how meaning is made under what conditions and for what ends. It is a mental and social activity. Reception can be, and often is, actively shaped by writers or distributors” (Prior et. al). The activity of creating and sending a snap is the literate activity. The meaning resides with the writer upon the production/creation of the snap.  However, control of meaning shifts to the receiver upon viewing the snap. It is up to the recipient to make meaning of the snap and/or respond to the snap.  Socialization is defined as “the making of people and the making of society in concrete history. As individuals engage in cultural practices, they are involved in apprenticeship, learning, and development. As situated engagement in cultural practices, unfolds, society is (re)produced, that is, transmitted and transformed in activity” (Prior et. al). Through this lens, Snapchat could be read as literate activity of socialization within the functional system of the social network. Snapchat was created as a response to current social media and as a need to provide privacy for social network users. Since its inception, Snapchat has, as shown in the literature, impacted the way that people utilize messaging applications. The activity of photo messaging has been transformed because of Snapchat.

Meaning within ANT is a confusing aspect of the theory. In the beginning of his discussion of ANT, Latour emphasizes “the social cannot be construed as a kind of material or domain” (1). Thus, the focus is not on meaning. The social is defined a “trail of associations” that ANT aims to map. Since ANT aims to avoid the essentialist notions of the social, there isn’t a focus on meaning. This works for an application like Snapchat because the communications that move through the network are not readily available for analysis or interpretation. However, the functions of the network and the traces of the connections are available.

Emergence, Growth, and Dissolution of the Network

Through CHAT and ANT the network emerges, grows and dissolves based on the actions of the actors. The actions of the actors cause the network to be active and emerge. On the other hand, the emergence of the network could be the literate activity of the application creators, who made it possible for the network to exist by creating the software to connect and distribute the data of the users.  However, the users of Snapchat must continue to utilize the application and make connections with other users in order for the network to grow. If the users do not send data in the form of snaps then the network will be static or dissolve. The application creators and service providers also have some stake in the dissolution in the network due to their control over and access to the data that moves through the network.


CHAT and ANT, unlike Rhetorical Situation theory, allowed me to discuss Snapchat as a more complex network. Through these theories, I was able to examine the activity of the network in general terms rather than being caught in the binary of exigence or author. Snapchat is a limited network in that much of the network is dependent on connections already held by the user, and the users continued utilization of these connections. Using CHAT and ANT, I expanded my analysis to include those who create and control the technology and the technology (smartphone and application). Before, I was hesitant to label Snapchat as a network.  It is a network in a sense that the application is networked and that technology is required for the application to work. However, it is not a social network in the traditional sense, which is the goal of its creators. Because I was able to include human and non-human aspects of the network, there were few limitations.  I feel that CHAT and ANT would have allowed me to say more about the hardware and software as actors in the Snapchat network. I limited this aspect of the discussion due to personal limits on time and space limit on the assignment.  Moving forward, I would like to look more at Davis’ argument that users trust is in the application rather than other users. In terms of networks, this is significant because the application (ultimately, the servers) is then a part of the network that holds on the information that is said to have disappeared. CHAT and ANT provided a space for me to discuss the “disappearing” aspect of Snapchat as a part of the network, which is important as Snapchat’s popularity and controversy centers on this feature.

Works Cited

Davis, Jenny. “In Snapchat We Trust.” Cyborgology. The Society Pages. 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 March 2014.

Kotfila, Christopher. “This Message Will Self-Destruct: The Growing Role of Obscurity and Self-Destructing Data in Digital Communication.” Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 40.2 (2014): 12-16. Web. 22 March 2014.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Poltash, Nicole A. “Snapchat and Sexting: A Snapshot of Baring Your Bare Essentials.” Richard Journal of Law and Technology. 19.4 (2013): 1-10. Web. 21 March 2014.

Prior, Paul, et. al. “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity: A Collaborative Core Text. Kairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 31 March 2014.

Shein, Esther. “ Ephemeral Data” Communications of the ACM. 56.9 (2013): 20-22. Web. 22 March 2014.

Responses: Outlines for Case Study #2

In my excitement about Spring Break, I forgot about this assignment. I responded/replied to Daniel’s Case Study using CHAT and ANT and Leslie’s Case Study using Genre Tracing and CHAT.

Daniel’s outline for case study #2 was organized utilizing the questions. It made the outline very easy to follow. It also emphasized the comparative nature of the assignment. I wasn’t confused in any areas. I’m still not 100% sure what Google Analytics is or does. I thought it was a well developed outline (much more so than mine). I did not have anything to add in regards to areas where I was confused or wanted to see more.

Leslie’s outline for case study #2 was organized very similar to my outline. She plans to apply Spinuzzi’s genre tracing and CHAT to the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity. Leslie’s outline, like mine was not very detailed. I had a question about how CHAT addresses what serves as a node. How are the different levels of activity nodes? It seems that a bit more explanation was to be provided, but it was not included. I am interested in this because I am also using CHAT and had difficulty expanding on how I saw the activity levels as nodes.

CHAT seems to be a popular theory for this assignment. I am interested in how each of use utilizes the theory in different ways. I hope this provides more insight into CHAT and possibly an article to expand on what was already done by Prior et al.

Peer Reviews for Case Study #1

For the first Case Study peer review, I responded to Summer’s case study on World of Warcraft (WoW) and Suzanne’s case study on Underground Press Syndicate (UPS).

Summer’s case study used Bazerman’s theory of speech acts and human activity to examine the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game World of Wordcraft (WoW). Summer’s study was interesting because I knew little about guilds or how they operate. They were much more organized and complex than I had imagined. The use of applications (form) to apply to certain guilds and the hierarchies within the guild were unexpected.

Suzanne’s case study was interesting because I was unaware of Underground Press Syndicate (UPS). Upon reading the background on UPS, I could easily see how communication evolved from the Pony Express to today. The UPS was interesting to me also because I am always concerned with agency, ethos, and meaning. What is the origin of rhetorical discourse? Where does meaning reside? The different nodes and connections within the UPS in conjunction with the purpose of the communications brought about questions in regards to where agency lies within activism?

From reading both of these case studies, I wondered how I could apply genre theory to SnapChat. Charles Bazerman explores “how people using text create new realities of meaning, relation, and knowledge” (309). It would be interesting to examine how people using SnapChat are creating new realities. Is SnapChat that complex? Much of the discussion focuses on the ephemeral of SnapChat. Maybe it would be beneficial trace the development of SnapChat. It is an advancement of text messaging. Reading about genre theory in these posts also made me think of how speech acts operate on different levels and on what level SnapChats operate. Viewing the lasting connections presented in the case studies above, I again return my focus to the tenuous nature of the connections made via SnapChat and how (and if) that impacts the communications being made via the application.





Case Study #1: Applying Rhetorical Situation to Snapchat


The rhetorical situation, as discussed by Bitzer, Vatz, and Biesecker, would define Snapchat as a site of rhetorical discourse/communication by its connections among exigence, author, audience, and text/message. Snapchat’s purpose is to provide connected users the ability to utilize an ephemeral form of communication.

Although, it is presented as a dynamic network, the rhetorical situation as network reveals that Snapchat functions as a closed system that cannot exist without its users and their connections.


The rhetorical situation as network would operate/form differently by each theorist. Via Bitzer, the rhetorical situation network would include the exigence, rhetor, and the audience as nodes within the network, with the exigence being the primary node.


According to Vatz, the network would have the same nodes: exigence, rhetor, and the audience. However, the primary node via Vatz would be the author due to Vatz’s argument that the rhetor decides what is relevant and then communicates it to the audience.


In both instances, text/message travels through the network, and the audience is a given part of the situation.

Biesecker’s presents the rhetorical situation network that includes the exigence, rhetor, audience, and text. The text and audience are constituents in the rhetorical situation, meaning they are a nodes within the network and have impact on the network, itself. Biesecker moves past the discussion as to whether the situation or the rhetor serve as the origin of rhetorical discourse, meaning there isn’t a primary node.BieseckerThrough the lens of the rhetorical situation, the Snapchat users are the (nodes). Each user (rhetor) has the ability to capture a situation or moment (exigence) as a snap (text) and send it to other users (audience). On one hand, the primary node of the rhetorical discourse in Snapchat could be a specific situation/moment that the author experiences. On the other hand, the author could take a picture and make it meaningful by capturing the moment and/or adding text and drawings. Furthermore, each user has the potential to act as the primary node, creating and sending snaps. Snapchat does not afford the users the complex interactions presented via Biesecker’s take on the rhetorical situation.



As mentioned above, Bitzer presents the primary node as the exigence (situation or event), which requires a response. However, Vatz presents the primary node as the rhetor. The rhetor chooses what is relevant and makes it meaningful. Biesecker complicates this, as none of the constituents, or nodes, of the rhetorical situation serve as the primary node.  However, Biesecker does give agency to the audience, which is something Vatz and Biesecker overlook. Biesecker presents the human element of the network (both rhetor and audience) as being in flux, stating:

“From within the thematic of différance we would see the rhetorical situation neither as an event that merely induces audiences to act one way or another nor as an incident that, in representing the interests of a particular collectivity, merely wrestles the probable within the realm of the actualizable. Rather, we would see the rhetorical situation as an event that makes possible the production of identities and social relations. That is to say, if rhetorical events are analysed from within the  thematic of différance, it becomes possible to read discursive practices neither as rhetorics directed to preconstituted and known audiences nor as rhetorics “in search of” objectively identifiable  but yet undiscovered audiences.” (126)

This approach to the rhetorical situation de-centers the subject  This means that subjectivity is constantly evolving, nothing is a fixed point. The network then produces and reproduces identities and the linkages between them. The subjects (rhetor and audience) are moving parts of the network

 From this perspective, the level of agency in Snapchat is complex. For example, the author decides what moment to capture, what text or drawing to include, and what the time-limit will be. This can be interpreted two ways: 1)  agency being situated with author for making said event salient  and 2) agency being situated within the event for serving as the catalyst of rhetorical discourse. This falls along the lines of the rhetorical network presented via Bitzer and Vatz. However, via Biesecker’s take on the rhetorical situation, agency is situated with the recipient of the snap. Upon receiving the snap, the recipient can view only, respond, or take a screenshot. No matter the chosen response, the recipients level of agency becomes higher than the author. In choosing not to respond, the recipient ends the communications, breaking the discourse. If the recipient chooses to respond, the recipient becomes the author and the original author a recipient. However, the recipient has the ability to take a screenshot, subverting the purpose of Snapchat and, depending on the content of the snap, negatively impacting the author.  Although both author and audience have agency, it is higher with the audience, who has more impact on networks continuation (response), dissolve (not responding), or growth (via screenshot).

In the rhetorical situation network laid out by Bitzer and Vatz,  the nodes are not situated differently. There is a linear progression from the origin of the discourse to the audience. The directions of the relationships among the nodes is one-way with each node impacting the subsequent node. However, for Biesecker, the nodes are not situated in a linear pattern. The nodes exists in relation to one another, bearing the traces of one another; thus, there is no origin. The network “produces and reproduces the identities of subjects and constructs and reconstructs linkages between them” (126). The nodes relate to and impact one another.

Along the same lines as Bitzer and Vatz, users are not situated differently within Snapchat. All users have the ability to send and receive snaps, with an author communicating to an audience. However, some users can have more connectivity than others. For example, a user can have a closed system in which he/she only receives snaps from friends (already established and accepted connections). A user can also choose to have an open system in which he/she can receives snaps from anyone who uses Snapchat. Furthermore, the author has the ability to send the snap to as many people as the network and his/her connections allow. This affords new rhetorical situations to be created if and when receivers decide to respond.  Though not as complex and interactive as the network Biesecker imagines, snaps can be sent in various directions to various users.


Meaning within the rhetorical situation differs for each theorist. However, meaning travels through the networks in a similar fashion for Bitzer and Vatz. Bitzer argues that meaning is intrinsic to the event and calls the rhetorical discourse into existence (compels the author to respond). This refers back to the primary node being the exigence.  Vatz argues that meaning lies in the creative act of the rhetor, which refers back to the primary node being the rhetor.

Since Bitzer and Vatz place little to no agency with the audience, as the meaning travels, it holds whatever meaning via the exigence and rhetor, respectively. However, Biesecker avoids the binary created by Bitzer and Vatz, arguing instead that meaning is found the “non-originary ‘origin’ called différance” (120). The content travels through the network and is continually impacted. For example, meanings relay to other meanings which have been impacted by earlier meanings and then modified by later meanings. This process continues because language continues. Biesecker argues, “neither the text’s immediate rhetorical situation nor its author can be taken as simple origin or generative agent since both are underwritten by a séries of historically produced displacements” (121). Because there isn’t a primary node, meaning is found in the process of the rhetorical network. Therefore,  the content of the rhetorical situation is “on a trajectory of becoming rather than Being” (127).

From this perspective, meaning in Snapchat can be said to derive from the exigence or the rhetor. In regards to what happens as meaning travels, Snapchat is different in that the content “self-destructs” after it travels from the author to the recipient. The author and the audience do not have to share the same meaning/understanding. Once the snap is sent, meaning can be misinterpreted by the recipient and changed via the response that the recipient generates. Also, the recipient has a limited amount of time (10 seconds maximum) to interpret and internalize the message before it disappears; the content Snapchat network goes from existence to non-existence as it travels.

Emergence, Growth, and Dissolution

Although the origin of the networks presented by Vatz and Bitzer differ, after the point of origin, the idea is that the message is communicated to an audience that can be influenced. Once the network forms, it can “mature or decay or mature and persist” (12). In this instance, though mostly ignored by both theorists, the audience would have a high level of agency. They could respond to the exigence or not. Biesecker complicates this by presenting the rhetorical situation as a process in which all the nodes are created and interact simultaneously. The network “produces and reproduces the identities of subjects and constructs and reconstructs linkages between them” (126). As Biesecker’s network is not caught in the binary of exigence and rhetor, the network “makes possible the production of identities and social relations” (126). Therefore, the network emerges and grows, interacting and shifting.

The dynamic network presented in Biesecker’s network is not possible via Snapchat. The network has the ability to grow based on the number of connections users make with one another. The possibilities of making connections can be expanded if one has an open Snapchat profile. However, the network can dissolve easily. The Snapchat network only thrives when snaps are sent. If snaps are not sent and users do not interact with one another, the network does not function. The connection remains intact, but it will not be a live network.


Comparing Snapchat to the rhetorical situation was more complicated than expected. At first, I envisioned Snapchat as a social networking platform, which allowed users to make and maintain connections. This made the network seem more complex than it actually was. Simplifying my approach and examining Snapchat as a messaging application or tool made it much easier to envision all parts of the network. Thinking about Snapchat in terms of the rhetorical situation helped me to realize that Snapchat is not much of a network at all. Although it is discussed as being a  dynamic social network, it is not. Snapchat is a closed system, which is more direct and linear (i.e. Bitzer and Vatz).  It  lacks the dynamic, interactive nature of the network as laid out by Biesecker.

The rhetorical situation allowed a closer examination of what counts as a node, the relationship between the nodes, and what the Snapchat does as a network. I left out a discussion of constraints, as they only played a significant role in Bitzer’s article, and I did not feel they factored into the development of the network.  In retrospect, the rhetorical situation does not afford an extensive discussion of the ephemeral nature of Snapchat. The idea that the snaps disappear is a big part of the applications popularity. Foucault’s discussions of discourse may have been more applicable. Moving forward, I am interested in exploring the ephemeral and tactile nature of Snapchat.

Works Cited

Biesecker, Barbara A. “Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation from with the Thematic of ‘Differance’.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 22.2 (1989): 110-130. Print.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. “The Rhetorical Situation”  Philosophy & Rhetoric. Special ed. Selections from Volume 1. 25.1 (1992): 1-14. Print.

Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric. 6.3 (1973): 154-161. Print.

What is Snapchat?

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a photo messaging application that can be downloaded on to a smartphone in order to share photos and recorded videos. The users can add text and/or drawings to photos and videos before sending them to friends. The user has the ability to set a time limit (ranging from 1 to 10 seconds) on how long the recipient can view the photo or video.  After the time has passed, the photos and/or videos “disappear,” which means they are hidden/blocked on the recipients device and deleted from the Snapchat servers. Snapchat also allows user to create a Snapchat Story, which can be shared with all friends. Snapchat Story allows users to connect snaps together, creating a narrative. The story is visible for 24 hours after which recipients lose access and the snaps are deleted from the server.

The creators of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, state that Snapchat is a response to the documentary nature of social networking and the obsession with online identity. Snapchat’s emphasis is on communication and feeling rather than the idealization and archivalization. Whereas traditional social networking and smartphone applications encourage connectivity and documenting experiences. Snapchat focuses on limited connectivity and no documentation. Users are able to share experiences with friends, but these shared experiences are bound by time limits. In addition, users cannot document or access a timeline of their “snaps” because nothing sent is stored and nothing sent can be searched. Snapchat’s aim, according to the creators, is to provide a spontaneous and uncontrived way of communicating:

Snapchat is a direct response to the permanent nature of social media. The focus on authentic moments, communication, and the ephemeral is what makes it stand apart from the other technologies that are utilized today whether they be social networking platforms or smartphone applications. It is important to note that Snapchat does not present itself as a social network, even though it is often grouped with other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Snapchat’s move toward shifting what it means to engage in the digital world brings about questions in regards to what counts as connection, what counts as authenticity, and what counts as communication.

Object of Study: Snap Chat

mzl.worsuyet My object of study for the course is SnapChat. SnapChat is a photo messaging application that allows users to take/record pictures and videos with texts and drawings. The users are able to set the time limit, controlling how long the recipients will be able to see the image. The time limits range from 1 to 10 seconds. Once this time lapses, the recipient will no longer be able to access the images. According to the SnapChat website, once the time lapses the recipient will be unable to access the image and it will be deleted from the Snap Chat’s server.

The design of SnapChat itself is simple. Once the application is open the users camera is activated. The user sees a screen with a large circle, outlined in white at the bottom center of the screen. The user can snap a photo by pressing this circle. The user has the option to hold the circle and record up to 10 seconds of video. To the right of the circle the user has a menu button, which lead to the “My Friends” list. To the left of the circle, the user is able to access a log of sent and received “snaps.” Once a “snap” is taken, the user can add a indexlayer of text by touching the image and typing a message. The user also has the option of selecting a pencil icon, choosing from a list of colors, and drawing on the image. After the user has taken the “snap” added text and/or drawing, the user can select the amount of time the recipient will have to view the image. Finally, the user hits a small arrow, shaped like a paper plane, to send the snap. Once this is selected, the user can decide who will receive the snap. The snap can be sent to as many individuals as desired.

I am interested in examining SnapChat as a network because, currently, the most popular concept of network right now is a social network. Social Networks like MySpace, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all networks that focused on the creation of profiles, sharing, and making lasting connections. What is interesting about SnapChat is that it encourages users to connect with their social network, but between 1 and 10 seconds at a time. SnapChat is interesting as it allows users to make connections with existing friends, but also open themselves up to send and receive chats from people unknown. An interesting aspect of Snap Chat, according to Liz Gannes in “Fast-Growing Photo-Messaging App Snapchat Launches on Android, a significant number of SnapChats are sent to groups instead of individuals. What impact does this have on the concept of social networking? What does this new, ephemeral form of communication mean for social networking and mediated communication?  These are the types of questions, I am interested in exploring in regards to Snap Chat.

Snap Chat is useful to English Studies because it offers a glimpse into rhetoric of messaging, networks, and the study of time/space in communication. SnapChat offers an exploration of kairos and spontaneity, privacy concerns, ephemeral nature of social media, and the role of body in communication.

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