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: Ecology

Final Reading Notes: Rickert, Ambient Rhetoric, Hip Hop

I have had several discussions about ambience over the years. The reason being that before I came to English Studies, music was my life. We often discussed ambience in regards to which space would produce the best sound. It is easy for a violin to be drowned out without the right atmosphere. We used to provide background noise to some songs, so they seemed like they were recorded live or recorded near busy streets. A clear crisp sound was not a part of “gritty” hip hop. While my musical worlds were drastically different, I understood the importance of the character of the surrounding.

Thomas Rickert’s Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being provided a Frankentheory that I could get behind. Although I thought, Rickert’s work would be very challenging (i.e. Foucualt), it was not as daunting as I had imagined. Like Castells, I wished for more time. I felt rushed to absorb everything, and I added it to my lists of text to return to in the future. I also added Rickert’s work to the list of theories that were both enjoyable and accessible. The others are rhetorical situation theory, CHAT, neurology, and affordances. Within Rickert, I could CHAT, ANT, ecology, affordances, Foucault, and the rhetorical situation. He in a sense completes the circle or better yet, extends the network. What I took away most from Rickert was the connection between ambient rhetoric and Heidegger’s conceptualization of dwelling. (Before English, I was also a philosophy major).

Rickert presents ambience as follows:

We are entering an age of ambience, one in which boundaries between subject and object, human and nonhuman, and information and matter dissolve” (1),

“So ambience here refers to the active role that the material and informational environment takes in human development, dwelling, and culture, or to put this differently it dissolves the assumed separation between what is (privileged) human doing and what is passively material” (3).

“Ambience, then, becomes a useful distillation of ongoing dynamic shifts in a vibrant, robust environment that we seek to understand, explain, and work through; ambience is itself ambient, meaning, in part, that ambience, even in such seeming subjective forms as recognition, is not solely human doing” (5).

In Chapter 7, “Ambient Dwelling”, Rickert focuses on ethics, particularly ethos as presented by Hyde as a “dwelling place.” Rickert challenges this notion and asserts that rhetoric is always wordly. He argued in Chapter 5 against rhetoric being “discursively grounded.” Since we are conditioned, impacted, and attuned by the world, we cannot exclusively focus on discourse. Rickert presents: “Our ethics are not something exterior we bring in and deploy but rather a set of comportments that emerge from life as it is lived, from what we do, say, and make” (223). Rickert uses Heidegger to examine how we “dwell with things and each other in the world”

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I found this interesting given that the topic of Dr. Phillips’ Literature Seminar was Dwelling. It was even more so interesting in that my topic for this class was exploring hip hop and diaspora, especially the connection between Heidegger’s dwelling and the construction of home via hip hop.

I argued that the elements of hip hop, participants in the culture present stories of lived experience, which are usually spatially oriented to particular cities and neighborhoods. These cultural practices allow practitioners the ability to define, create, represent, and build a sense of home. Heidegger’s presents that building has moved away from the original definition of being to the idea of constructing shelter. Heidegger refutes this arguing, “We do not dwell because we have built, but we build and have built because we dwell, that is because we are dwellers” (148). Thus, Heidegger provides both a material and ontological discussion of dwelling as existence, construction of home, and connection to community within a particular space and time.

Hip Hop has a regional and territorial nature in the sense of city, community, neighborhood. Hip Hop culture provides the tools needed for these displaced and oppressed individuals to represent themselves, construct home, and dwell within often inhospitable spaces.


Under Cyphers Hip Hop Festival 2012

This was also interesting in light of my Oos switching to the cypher, an important concept and place within Hip Hop. Rickert’s ambient rhetoric, with its focus on humans, nonhumans, materiality, and ecology, provides a great lens through which to examine language and its movement within hip hop, hip hop’s connection/integration with place and environment, and the role of material to hip hop. I was especially intrigued by the idea that “the nodes do not exist prior to the network.” I feel like I am entering a chicken or the egg debate. Which came first the networks, the connections, or the nodes? In regards to hip hop, I can see how the structure/environment provided the foundation for the connections to take place. The foundation and connections took shape because of the surrounding environment. The individuals within also shape the environment.

Below is an example of a cypher from the BET Hip Hop Awards. This is more formal than usual, but it gives you the general idea. Disclaimer: This is uncensored

Reading Notes #9: Ecology Systems

This week’s readings on ecologies was a bit overwhelming. Guattari’s argument is an advancement of Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind. I was delighted to find that Guattari’s The Three Ecologies was much shorter than I thought. However, this delight shifted to sadness upon realizing that Guattari’s work centered on the deterioration of human life and society.  He states that the “techno-scientific transformation” has led to “ecological disequilibrium.” Guattari points out social and political issues, oppositions between East-West, and tensions between men and women.  He argues for ecosophy (ecology and philosophy). Ecosophy would examine and complex interactions between the three ecologies of mind, society, and the environment. The three ecologies are interconnected. So, there is not one approach to tackle world issues. The ecosophy aims to provide a new way of examining the world in hopes of creating a balanced society and protected environment. .

This quote captured Guattari’s argument:

“Rather than remaining subject, in periphery, to the seductive efficiency of economy competition, we must reappropriate Universes of value, so that processes of singularisation can rediscover their consistency. We need new social and aesthetic  practices, new practices of the Self in relation to the other, to the foreign, the strange – a whole programme that seems far removed from current concerns. And yet, ultimately, we will only escape from the major crises of our era through the articulation of a nascent subjectivity, a constantly mutating socius, [and] an environment in the process of being reinvented” (45).

Guattari’s work was illuminated by the definition of ecology provided by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Ecology is defined as “[t]he scientific study of the processes influencing the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interactions among organisms, and the interactions between organisms and the transformation and flux of energy and matter.”  What stood out to me most about this definition, and connected to Guattari, are the focus on ecology as a process, and the focus on the interactions and relations among the organisms.  This is not focused on a linear/structured view of ecology.  This is a dynamic view the includes the organisms and the environment.

This was a nice build up to Margaret Syverson’s “Introduction: What is an Ecology of Composition” in The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition. This is my favorite thing so far this semester. I wish I had read this earlier in the term to gain a clearer sense of applying a theory of network to an object not traditionally seen as a network. This also helped me to understand Frakentheory.

Syverson defines ecology as a “set of interrelated and interdependent complex systems” (5).  The ecology of complex system is “a network of independent agents—people, atoms, neurons, or molecules,” that “act and interact with each other, simultaneously reacting to and co-constructing their own environment” (3).  Syverson identifies four attributes of the ecological systems: distribution, emergence, embodiment, and enact ion.

What I liked most about Syverson’s work is that she aimed to push composition beyond the rhetorical triangle (writer, text, and audience). She argues, “[T]hese traditions often ignore the psychological, social, temporal or physical dimensions of writing.” This approach illuminated the limitations of the traditional conceptions of the rhetorical situation presented by Bitzer and Vatz.


This examination of ecology system is pushing me to examine Snapchat from a different perspective. I have been looking at rhetorical activity and then levels of activity. Most of the conversation focuses on Snapchat as a social network rather than a messaging application. After this week’s readings, I am thinking that maybe I could return to the composition aspect of Snapchat but in terms of ecology system instead of rhetorical activity system. Snapchats role in social media also plays apart in the ecology system. This could work in regards to how Snapchat fits within the social, temporal, and physical dimensions of composing a snap.

Stages of Social Network Adoption by

MindMap #9: Affordance and Ecology

This week’s MindMap was difficult for me because I spent the week at CCCC, which means that productivity was out the window. I attempted to do work every night, but usually I was mentally and physically exhausted. So, I was thrilled to read Norman’s work on affordances. It was clear cut and straight to the point (and I understood every word). This is the first time that has occurred since reading about the rhetorical situation (Week 1). This excitement faded, however, when I read Bateson and realized that I, once again, was not making connections. I have yet to see how affordances connect to Bateson’s ecology of the mind. The focus on environment jumped out to me. I thought that could possibly be looked at in the sense of what the environment affords us (?).

For my mindmap, I added nodes about systems because I saw the ecology as a system/network in the same sense of genre systems, activity systems, and network/hardware systems (from HowStuffWorks?). I made affordances a separate primary node because it functions differently for me, right now. I added the nodes user, designer, qualities/characteristics versus affordances. I focused on the user and designer because of the focus on interface and design in Norman’s article. I also thought about this being a network in the sense that the user, designer, and the affordances are connected and impact one another. I haven’t thought that through just yet. I also focused on the difference between affordances and qualities/characteristics. I was one of those people guilty of conflating the definition of affordances. These nodes will remind me that what a thing affords and it qualities/characteristics are not the same thing.

Ecology of CCCC

I approached this assignment with what I call the “huh face.” The major issue was the phrase “distributed consciousness.” After completing the readings and annotating, I still did not remember reading this phrase. So, I was a little disheartened when I saw that it was something that was “outlined in various ways by readings from this week.” Did I read the wrong readings?  One thing that I did connect with from the readings was affordances. So, I will begin there.

Gibson’s presented affordances as possibilities available in an environment. Via Gibson, the affordances are there even if one does not realize. Norman, however, presents affordances in terms of both actual and perceived. So, affordances are connected with the design of an object. This allows the user to identify what an object allows them; it serves as a clue, in a sense. Based off of these two definitions, Gibson’s definition of affordances is connected to possibilities, and Norman’s definition is connected to culture.

Through this lens, CCCC conference provided several affordances, such as networking, learning, partying, playing, reuniting, exploring, purchasing, and stalking (I’ll explain). Some of these things were related to possibilities and capability. For example, the massive space of the wholesale district in Indianapolis and free time on the last day afforded me “walkability”.  I was able to walk and explore much of that area; I was willing and capable. On the other hand, clues designed into the conference, experience, knowledge, and culture also impacted my conference experience. There aren’t official announcements for some of the parties, so if you are not aware or invited in, these things can occur without conference attendees knowing. For example, my first CCCC, I did not attend the Bedford party because I had no idea that it was taking place. In addition, I was shocked by the idea of drinking and partying at a professional conference.

As for as the ecology or network of the conference there were several spaces that connected together to create the conference experience. There was the physical space of the JW Marriott, the hotels of my colleagues, the spaces used for the publisher parties, There were spaces within these spaces that connected to the conference experience, such as the Black Caucus suite in the JW and the Lobby of the JW, which became a central meeting space. Other than the physical there were several virtual spaces that I used everyday. I used the physical conference book in conjunction with the CCCC app. I also used Twitter, Facebook, text message, snapchat (limited), and Instagram.

All of these things impacted the conference. The conference wouldn’t have been the same without them. I did not mention my traveling companions. I also did not mention the friends that I met/made at the conference. They were a significant part of the conference experience for me because I only see these people once a year. However, this year I did not see most of them because unlike previous years, I attended the conference with a group. I was usually with the group, so I did not see many of the people that help make the conference experience meaningful for me. Whereas others may focus on the sessions, stalking the academic celebrities, or attending the parties, I enjoy connecting with my “conference friends” every year, catching up on each others research and lives.



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