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: Genre

Scaffolding Synthesis: The Cypher as Network

Scaffolding Synthesis: The Cypher as Network

Rhetorical Situation Theory, Genre Theory, and CHAT

Theories

Which 2 – 4 theories are you choosing and why?

For the Synthesis project, my object of study is the hip hop cypher. This project will address the question “Why is studying my OoS useful to English Studies?” To do this, I plan to synthesize theories that focus on rhetoric and activity. I think these areas are useful in addressing ways in which the cypher can be used within rhetoric and composition in regards to pedagogy, argumentation, literacy, and cultural studies. The theories I have chosen to utilize for this project are:

Rhetorical Situation Theory–This theory will allow me to address the cypher’s role and hip hop and hip hop’s history as a social and political movement. Although it is currently mainstream, hip hop’s history is rooted in resistance, subculture, and revolution movements. This theory will allow an examination of the social context in which hip hop, and thus the cypher, was born. In addition, difference (Biesecker) and exigence (Bitzer) provide a space to discuss the interactive nature of hip hop and hip hop’s history of responding to social issues, respectively. These theories could also illuminate the role of audience in the cypher. The connections between the exigence, rhetorician, audience, and the rhetoric can parallel the connections between the participants in hip hop culture, the social problems/issues, and the discourse created within the culture to maintain positions within the community and push against the oppression from outside the community.

CHAT–Cultural Historical Activity theory will allow me to extend the work of rhetorical situation theory by providing a wider and more nuanced look at the activity within the cypher. Through CHAT the improvisation, spontaneity, and style expressed within the cypher can be addressed. The socialization aspect of the theory is useful to examine performance on the local level (role in the neighborhood/community) and cultural level (role in hip hop culture). The goal of the cypher is to provide a space for training, knowledge construction, entertainment, self expression, community building, and competition. The layers of literate activity work well for examining the various elements of the cypher.

Genre Theory (specifically, Bazerman’s Speech Acts)–Hip Hop and cyphers have been examined as social, cultural, and political movements. However, there has been little done to examine genre in Hip Hop. Hip Hop is made of four elements (rapping, djing, emceeing, and graffiting). If the cypher is thought of as a genre, each performance created in the cypher could be seen as a speech acts. This perspective, similar to CHAT, is useful for examining the cypher as a genre system within the larger activity system of hip hop. Bazerman’s focus on the “use [of ] texts to create new realities of meaning, relation, and knowledge” provides a way to address the cyphers role in organizing and creating community, disseminating information, and constructing knowledge. There is a hierarchical nature to cypher, which is not often illuminated; however, Bazerman’s human activity allows for an examination of hierarchy within the layers of the cypher.

How are they similar enough that you can justify getting them to work together?

As mentioned in the short introduction, these theories provide a focus on rhetoric and activity that I feel are important for examining the benefits of the cypher in regards to English Studies. Rhetorical Situation Theory, Genre Theory, and CHAT all provide a way to discuss rhetoric and the production and movement of information. This is important for English studies as we move toward a more networked classrooms and teach students whose lives are digitally mediated. They will need the ability to think critically about the production and movement of information. The theories all focus on activity; literate activity in CHAT and human activity in Bazerman. Also, rhetorical situation theory addresses activity in the sense that rhetorical discourse starts in response to a problem in order to cause action on the part of the audience. These three theories work together in providing a way to look at the creation, movement, and impact of activity within the cypher.

How do they fill each other’s gaps?

Rhetorical situation theory and genre theory deal with the origin or production of actions. CHAT provides a focus on literate activity and social context, which rhetorical situation allows, but genre theory does not. Moreover, CHAT allows for a discussion of all the elements of the cypher, while the other two theories do not allow for such an examination. Whereas, rhetorical situation theory can allow for a discussion of the meaning and audience, CHAT allows for a discussion of the activity within a larger context in regards to the literate activities role in functional systems, such as institutions and communities.

My Position as a Scholar

How do these theories align with how you position yourself as a scholar?

In regards to scholarship, my goal is to bridge my two worlds together. I am a member of the hip hop community and the academic community. The structure, organization, and belief system of these two groups are wildly different, if not polar opposite. However, I think that the link between the two spaces is dialogue. Both groups emphasize the generation of knowledge and the advancement of the community through conversation. The academy has the concept of the Burkean Parlor. Hip Hop has the cypher. It is my aim to use these two conceptual spaces and ideas as a bridge to move scholarship between the two communities. I believe that scholarship should move from within the academy to outside of the academy. What I mean by this is that there should be practical application, action, or activism.  One part of this that is important to me is making scholarship accessible to an audience beyond academics. I think this is important if the people/groups/communities, especially those historically  marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised, should be able to participate in the conversations. Scholarship that is not accessible outside of the academic community is in a sense preaching to the choir. This does help to advance thought within the academic community, but it should also help to advance thought and enlighten the communities being studied and examined. The goal is to spark debate, raise awareness, encourage critical thinking. Each of the chosen theories, I feel, can be easily adapted for an audience outside of the academy. In addition, their focus on action in regards to production and movement of information parallels my focus on the movement of scholarship. I feel that an understanding of how and why things are produced, how and where they move, and in what context are important when working towards scholarships that works within the boundaries of two disparate groups. These questions and their answers can provide insight into hip hop culture, especially the cypher, which is a little known aspect of hip hop culture. These insights can further hip hop scholarship in the area of hip hop education, which is a growing area of education in urban schools and non-profit organizations that serve low-income and/or minority areas. Genre theory focuses on agreed upon patterns that enable action. Rhetorical Situation theory focuses on the acts of the rhetor and/or the audience to make meaning and effect change/persuade. Finally, CHAT is about rhetorical activity. These theories align with my belief that the movement and exchange of information is key to knowledge construction. They also align with my personal goal of bridging seemingly opposite communities.

How do these theories align with your own biases and background (the reason you came to this project in the first place)?

I came to this project because my previous object of study did not stand up well as a network. Most of my research has always fallen within hip hop, cultural studies, or both. So, it made sense for my next object of study to fall somewhere within those two areas. Much of my other work in hip hop scholarship deals with bridging rhetoric and hip hop and exploring questions of authenticity, gender, sexuality, and black identity in hip hop culture. I have also explored African diaspora and pedagogy in connection with hip hop. From this perspective, my bias is that I feel that hip hop is significant to the academy. I think it is culturally significant and honestly, more relevant than many of the other subjects we are required to study. Using rhetoric, through Bitzer, Vatz, Biesecker, and Prior et al’s use of CHAT, allows me to connect hip hop with something that is already recognized by the academy as legitimate.

Another bias, I have is that I privilege the “real” world over the academy. What I mean by this is that I think theory is valuable in all aspects of life. In reality theory is philosophy, something we all have. However, I feel that scholarship is only significant if it moves from mental practice and showcase to action or activism. These theories align with my bias by being accessible or easy decoded. Though the term rhetoric may be unfamiliar to some, the general idea or concept of rhetoric and persuasion is not. The term genre in the sense that it is use by Miller and Bazerman may seem foreign and first, but everyone is familiar with genres of music and movies. That can serve as the stepping stone by which to introduce genre theory to an unfamiliar audience. My scholarship, particularly hip hop scholarship, has to go beyond the academy. If it doesn’t, I, as a member of the hip hop community, will be selling out. I’m not “keeping it real” if I hit it big (PhD) and then go mainstream (only producing for outsiders). These theories, with their accessibility and focus on action/activity, allow me to be apart of the mainstream (the academy) while staying connected to my roots.

References

Bazerman Charles, “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People.” Eds. Charles Bazerman and Paul A. Prior. What Writing Does and How it Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Print.

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.

Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167. Print.

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. Web.

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

Mind Map #5: Spinuzzi

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 12.44.13 AM

This week’s MindMap update focused on Clay Spinuzzi’s Tracing Genres. I added three nodes and made about three connections. I can see more connections in the work; however, I wanted to think through the connection of Spinuzzi to Foucualt a bit more. The connection to Genre Theory was obvious because Spinuzzi built on the genre work already done by Miller and Bazerman.

I added a node for workarounds, victim, and one with the different levels used in Spinuzzi’s methodology. I was intrigued by the idea the communication and information design overlap. I was also interested in Spinuzzi’s statement: “Genres are not simply text types” (41). These areas interested me because I am trying to think of my Oos whenever I am reading. I hope that this will make the case study a bit less stressful. In regards to SnapChat and the idea of workarounds, I immediately thought of SnapChat’s leaked. This is a website focused on revealing SnapChats. There are also apps to block the notification that user receive if the recipient takes a screen shot of the snap sent. The leaking of snaps has created an new discourse around privacy and leaking. The owner of Snapchat leaked was prosecuted and had to abandon the website. The damage was already done as people began to create apps and plugins to get around the disappearing Snaps.

I created the node with the different levels of scope (microscopic, mesoscopic, and macroscopic) because these will be helpful when making connections between Spinuzzi’s work and the other works we have read. I also think that these are important in examining the way that Snapchat can be traced from original text messaging via SMS to picture messaging via SMS to Instagram to Snapchat. This reminds me of the macrosopic level where, “genre is seen as shaping and being shaped by its sociocultural milieu” (44) and the mesoscopic level where genre is “taken to be instantiated in an artifact” (46).

I am still leaning towards rhetoric as the best way to approach Snapchat. However, the more I read the less committed I am to this approach and the more I’m open to exploring genre and possibly Foucault.

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.

 

 

 

 

Reading Notes #4: Spinuzzi and Information Design

Taking Genre for a Spinuzzi

spin-up

Clay Spinuzzi Twitter Profile Picture
https://twitter.com/spinuzzi

Quick Summary: Clay Spinuzzi’s text Tracing Genres through Organizations: A Sociocultral Approach to Information Design was surprisingly accessible. After readings on technology, Foucault, and genre systems, Spinuzzi was a breath of fresh air.  Spinuzzi’s aim in this text is to expand the user-centered approach to information design. Spinuzzi begins the text (after a short anecdote), “A common trope in the literature of user-centered design is the worker-as-victim: the everyday Joe or Jane who is oppressed by an unjust tyranny and in need of rescue” (1) Spinuzzi utilizes this trope to present the relationship between workers and designers. Information designers are presented as heroic figures, which “employ user-centered design methods to defeat the tyrannical system and rescue the victims…” (2). Spinuzzi argues that workers are not waiting to be rescued; they are creating innovative solutions to solve problems in the workplace. However, these innovations are not sanctioned. The “designer-hero” must refine these innovations for them to be of consequence in the workplace. This approach to the worker decreases the significance of their innovations. To address these issues, Spinuzzi traces the development of these innovative genres in hopes of understanding how these innovations by workers can be used to improve the information design through partnerships with designers. Tracing these innovative genres will allow designers to see worker’s innovations as a vital part. Spinuzzi presents genre tracing as a way to empower workers by validating the innovations that they have been using to get the job done. The text presents a methodology and methods for examining the “unofficial innovation” (3). In addition, Spinuzzi uses case studies as a concrete example of the methodology and insight into how workers use “unofficial innovation” to meet their needs.

Reflection: Much of what we are discussing is about relations. How groups of people, objects, ideas, etc interact with and relate to one another. Spinuzzi is exploring the relations between workers, designers, and systems. In this relationship, designers provide a system, which may be inadequate for workers, who then create workarounds to solve whatever problems are in the system. Designers overlook these innovations because the workers lack the authority to innovate in this space.  They key word here, for me, is: agency. The workers lack agency. The designers are hesitant to acknowledge these unofficial innovations. The designers have to modify the unofficial to make it official and available to everyone. This makes me think of all the times I have created workarounds in order to make a task easier or more effective.

What Jumped Out – “Chapter 2: Integrating Research Scope”

Chapter 2 provided good definitions and background information on activity theory, genre, dialogic, and artifact. The chapter was engaging and overwhelming, as I had to resist the urge to analyze each heuristic. The most engaging parts of Chapter 2 were the sections on the levels of scope.

  • Macroscopic is the organizational contextual layer
  • Mesoscopic is the level of “goal-directed action—the tasks which people are consciously engaged” (33).
  • Microscopic is the level of “moment-by-moment operations”

These three levels of scope “complement each other.” The actions on one level can impact or connect with the actions on another level. It was interesting to me that even though different approaches are needed on each level the levels are interrelated.

In addition to the discussion of integrated scope, Chapter 2 helped me make connections from Spinuzzi’s presentation of genre to those of Bazerman, Miller, and Popham.  He makes connections genre as a tool for interpreting artifacts. I was intrigued by the connections of genre to memory and ways of thinking (worldview). I specifically like the connection or movement from artifact to genre. Spinuzzi utilizes Bakhtin to emphasize genre as tradition. Spinuzzi states:

“With the tradition aspect of genre in mind, we can talk about genres mingling, merging, splitting, disintegrating, and being repurposed.”

Acting this way, genre seems to be akin to Foucault’s statement. The statement is presented as “specific and paradoxical object, but also as one of those objects that men produce, manipulate, use, transform, exchange, combine, decompose and recompose, and possibly destroy” (118).  Genres seem to reside in the same space, being in between concrete and abstract. In addition, genre as a stable part of social memory and as “dynamic and reshapable by any speaker for her or his specific utterance” reminds me of the dynamic nature of the statement. Foucault presents that the statement “must have a substance, a support, a place, and a date [and] when these requisites change, it [the statement] too changes identity (101).”

Snap Chat and Genre Tracing:

Right now, I am unsure of how to apply Spinuzzi’s methodology to Snap Chat.  I can see how Spinuzzi’s text could help to put the work of other genre theorist in context. After reading this text, I have a better understanding of artifact and genre. I also appreciate Foucault a bit more and see how statement and enunciative formations can be applied to Snap Chat.

Writing this blog led me to Will Blog For Hip Hop. I found an interesting post that traced the evolution of Hip Hop over 25 years. I was intrigued that the genre was being traced based on geographic location of the artist. The map provide a good view of how Hip Hop music faded in the West, grew in the East, and has yet to have a strong hold in the middle of the country. This isn’t as complex a genre tracing as what Spinuzzi represented, but it got me thinking about the progression of the genre (in the more traditional sense) and these moment-by-moment glimpses into Hip Hop.

 

http://willblogforhiphop.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/http-makeagif-com-media-10-14-2013-wyjs3p.gif

The Evolution of Hip Hop In the Past 25 Years from WillBlogForHipHop.com

http://willblogforhiphop.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/http-makeagif-com-media-10-14-2013-wyjs3p.gif

 

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Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage, 2010. Print.

Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: a sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

 

Reading Notes #3: Genre

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Brief Summary:

For this week’s reading notes, I tried to focus on the things that naturally jumped out at me. In previous weeks, I was working hard instead of working smart. So, I followed the established connections within the articles. The author’s referenced one another’s works, so I followed these connections to make sense of genre and network.

In Carolyn Miller’s “Genre as Social Action,” she presents genre as a social action wherein an “understanding of genre can help account for the ways we encounter, interpret, react to, and create particular texts” (151). Miller’s argument centers on the idea that “rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish” (151). Miller presents genre as dynamic.

Miller’s work directly connects to Lloyd Bitzer’s work on rhetorical situation. In Miller’s approach is a response to the traditional approach to genre. Genre is characterized by specific characteristics. The focus is on the text and the specific regularities presented in the text. Miller expands this conception of genre, focusing on the actions of the writes and the context in which the texts are created. Instead of genre following specific textual elements, Miller presents it as “typified rhetorical action” (151). Bitzer presented the rhetorical situation as “a natural context of persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance; this invited utterance participates naturally in the situational activity, and by means of its participation with situation obtains its meaning and its rhetorical character” (5). Miller argues that exigence is in the social. The rhetorical situation is socially constructed and involves the reader and the writer. Miller’s work leans more toward the work of Vatz. Vatz argues that exigences are not the product of events, but rather a matter of perception and interpretation” (Vatz 214). This places more agency with the rhetor. Miller places more agency with the social interaction; “a mutual construing of objects, events, interests and purposes that not only links them but also makes them what they are: an object of social need” (Miller 157).

Miller’s work provides an expanded definition of genre, which leads to the works of Bazerman and Popham. Bazerman’s work on activity systems, provides insight into how an understanding of the complexity of genre can help to improve writing. The texts that we utilize are “embedded within structured social activities and depends on previous texts that influence their social activity and organization.” Bazerman’s work connects back to Millers by presenting genre as social activity. Bazerman’s work also makes me think of networks in the sense that the texts are building on and connecting back to previous texts (as models guides for their role in the social interactions and their formatting/organization). The connection of genre to understanding rhetorical situations was significant to me. Many composition courses utilize genre. Students are taught particular characteristics and organizational patterns to aid in producing texts that fit within a certain situation. Bazerman posits that “understanding the acts and facts created by texts can also help you understand when seemingly well-written texts go wrong” (311). This rhetorical awareness is what composition instructors want to instill in students. I never saw genre as a path to rhetorical awareness because in composition courses genre is not always socially situated. Just as composition instruction falls short in presenting the complexities of rhetorical analysis, it also provides a limited presentation of genre that focuses on regularities in textual features and format. These works provided an expanded definition of genre that present genre as being more dynamic. Popham’s work on boundary genres expands on the concept of rhetorical situations and genres as dynamic.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hh3dE7phE8&w=560&h=315]

Popham’s work on forms in medicine, science, and business provide a glimpse into how forms act as an “object of social need” (Miller 157). The forms are utilized across disciplines for different functions. The forms act as a genre system. They are interrelated and work to meet the needs of the medical, business, and science fields. They work across disciplines to get the job done. The boundary genres, just like genres in general, are active. They must be flexible in order to move across and between the different disciplines. They have to incorporate the necessary information for multiple disciplines within one form to be used in different context.

Key Terms:

  • Social Fact- “things people believe to be true, and therefore bear on how they define a situation” (312).
  • Speech Acts-sets of words or statements that “[do] something, even if only to assert a certain state of affairs is true. Thus all utterances embody speech acts” (313-314)
  • Genre-“recognizable, self-reinforcing forms of communication” (314).
  • Genre Sets-“a collection of types of texts someone in a particular role is likely to produce” (318).
  • Genre Systems- “several genre sets of people working together in an organized way, plus the patterned relations in the production, flow, and use of these documents” (318).

Connections to Personal Course Outcomes:

Coming into the course, my goal was to explore Snap Chat. My primary focus being the shift from timeline nature Facebook  and Twitter  to the immediacy of Instagram to the ephemeral nature of Snap Chat. After exploring the technical side of networks, rhetorical situation, Foucault, digital writing assessment, and genre, Snap Chat seems like a natural progression of the social media, sharing, and picture messaging. The static presentations of the rhetorical situation and genre were limiting my understanding of Snap Chat. In the context of these dynamic systems which connect to one another, grow, flex, and change based on the text, audience, and author, Snap Chat is an extension or expansion of an understood form of communication. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram no longer provided the right context for the needs of this community. My goal now is to make stronger connections between these ideas and what I’ve learned from Archaeology of Knowledge.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmHV9XPcKMw&w=560&h=315]

Works Cited:

Bazerman Charles, “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People.” Eds. Charles Bazerman and Paul A. Prior. What Writing Does and How it Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Print.

Bitzer, Lloyd. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric. 1 (1992): 1-14. Print

Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167. Print.

Popham, Susan L. “Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Business.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19.3 (2005): 279-302.

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

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