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: How Stuff Works? (page 1 of 2)

MindMap#11: Neurobiology

Never thought I’d be typing the words Neurobiology. This week’s mind map was the easiest one for me. As I was doing the reading, I was thinking of connections. I imagined myself drawing lines from How Stuff Works to Dendrites and Axons and then drawing connections between Buses and Action Potential and Snapchat. I did all of these things for this week’s mindmap. The neurology jumped out at me, especially in regards to Action Potential, which I felt captured movement in Snapchat perfectly. In my reading notes I discussed:

The movement of the nerve impulse forward via the opening and closing of channels and the inability of information to be sent backwards made me think of Snapchat communication as a nerve impulse. The user taking the snap after being sparked by an event or situation. The user receiving the snap and having that small window of time in which to consume the information. This entire process is not as fast as a nerve impulse and much simpler, but worth exploring.

These connections were important to me because I think this week’s reading finally helped me to understand the network as metaphor.


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Reading Notes #10: Neurons and Networks

This week’s reading on Neurobiology reminded me why I am an English Major. I have no interest in science (beyond chemistry, which helps with cooking) and lack the ability to understand “sciencey” words.

“A single cubic centimeter of the human brain may contain well over 50 million nerve cells, each of which may communicate with thousands of other neurons in information-processing networks that make the most elaborate computer look primitive.” (Campbell and Reese qtd in “Neurobiology,” 1).

What intrigued me the most about the reading was that neurons communicate constantly. I immediately thought of the communication networks that many of us depend on today. We are constantly communicating in some way, using some technology. Neurons primary activity is cellular communication. This system has billions of neurons and trillions of connections. What does neurotransmission look like?

There are big neurons and small neurons. Each neuron has two ends dendrite (tree that branches) and axon. The axon end is made up of presynaptic neuron and the postsynaptic neuron. The interesting part of this, to me, were the vesicles. The vesicles–described as soap bubbles–enable neurons to listen and talk at the same time. Vesicles are loaded with transmitters and stand-by waiting for release the neurotransmitters. What was inside the vesicle ends up outside of the cell (exocytosis).

Neurotransmisson from Wikipedia

This entire process reminded me of HowStuffWorks? from the beginning of the term. The discussion of computers, WiFi and Mobile, and Networking. We examined hardware systems and the infrastructure needed for our devices. There are several networks that work together to allow our devices to function and to allow them to communicate with one another. As complex as all this seems, it has nothing on the connections that neurons make. Neurons transmissions are highly complex. Neurons use “both electrical and chemical communication” (1). This complexity is exemplified by the fact that the neuron, as sophisticated as it may be, is assisted by other cells in the brain (glial cells).

Another aspect of the journey into neurobiology that intrigued me was the nerve impulse, or action potential. This is “a series of electrical responses that occur in the cell” (4). Action potential requires depolarization in the membrane, which allows sodium channels to open up. The sodium ions enter the axon, causing a change in charge. One the voltage becomes positive the channel becomes inactive, and the potassium channels open. The potassium ions exit the axon, causing the charge to change to negative. These channels stay open until the membrane “becomes even more negative than the resting potential for a brief period” (4). The action potential lasts only a few milliseconds (Amazing!). This entire process made me think of magnets. The switching of positive to negative moving the nerve impulse along the axon. I also thought of Leslie’s post on buses.  Buses allow data to transfer from one component to another. Both focus on transferring, moving information, through the network.

Action potential. Unit 10: Neurobiology from Rediscovering Biology online textbook.

This foray into neurobiology was not as horrible as I thought it would be. The neuronal network is quite remarkable. We learn about all this in school, but I never noticed the communication aspect. The neuronal network is all about communicating and transmitting. It is receiving data and transmitting data simultaneously. It moves the information forward and has a system in place to prevent information from going backwards and causing confusion in the system (sodium channel refractory period). The neuronal network is replicated (accidentally? intentionally?) all around us in the devices that we use everyday.


Action potential or nerve impulse also made me think of Snapchat. The movement of the nerve impulse forward via the opening and closing of channels and the inability of information to be sent backwards made me think of Snapchat communication as a nerve impulse. The user taking the snap after being sparked by an event or situation. The user receiving the snap and having that small window of time in which to consume the information. This entire process is not as fast as a nerve impulse and much simpler, but worth exploring.

Works Cited:

Does, Amy, Johnson A. Norman, and Teresa Thiel. “Unit 10: Neurobiology.” Rediscovering biology: Molecular to global perspectives. (n.d) . Web. 31 March 2014.

Reading Notes #5: Let’s CHAT

What is Chat?

The discussion of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) led me into a crazy game of connect the dots. I am not sure what the final image will be, but I am making connections.

CHAT is a synthesis of concepts from a variety of different disciplines and sub-disciplines. The authors argue that “CHAT rejects the notion that human action is governed by some neo-platonic realm of rules, whether the linguistic rules of English, the communicative norms of some discourse community, or cognitive scripts for acting in a particular situation. It argues that activity is situated in concrete interactions that are simultaneously improvised locally and mediated by historically provided tools and practices” (Prior et al,. “What is Chat”).

This use of CHAT immediately brought to mind what we have read about genre theory. In regards to genre theory, CHAT seems to be the opposite of genre as social action. Miller argues 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). CHAT on the other hand, as mentioned above, argues that “activity is situated in concrete interactions” (“What is Chat?”).

This is interesting because people are essentially networks. The connections and interactivity bring people together (into alignment with the system) and also individualized people (separate nodes):

In activity, people are socialized (brought into alignment with others) as they appropriate cultural resources, but also individuated as their particular appropriations historically accumulate to form a particular individual. Socialization (learning) simultaneously makes people and societies because what is appropriated and individuated is also externalized in activity and, thus, alters the social.

The Core Text

The core text focuses on “a new mapping of rhetorical activity, one that acknowledges and advances in our understanding of language, semiotics, human development, technology, and society.” The authors argue for advancing the traditional understanding of the rhetorical canon (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery). Using CHAT the authors argue for looking at rhetorical canons as “complex set of interlocking systems within which a rhetors are formed, act, and navigate.” This argument is interesting as it further complicates the agency of the rhetor presented in the works of Bitzer, Vatz, and Biesecker. In CHAT the rhetor and the audience are socialized. They (and we) exist in a more complex world. I was intrigued by the idea that “prototypical scene of rhetoric…[is] essentially in monologue.” This was interesting to me because I have always thought of rhetoric as being social in that it s concerned with audience and audience action. When I think about it I see how it is stuck in a binary (speaker and hearer). Rhetorical activity is centered around the rhetor or the situation. Although Biesecker complicates this by pointing out the interactive nature of rhetor and audience, the focus is still primarilyon the speaker and the audience.

My two articles:

I was responsible for reading Mar P. Sheridan-Rabideau’s “Kairos and Community Building: Implications for Literacy Researchers” and Liz Rohan’s “Nobody told me that college was this hard!: ‘Venting’ in the grad stacks.” Both of these articles discuss community. Sheridan-Rabideau’s article focuses on the literacy practices of a community group as they try to put up a billboard. This exploration examined how this community group moved towards being institutionalized and professionalized. They primarily communicated to the community. The billboard required them to change their presentation because they were moving beyond their community group and moving into a permanent space.

Funny Bathroom Graffiti

Rohan’s article examines how students “venting” on the library study room vents “create an imagined community of readers and writers.” The venting is presented as a system instead of a text with with rhetor. Rohan argues that “the act of writing on those vents enacts production, reception, distribution, and representation all dependent on participant’s collective participation in a larger ecology.” This second article resonated with me for several reasons. The first reason is that the writing on the vents remind me of Snapchat. The writing on the vents is easily erased. The writings, just like snaps, are about everyday things, personal time (studying), and intimate moments. The ephemeral and personal nature of the vents reminds me of Snapchat. Rohan notes:


The idea that the audience and the artifacts have agency in that they socialize others complicates the relationship between author and audience. The vents have a permanence that snaps do not have. The vents can be remediated for new audience. Snaps cannot because they “disappear.” The vents, memory, ecology, and community are pushing me to rethink how I perceive the interactions on Snapchat. It is also causing me to rethink the impact of the “disappearance” on snaps. Memory operates in a different way with snaps. Snaps are to serve as a

way to document and share memories so that they last within the individual but not in a concrete or retrievable  space. Moving forward, I am interested in how the expanded canon applies to modern communications versus the classical canon. I am especially interested in the addition of reception and memory in regards to Snapchat. I am not sure where I will go with these three areas, but I think that reception of snaps in regards to whether the person saves the snap. What impact does the disappearing aspect of Snapchat have on memory, if any?


Prior, Paul, et. al. “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity: A Collaborative Core TextKairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Paul, Prior. “Remaking IO, Remaking Rhetoric: Semiotic Remediation as Situated Rhetorical Practice.” Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity: A Collaborative Core Text. Kairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Prior, Paul, et. al. “What is CHAT?” Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity: A Collaborative Core Text. Kairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Rohan, Liz. “Nobody told me that college was this hard!: “Venting” in the grad stacks”. Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity. Kairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Sheridan-Rabideau, Mary P. “Kairos and Community Building: Implications for Literacy Researchers.” Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity. Kairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Van Ittersum, Derek. “Data-Palace: Modem Memory Work in Digital Environments.” Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity. Kairos, 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 15 Feb. 2014.


Suzanne’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Memory


This activity confirms my fear/dislike of the Cloud. I pretty much write down or print out everything. I refuse to allow others to have ownership of things that I need or create. I just cannot allow it to happen. To avoid this, I try to maintain control over “all the things.”

The majority of my files are on my Mac hard drives (I have two MacBooks) and on two back up drives. I have several giant binders filled with articles that I have read in classes, used as sources in papers, or plan to read for future research projects. I do not like any of the clouds. I even download and convert my ebooks to pdf, so I can have them saved on my computer and back up drives.

I think I may have trust issues.

Daniel How Stuff Works? Activity: Social Networks

Social Networks Popplet

This activity was an eye opener. I was surprised that I wasn’t a part of more social networks. I use Facebook (not as much as I used to) mostly because it keeps me connected to ODU friends and classmates. I remember joining Facebook in 2004. It was excellent back then. I don’t like it so much right now. I love Instagram. I use SnapChat a lot. I only use Twitter to follow trends and when watching shows that have a fan base that utilizes Twitter (Scandal, Walking Dead, Banshee). I also like to use Twitter when watching award shows (Grammy’s, MTV Video Music Awards, BET HIp Hop Awards).

I hardly ever use my academic social networks. They are not interesting to me at all. I probably should think about that more and explore why those networks aren’t utilized. I should be using those for building social and professional capital.

Maury’s How Stuff Works? Activity: IFTTT and Networking

Google Doc Response

Question #1: What did you think of IFTTT as a user? What about as a supra-network to “talk” and “do” things among your networks? How was writing your own protocol using their GUI (Graphic User Interface)?

Chvonne: I have had an account with IFTTT for about 2 years now. I have still not used it. Lifehacker recommended it as a way to increase productivity. Once I created an account and gained a better understanding of how it all works, I realized that I loved the idea, but have no idea what I would use it for. I think it is so cool. I wish I had more of a need for it. I often do not see the need to link things, so I was hesitant to allow access and to link to different networks to one another. I am not a big fan of making connections (mental connections but not many others). I finally decided on linking Facebook recipes shared with me to a Google Doc. I liked the idea of creating a recipe, so I let that guide me. Writing the protocol was straight forward. I think the software is very user friendly.

Jenny’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Types of Networks

This activity was interesting because the network at my home isn’t very complex. My brother and I are the only ones who access the network at home. We use the same types of devices (laptop, cell phones, eReaders, and game systems. I noticed how complex my classmates’ networks were compared to mine (and Summer’s network). I can’t imagine that many people accessing the network. I don’t even know we have enough kbps to handle more than the two of us. I did find it interesting that some of these devices also communicate or connect one another. For example, I can access the media files on my laptop through the playstation. I can also access my nook and my brother’s kindle through my smartphone. Overall, I learned that things are more “networked” than I realized.

Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Welcome to the Cloud

Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Welcome to the Cloud

Completing Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity helped me to visualize how many connections I make to others through different cloud services. I also realized that I need to remove myself from the cloud a bit. I dislike not having ownership of things. That is a big part of why I refuse to put my music into a Cloud. I imagine one day that I’ll have to pay for space or access to the cloud. I refuse to allow a corporation/organization to control my access to music. I still buy CDs because of this fear. Its a bit crazy, but this activity helped me to see how much of my writing, files, etc are in the cloud. I didn’t have to add many technologies to the mind map because I could connect to the technologies already established.

Leslie’s How Stuf Works? Activity: Buses

When I first read that Leslie had Buses, I was very confused. I immediately thought of an actual bus that transports people from one area to another. After reading her post, I realized that I know even less about computers than I thought. I knew that transfer data in a computer was a complex process, but I did not realize how complex. I took the quiz first, thinking that I knew enough about computers to make it through.  Anyway, the most interesting part of this process for me was that Buses allow users to personalize their computers by adding peripherals. I am a big fan of Plug and Play devices. They are user friendly and allow me to make my computer fit my needs. Now I know that buses make this possible; buses make my computer adaptable.

Amy’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Wifi and Routers Quizzes

WiFi Quiz: 3 out of 10

Routers Quiz: 4 out of 10

From this activity, I learned that I know absolutely nothing about the technologies that I use everyday.

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