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: Miller

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.

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?

Bibliography

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Mindmap #4: Genre Theory

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MindMap Update #4

This past week was a breath of fresh air because I was able to take a mental break from Foucault. I needed the step back from Foucault in order to see and understand the connections that are being made. As the course progresses, I am realizing that my internal network is trying to process too much. I sense the connections and see them, but I am unable to articulate them. So, my new approach is to focus on what jumps out at me and to let the other things come to me when my internal network allows.

For this week’s MindMap update, I added a node for Miller, Bazerman and Popham. From there, I was going to add quotes from my notes, but I decided to focus on key words and ideas. I specifically liked the connection between genre as social action and the exigence being social. I realized that action/activity, connection, and relationship are all essential in genre theory. The interactions (or lack thereof), connections, disconnections, exchanges, disruptions, and gaps between all of these are where meaning takes place and things are created or re-created.

An important connection for me was Popham’s boundary genres. The intersection of medicine, business, and science in forms was enlightening. This article helped me to see genres in action. I also began to think about whether or not Snap Chat could be a boundary genre? What intersections could it lie between or among? Considering this expanded definition, I’m realizing that there should be less focus on form and more on what is being done the action and substance. What are people doing with snap chat? How does snap chat help them to do it?

Reading Notes #3: Genre

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sucg8ZTomA&w=420&h=315]

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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