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: Reading Notes

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”

<iframe src=”;lock_to_path=0&amp;autoplay=0&amp;autohide_ctrls=0&amp;features=undefined&amp;disabled_features=undefined” width=”550″ height=”400″ frameBorder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozAllowFullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

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 #13: Encoding/Decoding and the ISA

Stuart Hall’s “Encoding/Decoding,” in which he argues about the struggle within communicative exchange that occurs between the producers and consumers or encoders and decoders. Hall presents the idea that the producer encodes the message with intended meaning. This message is sent to the receiver who then decodes the message.

There is a movement:

encoder –>message—> decoder.

Lecture 06: Encoding, Decoding | CULTURAL STUDIES 101

Hall does not stop with the linear model. He feels that this is a cycle.  The aim of the producer is for the consumer to understand the encoded message. Hall argues that there is a “hegemonic viewpoint.” This is the language or message that is encoded with the viewpoint of the “dominant cultural order” (134] ). Hall presents the idea that creation of meaning (encoding) does not guarantee that the viewers (encoders) will receive the television message as intended. Messages can carry multiple meanings; that can be interpreted different ways or simply rejected. Hall takes into account that viewers bring particular cultural, socioeconomic, and many other views to the decoding process. The audience can actively respond to the messages that are sent out. I always viewed Hall’s work in conjunction with Henry Jenkin’s collective intelligence. Collective Intelligence allows for the creation of new community and new knowledge, encoding/decoding allows for the decoder (viewer) to determine a meaning for the message sent and to decide what to do with it. He presents the idea that the producers, when encoding the message, assume or take for granted that everyone has the sameviewpoint. Viewers can interpret this dominant view in three ways. In the interpretation of the message, the decoder (consumer) can fall into either the dominant hegemonic, negotiated, or globally contrary.

In Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Althusser expands Marx’s presentation of the connection between reproduction and production. He presents the concept of “ideological state apparatuses.”  He discusses the infrastructure, or economic base and superstructure, which is made up of law and ideology.  Althusser sees ideology as player a larger part that what was presented via Marx. So, he presents “ideological state apparatuses” (ISA). The ISAs are different from state apparatuses, such as the police, prisons, etc. The SAs function by violence and the ISAs by ideology. He provides examples of ISAs, such as family, religion, communications, and education. Althusser argues that the state uses ISAs and SAs to reproduce its production; it is all about control and power.

What has always been intriguing to me about ISAs is that they can seem harmless on the service; however, as Althusser presents, they function to maintain the status quo.  My favorite quote from the work is:

“Hence I believe I have good reasons for thinking that behind the scenes of its political Ideological State Apparatus, which occupies the front of the stage, what the bourgeoisie has installed as its number-one, i.e. as its dominant Ideological State Apparatus, is the educational apparatus, which has in fact replaced in its functions the previously dominant Ideological State Apparatus, the Church. One might even add: the School-Family couple has replaced the Church-Family couple. “

This always made me think of the way that education (the college system specifically) operates in the lives of marginalized citizens. What I appreciated about both of these articles is their pointing out and examining individuals or organizations (ISAs) exercising their hegemony.

Post-Marxist Philosophy: The Key to Understanding the Secret War


I have approached them before through pedagogy classes and cultural studies classes. The connection between the two works is clear in that they both focus on class struggle. The disconnect or misunderstanding occurs when there is a difference in ideology between encoder and decoder. If I think of this in terms of Snapchat and networks, Snapchat and the other social media and messaging applications, although sending user created content, would functions as ISAs. The focus on and use of these devices reinforce, transmit, or enforce the ideology of the hegemony.


Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” Marxists Internet Archive, 1970.  Web. 19 Apr 2014.

Hall, Stuart. “Encoding, Decoding.” The Cultural Studies Reader. 3rd ed. Ed. Simon During. New York: Routledge, 2007. Web. 19 Apr 2014.

Reading Notes #6: Hypertext

Prior to this week’s readings, I had always thought of hypertext as tools or links to other text. They were simply a way to reference and connect to other text. The readings definitely complicated my reading of hypertext and confirm my unconscious obsession with agency and the relation between the reader/audience and writer/speaker.

Michael Joyce’s chapter “Hypertext and Hypermedia” from Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and indexPoetics provided a much needed history of hypertext. I never made a distinction between hypertext, hypermedia, and multimedia. What struck me the most from Joyce’s work was his statement about the role of readers and writers in regards to hypertext. Joyce states, “Hypertext readers not only choose the order of what they read but, in doing so, also alter its form by their choices” (19).  This was interesting to me because everything we read (Biesecker and Foucualt come to mind) seems to come back to the idea that things are non-linear and do not exists in binaries. that there isn’t a binary between speaker and audience, reader and writer. Hypertext is dynamic and interactive.

This thread also jumped out at me in Johndan Johnson-Eilola’s Nostalgic Angels: Rearticulating Hypertext Writing. Johnson-Eilola begins his work:

“Writing has always been about borders, about the processes of mapping and remapping the lines of separation between things. Writing constructs implicit and explicit boundaries between not only products and process and said and unsaid, but author and reader, literacy and orality, technology and nature, self and other” (3).

This quote was significant to me in that Johnson-Eiloa seemed to be working towards deconstructing the borders between author and reader, moving beyond the binary. He also argues for an expansion of what counts as composition, saying:Nostalgic-Angels-Johnson-Eilola-9781567502800

“We must find a way in which to talk and think about writing as a complex activity evaluating not only writers but also readers, texts, societies, politics, economies and technologies (as well as the complicated way each of these terms is articulated)” (18).

All of these theories move away from a linear and flat presentation of writing and rhetorical discourse to a non-linear and dynamic presentation. This is significant if we are to think of networks as being active. There is movement and interaction not in one direction or two directions but in multiple directions, each connecting with and feeding back into the other.  I think Johnson-Eilola emphasizes this when he says:

We recognize the apparently radical enactment of nonlinearity inherent in the node-link structure of all hypertext; we proclaim in various ways that revolutionary potential; and then we immediately rearticulate those potentials in terms of our conventional, normal practices. (13-14)

We have a tendency to present old ways via new technologies. Instead of embracing the “revolutionary potential” of hypertext, we are using this text in the same ways that we would the print text.

All of this week’s reading challenge linearity and authority. As I was reading the history of hypertext and its grounding in uptoia and postmodernism, I immediately thought of Jameson’s Postmodernism and Consumer Society (which Johnson-Eilola mentions).Jameson discusses the lack of true authorship via the “death of the subject,” which is the idea that the idea of an individual self with agency is a thing of the past or an ideological construct that never existed. This calls into the question the idea that their can something such as an identity or an author. In addition, the non-linear nature of hypertext in conjunction with the way in which hypertext is not consumed by the masses via the Internet brought postmodernism and consumerism to mind. Based on the way hypertext is used today, It is hard to see it as a revolutionary text/tool.

Viewing hypertext as something that complicates the relationship between author, subject, and audience is intriguing to me (as someone interested in rhetoric and Snapchat). Johnson-Eilola’s call for a change in the way writers and readers work within the same space brought Biesecker’s work with the rhetorical situation to mind. Johnson-Eilola states, hypertext ” must allow writers and readers to work within the space of the texts (rather than downloading them, preserving the purity of the master text). Second, it must encourage more than one person to write within that space (in order to avoid pitting the weight of a published author against a single reader) (21).


This is a dynamic relationship between writer, reader, and the text. This also adds the politics of the space to the interaction, focusing on collaboration and multiple authors rather than “the weight of a published author against a single reader” (21). This conception of hypertext creates the idea that the writing and reading of the text can take place at the same time.

If hypertext should reach its revolutionary potential, what would that look like? I was intrigued by the idea of hypertext pedagogy, but I cannot say that I have been able to internalize or process what Johnson-Eilola presented. I am encouraged to explore hypertext more in regards to First Year Composition. I want to end with a quote that I think encapsulates what first-year composition should achieve (whether through hypertext or old fashioned text):

Imperfect angels, nostalgic for a past that never was, we might instead learn to live as cyborgs. In mapping hypertext use we do not create a new world from nothing, but we do create discourses in which old worlds might be transformed. (242)

The video below, though not related to hypertext, fit in with the thread of authorship and the relation between author, audience, and text:

Author as Replacement from Daniel Apollon on Vimeo.

Works Cited:

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Nostalgic Angels: Rearticulating Hypertext Writing. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1997. Print.

Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1996. Print.


Reading Notes #4: Spinuzzi and Information Design

Taking Genre for a Spinuzzi


Clay Spinuzzi Twitter Profile Picture

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.

The Evolution of Hip Hop In the Past 25 Years from



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


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.


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.


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.

Reading Notes #2: Finishing Foucault (Parts III-V)

“Part III: The Statement and the Archive”

Parts III-V of Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault focuses on breaking down the key element of discursive formation: the statement.

The statement is “the atom of discourse” (80). He presents that the characteristics of the statement by explaining what statements are NOT. Statements are not logical propositions, sentences, or speech acts. They may take the form of these things but they are not these forms. The statement seems to be a slippery concept, but if it is viewed as a function:

it is a function of existence that properly belongs to signs and on the basis of which one may then decide, through analysis or intuition, whether or not they make sense, according to what rule they follow one another or are juxtaposed, of what they are the sign, and what sort of act is carried out by their formulation (oral or written)” (87).

In the next section Foucault presents the four characteristics of statements. The two characteristics that stood out to me were the relationship to the subject and material existence.

Relationship to Subject: The author and the subject of the statement are not the same. The subject of the statement is a particular function; however, this is not the same statement to statement. When I read this I immediately made the connection between author and subject, as if they were one in the same. However, the focus is not on who made the statement, but on the function of the statement in relation to the subject of the statement. This focus on relations between statement, subject, and author led me to the rhetorical situation. Foucault is presenting a complex relationship between the author and the subject that reminds me of the debate between Bitzer and Vatz. Where Bitzer and Vatz  are caught in an Chicken-and-Egg debate about the relation of the author and the exigence, Foucault falls inline with Biesecker in that the relations are complex, dynamic, and interactive. The subject of a statement is “a particular, vacant place that may in fact be filled by different individuals” (95). This makes the connections dynamic and shifting.

In regards to the material existence, statements have to be given through some material medium. When the material existence of the statement shifts the statement shifts, also. There are conditions and limits on the statement, such as the limits imposed by other statements. I interpreted the statement as being abstract; however, it does not have to be in a specific time and place. The statement being repeatable. 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.” The statement operates in the space between the concrete and abstract. The two characteristics that I have focused on present the fixed nature of the subject. The statement is not bound to the abstract and it is not bound to the material form. The statement is repeatable but the enunciation is not.


The repeatable materiality was interesting to me because it made me think of the ephemeral nature of Snap Chat and of the much of the information being shared today. 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).”I mentioned this above with the idea that the statement is shifting and dynamic. The ability for statements to be repeated made me think of the how quickly information travels and how often information is reproduced in different mediums. If a statement is reproduced in a different mediums how does it change? The same message sent via traditional text and snap chat may have a different meaning or interpretation. On the other hand Snap Chat could be seen as an enunciation, as it is “an unrepeatable event.” The enunciation has “situated and dated uniqueness that is irreducible (101). Snap Chats are unrepeatable. Even if there is an attempt at repetition it is impossible for them to be the same.




Reading Notes #1: Foucault Parts I and II

The first two parts of Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge reminded me why I have always avoided literature and philosophy. Reading Foucault was like trying to run through mud. I spent much of my time flipping back and forth between different chapters, dictionaries, and Google in order to make heads or tails (or any other part) of Foucault. There were too many words that I could not define or pronounce. So, I have come to the conclusion that in about 15 years, I will read Foucault and it will make sense. For now, I will keep running through the mud and fake it till I make it.

Part 1: History and the Historian

Part 1 served as a reminder of how much Foucault I have managed to avoid. He refers to previous works several times, which required me to take several quick trips to Wikipedia. The two terms that stood out in the introduction were history and document. History is defined as “one way in which a society recognizes and develops a mass of documentation with with it is inextricably linked” (7). History transform documents into monuments. There is a change in what constitutes history. The most significant change is the document. The relation between history and the document has changed. History is no longer linear.

history has altered its position in relation to the document: it has taken as its primary task, not the interpretation of the document, nor the attempt to decide whether it is telling the truth or what it is it expressive value, but to work on it from within and to develop it; history now organizes the document, divides it up, distributes it, orders it, arranges it in levels, establishes series, distinguishes between what is relevant and what is not, discovers elements, defines, unities, and describes relations” (6-7).

This visualization helped me to understand the change or shift from progressive, linear history that has unity to the more expansive, complex history (dispersion).


Part 2: T.G.F.B (Thank God For Books)

I started Part 2 of Foucault in quite a funk. I was still trying to wrap my head around all the terminology from Part 1. I was also pushing my self to understand and make connections. My ray of hope came on page 23:

The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network.

This passage was my light-bulb-moment. My first thought was: yes, of course. Books/texts enter into conversation with one another all the time. That is what academic writing is all about. Then Foucault hit me with this next part:

And this network of references is not the same in the case of a mathematical treatise, a textual commentary, a historical account, and an episode in a novel cycle; the unity of the book, even in the sense of a group of relations, cannot be regarded as identical in each case. The book is not simply the object that one holds in one’s hands; and it cannot remain within the little parallelepiped that contains it; its unity is variable and relative. As soon as one questions that unity, it loses its self-evidence; it indicates itself, constructs itself, only on the basis of a complex field of discourse.

This section helped me to make connections to a concept that I already understand: intertextuality.  With intertextuality, the reader brings knowledge and experiences of reading other texts to the reading of the new text. This section of Foucault’s work reminded me of discussions I’ve had in other classes about one book’s dialogue with another. This of course lead me to Kristeva and Bakhtin. Kristeva goes beyond the idea that texts are in conversation or a network of references, presenting that the text, itself, is made up of utterances taken from other texts. Kristeva’s work is influenced by Bakhtin’s definition of the novel as a combination of diverse languages and voices organized in an artistic manner.

The connection to books helped me to visualize and ground Foucualt’s work. Hopefully, I will have another light-bulb moment in Parts 3-5.

Key Terms

  • Discontinuity-is a break with unity, challenges cause, effect, and tradition
  • Discourse-this was a complex term in Foucualt’s work. I think he uses it to refer to the verbal/written parts of history
  • discursive formation: I’m still debating and fleshing this out.
  • archaeology: Foucault’s approach to examining discourse of the past in order to understand the present; what led to now?

Works Cited

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. Print.

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

Kristeva, Julia.  Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Ed. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. Print.

© 2020 Academic Cypher

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑