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: Spinuzzi

Mind Map #6: CHAT

This week’s MindMap was the easiest of all thanks to Summer. We spent about 2 hours Friday creating a life size MindMap of the theories we’ve explored thus far. Through the mapping activity, we came to the conclusion that all roads lead to Foucault. Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge presents a history as network.  Each of the theories explored could be seen as archives.  I have inserted a picture of our efforts below:

20140221_145939For my digital MindMap, I added nodes for CHAT focusing specifically on the connections between the laminate chronotopes, functional systems, and literate activity and Spinuzzi’s macroscopic, mesoscopic, and microscopic. In my mind, both of these functioned from the abstract to the concrete. With the microscopic and literate activity levels acting as the nodes and the functional systems operating on the mesoscopic level as the links between the nodes. I also made parallel nodes for the classic rhetorical canon and the remapped canon, connecting the elements of the classical canon to the remapped canon. I did not develop all this information out in the popplet in order to save space. Also, I made a connection between CHAT and Foucault. If archaeology is the process for understanding or examining discursive trace of the past to understand and write the present history, the remapping of the rhetorical canon is a tracing of or looking at history in order to understand and transform what is being done in the present.

I am slowly becoming more and more comfortable with using visuals to develop my ideas. I am seeing this more as a network of different theories of networks. It all starts to be self-referential.

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


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.


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