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: Vatz

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.

Synthesis…I hope

Theories

Which 2 – 4 theories are you choosing and why?

Rhetorical Situation Theory: Bitzer, Vatz, and Biesecker provided different approaches to the rhetorical situation, which allow me to consider exigence (problem that invites a response), the rhetor, and the site of communication, respectively. If I utilize my re-proposed Oos, in which I expanded the Snapchat network to include the designers and the technology (infrastructure as well as the device), the above theorists will allow me to discuss Snapchat’s design creation as a part of the network because the creators are still creating the application. There are updates and changes to the device, which impact the Snapchat network. This theory will allow me to examine the users exchanges as rhetorical activity.

CHAT : Whereas rhetorical situation theory focuses on rhetorical activity of author, audience, text, and to some extent the situation, itself, CHAT focuses on literate activity. I think it is important to see the network as literate activity. In using CHAT I can expand from the rhetorical situation to the rhetorical canon, examining delivery, production, representation, and reception. I think using this theory will also help me to expand the original case study to address the cultural historical aspect of Snapchat. If Snapchat is situated within a cultural historical context, I would be able to address the design aspect of Snapchat as being part of the network. As mentioned before, the creators of Snapchat are still actively involved in and impact the network. It would be disservice to not include them in the network.

ANT: I am still undecided about using ANT. I feel that it is necessary because ANT flattens the network, which I feel is important. ANT also provides an easy way to include the technology in the network. Because all parts of the network are seen as actors, I can explain the role of technology in Snapchat. It is important to include this, as it is the application’s hiding of the snaps that makes it so significant. The ephemeral nature of Snapchat is easily discussed through ANT because ANT allows for the tracing of connections. There is a historical element to ANT that I did not address in my first case study. Returning to ANT (in conjunction with CHAT) may allow me to address this part of theory in a productive manner.

Affordances: The last theory that I am considering is JJ Gibson’s Theory of Affordances. This was my favorite theory of the semester because I felt it was the most accessible. This theory allows me to focus on action and perception, which I think is important for discussing Snapchat’s users and their interaction with the software. It also allows for the inclusion of the technology in the network.  Through this theory, I am able to include the camera phone and multimedia  messaging (MMS) into the Snapchat network. Camera phones and photo messaging are essential parts needed for Snapchat to function. Because I view Snapchat as a photo messaging application designed for mobile phones (smartphones, specifically) framed as a social network, affordances allows me to include the hardware and software as part of the network. Just as the aforementioned theories allowed me to expand beyond the users, affordances allows me to expand the environment of the network beyond the application of Snapchat to the smartphone (and possibly to the ISP network).

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

I would argue that the main similarity among these theories is activity. Rhetorical Situation theorizes the way rhetoric is created and the constituents required for this creation. CHAT and ANT both focus on activity. CHAT continues the work of the rhetorical situation theory, theorizing the production and overall movement of literate activity(rhetoric). ANT adds to this by focusing on the activity at all levels the network. Each part of the network is apart of the literate activity. ANT speaks more to action and the results of those actions. The theory of affordances also speaks to action and the results of actions. Affordances looks to what is in the environment, the purpose it serves, and the action allowed by the objects  (and the allowable perceived by the users). Although each theory is different, they all focus on some aspect of activity, looking at the context required for activity to the movement of the activity.

How do they fill each other’s gaps?

In regards to filling the gaps, CHAT (ANT) allow for singular focus on literate activity. However, Affordances, CHAT, and ANT provide a lens through which to examine the way Snapchat functions. The rhetorical situation theory does not allow for such an examination. Also, CHAT, ANT, and rhetorical situation theory (particularly, Biesecker) address historical and social context. Affordances does not address historical context. However, affordances by way of Norman does address cultural conventions.

Scholar(ship)

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

This is a difficult question to answer because at this point in my education, I do not feel I have a position. I have not written, read, or thought about scholarship enough to have a position.  I honestly feel at this point that I read and complete assignments to the best of my ability.  Much of my research comes from class assignments. The closest I can get to positioning myself as a scholar would be my blog title: Academic Cypher. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the Cypher. Rooted in African tradition of communicating and sharing spirit and knowledge in a circle, the cypher is a significant part of hip hop and the way in which I believe all knowledge can be created and transferred. My blog description states: “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.”  Knowledge exists within each individual and is connected by (and within) the cypher. The cypher is a network (I think I wrote myself into understanding this). Although this may be outside of the academy’s purview, I position myself as a member the cypher. I bring to the table what I have and throw it into the ring. I perform my conceptualization of the theory inspired by and connected to those who have performed before and perform with me. Ultimately, I hope to keep the cypher going (don’t break the chain), so that the exchange and creation never stops. The aforementioned theories align with this perspective in that they all consider the social, cultural, and historical aspects of production and reception.

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

My thoughts on this question are similar to the previous question. I do not believe or see that I have a background on which to align anything. I am sure I have biases, but I do not know what they are. I chose the theories based on what I was able to understand. I did not choose the theories that I couldn’t understand.  I came to Snapchat because I was interested in the move away from traditional social networking of creating a profile and archiving photos, experiences, and thoughts. Snapchat does not fit within my larger research focus which is bringing together rhetoric and hip hop. I greatly offends me that mainstream society does not see any value in hip hop beyond appropriation, commercialization, and commodification. It could be argued that they perceived the value, which lead to all those things. I chose to pursue an advance degree to be a walking contradiction. What I mean is that I wanted to show people (particularly African Americans) that one doesn’t have to choose between hip hop culture and mainstream society. They are not mutually exclusive. One can hit the streets and the books. This perspective may be why I am somewhat adverse to scholarship. Scholarship is for those within the academy. My audience (imagined/dreamed) are those outside of the academy. I think my bias is that I am anti-scholarship.

I guess my ability and level of understanding plays a significant part in the theories I choose. I saw Snapchat as a unique opportunity to examine a shift in social networking, as it is happening. Rhetorical Situation Theory, CHAT, ANT, and affordances allowed me to enter into an unfamiliar conversation because I recognized in each of them elements of rhetoric, which is familiar to me. I know the rhetorical situation, I know the rhetorical canon (CHAT). I previously read about ANT in Digital Humanities, so I was aware of the basics of the theory. I appreciated its focuses on activity and action. I also liked that it included everything as part of the network. It was not user or human centric, which I appreciate because everything (animate or inanimate) is impacted by everything else.  Affordances was very new to me, but the theory was straightforward. It’s accessibility is what lead me to use if for Case Study #3. I liked the idea of perception impacts how we use things. I am sure that there is more to this than what I have presented. However, I am unable to articulate whatever that may be.

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.

 

Case Study #1: Applying Rhetorical Situation to Snapchat

Network

The rhetorical situation, as discussed by Bitzer, Vatz, and Biesecker, would define Snapchat as a site of rhetorical discourse/communication by its connections among exigence, author, audience, and text/message. Snapchat’s purpose is to provide connected users the ability to utilize an ephemeral form of communication.

Although, it is presented as a dynamic network, the rhetorical situation as network reveals that Snapchat functions as a closed system that cannot exist without its users and their connections.

Nodes

The rhetorical situation as network would operate/form differently by each theorist. Via Bitzer, the rhetorical situation network would include the exigence, rhetor, and the audience as nodes within the network, with the exigence being the primary node.

Bitzer

According to Vatz, the network would have the same nodes: exigence, rhetor, and the audience. However, the primary node via Vatz would be the author due to Vatz’s argument that the rhetor decides what is relevant and then communicates it to the audience.

Vatz

In both instances, text/message travels through the network, and the audience is a given part of the situation.

Biesecker’s presents the rhetorical situation network that includes the exigence, rhetor, audience, and text. The text and audience are constituents in the rhetorical situation, meaning they are a nodes within the network and have impact on the network, itself. Biesecker moves past the discussion as to whether the situation or the rhetor serve as the origin of rhetorical discourse, meaning there isn’t a primary node.BieseckerThrough the lens of the rhetorical situation, the Snapchat users are the (nodes). Each user (rhetor) has the ability to capture a situation or moment (exigence) as a snap (text) and send it to other users (audience). On one hand, the primary node of the rhetorical discourse in Snapchat could be a specific situation/moment that the author experiences. On the other hand, the author could take a picture and make it meaningful by capturing the moment and/or adding text and drawings. Furthermore, each user has the potential to act as the primary node, creating and sending snaps. Snapchat does not afford the users the complex interactions presented via Biesecker’s take on the rhetorical situation.

Snapchat

Agency

As mentioned above, Bitzer presents the primary node as the exigence (situation or event), which requires a response. However, Vatz presents the primary node as the rhetor. The rhetor chooses what is relevant and makes it meaningful. Biesecker complicates this, as none of the constituents, or nodes, of the rhetorical situation serve as the primary node.  However, Biesecker does give agency to the audience, which is something Vatz and Biesecker overlook. Biesecker presents the human element of the network (both rhetor and audience) as being in flux, stating:

“From within the thematic of différance we would see the rhetorical situation neither as an event that merely induces audiences to act one way or another nor as an incident that, in representing the interests of a particular collectivity, merely wrestles the probable within the realm of the actualizable. Rather, we would see the rhetorical situation as an event that makes possible the production of identities and social relations. That is to say, if rhetorical events are analysed from within the  thematic of différance, it becomes possible to read discursive practices neither as rhetorics directed to preconstituted and known audiences nor as rhetorics “in search of” objectively identifiable  but yet undiscovered audiences.” (126)

This approach to the rhetorical situation de-centers the subject  This means that subjectivity is constantly evolving, nothing is a fixed point. The network then produces and reproduces identities and the linkages between them. The subjects (rhetor and audience) are moving parts of the network

 From this perspective, the level of agency in Snapchat is complex. For example, the author decides what moment to capture, what text or drawing to include, and what the time-limit will be. This can be interpreted two ways: 1)  agency being situated with author for making said event salient  and 2) agency being situated within the event for serving as the catalyst of rhetorical discourse. This falls along the lines of the rhetorical network presented via Bitzer and Vatz. However, via Biesecker’s take on the rhetorical situation, agency is situated with the recipient of the snap. Upon receiving the snap, the recipient can view only, respond, or take a screenshot. No matter the chosen response, the recipients level of agency becomes higher than the author. In choosing not to respond, the recipient ends the communications, breaking the discourse. If the recipient chooses to respond, the recipient becomes the author and the original author a recipient. However, the recipient has the ability to take a screenshot, subverting the purpose of Snapchat and, depending on the content of the snap, negatively impacting the author.  Although both author and audience have agency, it is higher with the audience, who has more impact on networks continuation (response), dissolve (not responding), or growth (via screenshot).

In the rhetorical situation network laid out by Bitzer and Vatz,  the nodes are not situated differently. There is a linear progression from the origin of the discourse to the audience. The directions of the relationships among the nodes is one-way with each node impacting the subsequent node. However, for Biesecker, the nodes are not situated in a linear pattern. The nodes exists in relation to one another, bearing the traces of one another; thus, there is no origin. The network “produces and reproduces the identities of subjects and constructs and reconstructs linkages between them” (126). The nodes relate to and impact one another.

Along the same lines as Bitzer and Vatz, users are not situated differently within Snapchat. All users have the ability to send and receive snaps, with an author communicating to an audience. However, some users can have more connectivity than others. For example, a user can have a closed system in which he/she only receives snaps from friends (already established and accepted connections). A user can also choose to have an open system in which he/she can receives snaps from anyone who uses Snapchat. Furthermore, the author has the ability to send the snap to as many people as the network and his/her connections allow. This affords new rhetorical situations to be created if and when receivers decide to respond.  Though not as complex and interactive as the network Biesecker imagines, snaps can be sent in various directions to various users.

Meaning

Meaning within the rhetorical situation differs for each theorist. However, meaning travels through the networks in a similar fashion for Bitzer and Vatz. Bitzer argues that meaning is intrinsic to the event and calls the rhetorical discourse into existence (compels the author to respond). This refers back to the primary node being the exigence.  Vatz argues that meaning lies in the creative act of the rhetor, which refers back to the primary node being the rhetor.

Since Bitzer and Vatz place little to no agency with the audience, as the meaning travels, it holds whatever meaning via the exigence and rhetor, respectively. However, Biesecker avoids the binary created by Bitzer and Vatz, arguing instead that meaning is found the “non-originary ‘origin’ called différance” (120). The content travels through the network and is continually impacted. For example, meanings relay to other meanings which have been impacted by earlier meanings and then modified by later meanings. This process continues because language continues. Biesecker argues, “neither the text’s immediate rhetorical situation nor its author can be taken as simple origin or generative agent since both are underwritten by a séries of historically produced displacements” (121). Because there isn’t a primary node, meaning is found in the process of the rhetorical network. Therefore,  the content of the rhetorical situation is “on a trajectory of becoming rather than Being” (127).

From this perspective, meaning in Snapchat can be said to derive from the exigence or the rhetor. In regards to what happens as meaning travels, Snapchat is different in that the content “self-destructs” after it travels from the author to the recipient. The author and the audience do not have to share the same meaning/understanding. Once the snap is sent, meaning can be misinterpreted by the recipient and changed via the response that the recipient generates. Also, the recipient has a limited amount of time (10 seconds maximum) to interpret and internalize the message before it disappears; the content Snapchat network goes from existence to non-existence as it travels.

Emergence, Growth, and Dissolution

Although the origin of the networks presented by Vatz and Bitzer differ, after the point of origin, the idea is that the message is communicated to an audience that can be influenced. Once the network forms, it can “mature or decay or mature and persist” (12). In this instance, though mostly ignored by both theorists, the audience would have a high level of agency. They could respond to the exigence or not. Biesecker complicates this by presenting the rhetorical situation as a process in which all the nodes are created and interact simultaneously. The network “produces and reproduces the identities of subjects and constructs and reconstructs linkages between them” (126). As Biesecker’s network is not caught in the binary of exigence and rhetor, the network “makes possible the production of identities and social relations” (126). Therefore, the network emerges and grows, interacting and shifting.

The dynamic network presented in Biesecker’s network is not possible via Snapchat. The network has the ability to grow based on the number of connections users make with one another. The possibilities of making connections can be expanded if one has an open Snapchat profile. However, the network can dissolve easily. The Snapchat network only thrives when snaps are sent. If snaps are not sent and users do not interact with one another, the network does not function. The connection remains intact, but it will not be a live network.

Conclusion

Comparing Snapchat to the rhetorical situation was more complicated than expected. At first, I envisioned Snapchat as a social networking platform, which allowed users to make and maintain connections. This made the network seem more complex than it actually was. Simplifying my approach and examining Snapchat as a messaging application or tool made it much easier to envision all parts of the network. Thinking about Snapchat in terms of the rhetorical situation helped me to realize that Snapchat is not much of a network at all. Although it is discussed as being a  dynamic social network, it is not. Snapchat is a closed system, which is more direct and linear (i.e. Bitzer and Vatz).  It  lacks the dynamic, interactive nature of the network as laid out by Biesecker.

The rhetorical situation allowed a closer examination of what counts as a node, the relationship between the nodes, and what the Snapchat does as a network. I left out a discussion of constraints, as they only played a significant role in Bitzer’s article, and I did not feel they factored into the development of the network.  In retrospect, the rhetorical situation does not afford an extensive discussion of the ephemeral nature of Snapchat. The idea that the snaps disappear is a big part of the applications popularity. Foucault’s discussions of discourse may have been more applicable. Moving forward, I am interested in exploring the ephemeral and tactile nature of Snapchat.

Works Cited

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.

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

MindMap #1: Rhetorical Situaion

Mindmap: http://popplet.com/app/#/1575978

My first mindmap built upon what was started in class on Tuesday. Since the course used the Rhetorical Situation as a jumping off point, I decided to use it as a jumping off point for my exploration into Snapchat. I began with trying to make a connection, for myself, between Bitzer and Vatz. I decided to focus solely on Bitzer. I wanted to break his definition down into audience, exigence, and constraints. I was drawn to the idea that rhetoric alters reality. I was also drawn to the idea of a rhetorical audience being one that is capable of acting or choosing not to act. I thought this was interesting because an inactive audience or one that chooses not to act seems to come across as a constraint. I realized that I was unsure of what a constraint was exactly. From here the mindmap ventures into random questions and thoughts that I had in regards to audience, exigences, and constraints.

The majority of my pondering was centered around the idea that rhetoric alters reality. This made me think of Snapchat, specifically the emphasis they place on changing/altering the way people communicate and the focus improving friendships/connections through fleeting messages. Snapchat places a lot of emphasis on the author of the snaps and their connection to the receiver. The tagline on their Google Play webpage reads: “the allure of fleeting messages reminds us about the beauty of friendship — we don’t need a reason to stay in touch.” For me this provides a mental bridge between Bitzer and Vatz. Bitzer places agency with the rhetor. In Snapchat, the rhetor does have agency when choosing what images to snap and what text/drawing to layer on the image. However, the image is not important/significant until it is sent/viewed by the receivers. On the other hand, I wonder if the meaning in snaps are intrinsic [meaning is the “result of a creative act” (Vatz 161)].

This exercise helped me to see Snapchat in a different way. It also helped me to realize that I agree with Vatz, but as a composition instructor, I utilize Bitzer. I wonder if I am doing my students a disservice. Hopefully, continued mindmapping will help me to craft a new approach to teaching the rhetorical situation and a new approach to Snapchat.

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