THE STREAMYARD CYPHERS: ONLINE PLACE-MAKING WITHIN AN INDIAN HIP HOP COMMUNITY
Keywords:Hip Hop, Rap, Cyphers, Platforms, Community, Place-making
AbstractThis paper presents an ethnographic account of how a community of Bengali-speaking rappers called the Cypher Projekt, based in the Indian state of West Bengal, attempted to create an online place for conducting cyphers during India’s harsh lockdowns in 2020. As an integral practice in Hip Hop culture, a rap cypher is akin to a poetry slam and typically held in physical locations where proximity between rappers is key to lyrical improvisation and competitive engagement. The Covid-19 lockdowns imposed throughout India in 2020 forced this community of Indian rappers to explore online environments for conducting the cyphers. However, due to infrastructural constraints related to latency in Internet connections, the cyphers were replaced with informal discussion sessions. These sessions were referred to as the Streamyard cyphers, owing to use of the free version of a web-enabled video-conferencing application called Streamyard. The ethnographic study revealed how the online sessions served as lively informal hangouts for members of the community, in line with several characteristics of Ray Oldenberg’s third place. However, there were other crucial aspects that did not meet the characteristics of a third place, which necessitated the explanatory power offered by the Indian social practice of the adda. The Streamyard cyphers clearly offered a vibrant third place for the undertaking of addas amid the Covid-induced Indian lockdowns of 2020. While Oldenburg’s notion of the third place still holds relevance for the examination of informal sociality, in the Global South, its application requires augmentation with scholarly analyses of social practices in specific sociocultural contexts.
How to Cite
Sarkar, P. K. (2021). THE STREAMYARD CYPHERS: ONLINE PLACE-MAKING WITHIN AN INDIAN HIP HOP COMMUNITY. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12036