Kairotically Speaking: Kairos and the Power of Identity


Dismantling Kairos


In his critique of Kairos, Dennis G. Jerz (2000) argues that Kairos suffers from "narcissm and defensiveness" because it seems "less interested in presenting the peer-reviewed content" and "more interested in establishing the institutional identity of Kairos." With all due respect to Jerz, whose critique is primarily about Kairos's interface design, I have to say that Kairos is all (not only) about identity. His statements are not without merit, though, because certainly the early frame days of Kairos made access to content a little scattered. But we were all learning about web design in 1996 when Kairos came to be and like all newbies to anything, the editors succumbed to what Doug Eyman in his response to Jerz has called his "wicked frame-filled ways." But to say that Kairos is less interested in content seems extreme given Kairos's statement of identity and purpose—to be a credible venue for publishing online scholarship. There is no reason to believe that Kairos is anything other than what it says it is—a scholarly journal.

Initially, I was bothered by Jerz's voluntary and seemingly ubiquitous practice of critiquing Kairos; not because he was necessarily wrong, but because his critique seemed to define Kairos's purpose only through its design, a la Jakob Nielsen, and not its struggle as an online journal in an academic world ordered by print. With due respect to Jerz's competent design critique, I just can't allow Kairos to be ignored for what it was at that time, and what it has become—new design or not—ten years after its inauguration: a project identity with the power to change scholarly practices.

I'll return to my analysis of Kairos as a project identity later. But first I'd like to consider one other aspect of Jerz's critique—attention to audience. Kairos's design (referring to Issue 5.1), Jerz says tongue-in-cheek, "has drastically improved," making it "no longer an easy target." The only mention of audience in Jerz's critique is when he mentions his technical writing students, whom he asked to critique Kairos's design. While he concedes that they are "not the primary audience" for Kairos, he affords their comments ample room as support for his argument. His instructions to students didn't seem to include analyzing design, let alone content, with Kairos's actual audience in mind—writing studies scholars who teach with technology. Through his application of Jakob Nielsen's laws of web-user experience, Jerz does speak indirectly of an audience, the ubiquitous "users" (see also useit.com). These users, it would seem, include all people with access to the World Wide Web, suggesting that anyone and everyone is a potential audience for the journal just because a page exists in cyberspace. As a writing teacher, I can attest to the difficulty of identifying "everyone" as one's audience and the resulting chaotic prose.

Kairos was not designed for the ubiquitous everyone who happens to be "cybersurfing"; rather, it is designed for "scholars, theorists, and practitioners in the field of computers and writing," says Doug Eyman, and there is "serious scholarly business … conducted here" (Hartman, 2000). And as a serious scholarly journal, Kairos's purpose is certainly not to entertain "users" but to provide a space for online publicationsNotes1 that would "be recognized in traditional circles" (Mick Doherty, 1999). It is these circles—ultimately those of hiring and tenure committees—that influence Kairos's identity more than anything else. Throughout this webtext, I explore how I think Kairos establishes power as a project identity (Castells, 1997). To do this, I borrow an approach Langdon Winner (1970) calls dismantling—a process historically related to Luddism. I chose this process not to "tear down" through critique, but to reveal the genesis of Kairos's identity and its ability to sustain power within a system ordered by print (Winner, p. 330). In this, Kairos's tenth anniversary issue, I seek to "dismantle" (Winner, p. 330) Kairos as a project identityNotes2 in order to determine if Kairos does indeed have the power to affect scholarly practices. In this context, I see Kairos as contextualized within an academic society in ways that affect definitions and practices of scholarship.




Dismantling Kairos 1
Dismantling Kairos 2

Autonomous Technology of Tenure 1
Autonomous Technology of Tenure 2
Autonomous Technology of Tenure 3

Kairotically Speaking 1

Myth of Transparency 1
Myth of Transparency 2
Myth of Transparency 3
Myth of Transparency 4

Kairotica of Kairos 1
Kairotica of Kairos 2
Kairotica of Kairos 3
Kairotica of Kairos 4




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