Logging On

Cheryl Ball, Editor

On Occasion of the 20th Anniversary Issue of Kairos

Ten years ago, I was sitting in a totally different university office, late at night, writing my first official Logging On column with Beth Hewett, for the 10th anniversary issue of Kairos. Beth and I had just been promoted to lead editors of the journal, and I was giddy with delight. We had both been working for the journal for five years at that point, and I was in my second year as a tenure-track scholar at Utah State University. We wrote late into the night, using iChat, which was our most frequent form of synchronous communication then. We had grand plans, exhibited by the multipaged manifesto of that anniversary's Logging On column, co-authored with newly titled Senior Editors James Inman and Douglas Eyman. Looking back, I think I can say we were successful with all of the plans we imagined in that issue. And then some. With James' and Beth's help, we accomplished magnitudes in the next few years. And even after they moved on, Doug and I continued to push the journal—even surprising to us—in new directions.

I have purposefully not written for the webpages of Kairos as an author much in the last 10 years, as I became pre-occupied with making sure we published others' work in a kind and formative manner. I sought out other online spaces and found, ironically and disappointingly, that much of what I felt I needed to say as a scholar of multimodal composition and digital publishing needed to be said in print-like venues for an audience on the fringes of, or not even in, our Venn diagram of disciplines.

If these Logging On columns over the years have become too autobiographical, too personal with the details of my relationship with the journal, it is because that relationship is personal to me, and is made possible because of the welcoming community in which Kairos publishes. I often don't think first of the scholar in Zimbabwe who might be reading these notes, wondering how wacky or wonderful a person I might be. (Because, indeed, there is such a person!) I do think of that Zimbabwean when I am editing every webtext that goes into every issue of the journal—wondering whether the things we write, the designs we compose, make sense outside of the community I envision when I write these columns. The webtexts are our way to communicate to the whole world, and are edited as such. These columns are my way of communicating how I feel about them, about the process, about you—and you, and you—as readers. In a way, I imagine myself greeting you in a MOO for a Thursday night chat—a medium I found I needed to define while editing this issue so that newer scholars reading Kairos for the first time here would know what the hell we old fogies were talking about. We have several brand-new scholars writing and designing in this issue—some, as one said in her webtext, who were only three years old when the first issue of Kairos was published on January 1, 1996.

We embrace these newbies in our field and offer anniversary issues such as this to commemorate how histories accumulate and fields change. Like the recent unplugging of several MOOs important to our field, and the shift away from this community's more frequent use of listservs to social media outlets, some things change. I saved the TechRhet discussion that Mark Crane initiated last May with the subject line, "How long have you been on TechRhet?" Several folks responded to indicate that that list, so central to the computers-and-writing (and, by proxy, Kairos) community, began June 21, 2000, with a post from Kathy Fitch (a long-time editorial board member of Kairos). John Walter remarked that

She created it in response to the ACW-L [Alliance for Computers and Writing] discussion about what to do with the announced end of ACW-L. The problem, if I recall correctly, was who would take over the list and where it would be hosted from. Kathy sidestepped the whole issue of institutional support by setting up with YahooGroups, a move that was itself controversial because of commercial ads. Since no one stepped forward with an institution-based solution (i.e., running a listserv via a college or university), we stayed with Yahoo until we migrated to Eric Crump's Interversity. (May 8, 2015 post to TechRhet-l)

I joined the list some time in 2001 or 2002—probably 2001, since that's when I joined the staff of Kairos and, likely, I would have heard about it then. While I edit with that reader in Zimbabwe in mind, I write these Logging On columns with TechRhet in mind because it feels close, personal, familiar.

Some things stay the same.  In this case, it's the fact that Kairos still uses YahooGroups for its editorial board and staff conversations. I started this column by telling you about that late night at USU, writing my first LO. That was the first job where I had to explain to a provost that Kairos's business model was no-money-in, no-money-out; and that we worked with handcrafted attention to each webtext we published. We still use YahooGroups because it is all we can afford—it's free, and it archives everything. Although that, too, is about to change. For this issue, we experimented with Slack for the first time during the last stages of production, and it was quite a success. (If success is measured in no lag between responses and an inbox that doesn't bloat with literally 1,000 emails the two days before publication!) Information communication technologies overlap for different purposes, and as we move away from YahooGroups (with, frankly, zero nostalgia for that), we add in other, more useful-for-today ICTs. This field has always been good at the overlap, the zen of Venn. It is such a diagram—from my only publication in Kairos since becoming editor—that makes me realize how far this journal has come in the last decade.

In last January's column, I wrote about the Mellon Foundation grant WVU had received to build a new, open-source academic publishing platform, which at the time we were calling Cairn, but has since been (once and for all) renamed Vega. Some of you heard me speak briefly about Vega during last year's Computers and Writing conference, and what a wonderful honor that was for me! But the real honor, to the field and to this journal as its inspiration, is how well and how quickly Vega is coming along with the developers, and how much interest it is already gaining internationally. As soon as next year, we will be testing a few journals in this platform and moving away, finally, from YahooGroups and hand-wringing version control. No more of these last-minute, late-night editing adventures—which is sad in itself, since Kairos has such a long tradition of them! ;) But I won't miss them, and neither will my inbox.

In This Issue

Speaking of inboxes, our very first issue introduced a Letters-to-the-Editor section called InBox, which Fred Kemp inaugurated in his most "FredKempian" of ways—a turn of phrase I borrow from one of our authors in this issue: In a retrospective review of Issue 1.1 in all its archival-interface glory, Jim Kalmbach and Lydia Welker provide a senior and junior perspective on how well this first issue of Kairos has held up (or not) over the years.  Indeed, all of our reviews in this issue are large review essays that provide retrospective takes on Kairos's past. Jen Almjeld, with an entire class of undergraduate students, offers "The F-Word: A Decade of Hidden Feminism in Kairos." Rachael Ryerson gives us a fine Prezi (no, trust me!) with a full bibliographic review essay citing and categorizing all of the scholarship on multimodal composition that Kairos has published in the last ten years. I commend Rachael as well for her on-point citation skills appropriate to the genres and media she cites. 

In our Interviews section, we are excited to share a remixable text with you: Ten sets of video interviews conducted by ten winners (or finalists) of Kairos's Best Webtext Award through the years, published in Kairos, Computers and Composition Online, and Pre/Text. These authors are the best of the best when it comes to webtexts, and they share their perspectives through an hour or so of video clips across two dozen keywords, downloadable and ready for your remixing. We plan on publishing remixes that new authors send us (with review), so please consider "Opening an Invitation to Remix"!

There is much in this issue that resonates with the contents of the 10th anniversary issue—an unintentional if serendipitous occurrence—including the four webtexts mentioned above. (In our 10th anniversary, the Interviews editors conducted interviews with past staff members, and we published Jim Kalmbach's exploration of the archives of Kairos. We had actually asked him to update that piece for this issue but he found, somewhat unsurprisingly and perhaps story for another day, that little had changed in the intervening years in terms of the navigational schema he proposed in that issue. So he offered to do the review essay for us instead!)

More resonances come in the form of Karl Stolley's "Lo-Fi Manifesto, v. 2.0," which updates his initial and popular 2008 manifesto on using non-proprietary technologies for digital writing. We are excited to have his reboot, which includes several archival versions for your perusal. Karl was one of the guest speakers during the West Virginia University Summer Seminar last July, the topic of which was Access/ibility in Digital Publishing. We are happy to present a seriously multi-authored webtext for readers that compiles the work from this summer—a gathering of 25 scholars and librarians interested in open access, accessibility, usability, and preservation of digital scholarship. Doug Eyman talks more about the impetus and outcomes from this seminar, which also contains a glossary, reading list, and set of best practices we hope readers can help us build on.

Readers have already helped build an amazing resource for the field, in the form of the Writing Studies Tree (WST), which is the focus of the webtext, "The Roots of an Academic Genealogy," by Benjamin Miller, Amanda Licastro, and Jill Belli. The piece explores the design of the WST, which is a crowd-sourced genealogy of people relevant to writing studies and which shows relationships between mentors and mentees and institutions. Kairos has cross-linked to entries in the WST in our own ScholarNames project. And, pertinent to this anniversary issue, it is important to remember where we came from and who we have worked with. The WST's entry for Kairos links nearly a hundred people in the field who have worked with Kairos over the years. We have added a lot of people, so we encourage you to check it out yourself. In fact, the final webtext for this issue is one that will make us all pay closer attention to giving away our data online: "Writing in an Age of Surveillance, Privacy, & Net Neutrality" is another robust, multi-authored webtext, this time from the eight women who participated in and responded to the 2015 Computers & Writing Town Hall of the same name.

I am reallllly excited, to be honest, about the number of female scholars in this issue, and on our unintentional theme of feminism that runs through nearly every webtext, in some form or fashion. I like to tell newcomers to the field of computers and writing how it was founded by women and is feminist at every turn. At the conferences themselves, that feminist approach to the discipline of writing studies writ large is exhibited everywhere, from hallway conversations to keynote sessions. Harley Ferris and Courtney Danforth bring us another episode of KairosCast that reviews last year's Computers and Writing conference (among other wonderful things they discuss, including the 20th anniversary of the journal), and we have a new round of session reviews from the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication! Andrea Beaudin and many other editors put together a fine collection of dozens of reviews, which you can read and link to on our wiki or from a PDF we compiled of all the sessions in one download!

Finally, concomitant with Karl's manifesto 2.0 is a new reader toolbar that he made for us!! As more of our submissions used javascript in a wide variety of ways, we found that the original toolbar sometimes wouldn't work, due to conflicts between its use of javascript and that used in the webtexts we published. We asked Karl to make some adjustments, and he took the opportunity to completely revise (and improve!) it. The new toolbar is built on the principles of responsive web design (Karl recommends Ethan Marcotte's article on Responsive Web Design as a good starting point for those interested), and you will find that it not only works exceptionally well on smartphones and tablets, but that it also becomes transparent in response to scrolling. The citation feature of the toolbar has been improved and now offers options for pre-formatted citations in the Kairos, APA, Chicago, and Columia styles (sorry MLA, you still don't understand how the Internet works, so we've opted not to include a broken schema in our list —DE). We'll begin to apply the new toolbar to past issues over the next few months.

In all, we are really proud of another solid issue, with texts that look backwards and pitch forwards, jiving and coalescing in ways we couldn't have imagined when we first planned this anniversary issue. While we could speculate about another 20 years, we'd rather just invite you to participate in the conversations in these webtexts and, perhaps, consider joining our staff by reviewing the calls for volunteers on the Comings and Goings page.  

Comings and Goings

As it is also New Year’s Day when we publish, the saying “out with the old, in with the new” seems appropriate here, if a little crass. In fact, the one staff member we are losing isn’t old at all! Two awesome years with Scott Nelson seems too short for us, that’s for sure. But Scott, who has been an assistant editor with the journal since the spring of 2013, is moving on to focus on his new, cool job. We will miss him a great deal, as he has been a wonderful asset for us at the journal.  

We’re lucky, though, that we have plenty of new, too! One major announcement for us is the creation of the new position of Managing Editor. Doug and I have been talking about such a position for years, always postponing it for various reasons. But the time came when we could postpone it no longer; the need for someone to help me manage the daily operations of the journal—due to increased submissions, multiple new sections of the journal, and our attention on Vega—was required. We could not be happier that Stephanie Vie, who has worked in various capacities for Kairos since 2008, has agreed to step into this new role. If you’re an author or potential author for the journal, you will likely be seeing her name a little more ‘round these parts.

With those new journal sections come new staffing needs. So, once again, Kairos is hiring! (Volunteers, of course.) We have immediate needs for two types of positions: KairosCast Fellows, who are interested in helping with the audio production and solicitation of materials for the KairosCast section and assistant editors (AE) who are interested in working with two of our relatively new (or revised) sections, KairosCast and PraxisWiki. The job ads for both of these positions are posted on our jobs page, and we encourage new, curious, and advanced scholars to take a look! The KairosCast editors talk more about the Fellowship in their podcast, and the AE positions are purposefully entry-level, with lesser technological skills (but the same level of copy-editing skills) than most of our other positions require, so that we can bring in more people who want to train and learn the ways of Kairos from the ground up. With this change towards entry-level assistant editor positions, our current assistant editors will all get promotions to associate editors! We hope that this new tier of staffing will create better routes for promotion within the journal and provide more opportunities for Kairos staff to learn and apply that knowledge internally and elsewhere.