As part of my responsibilities as managing editor for Kairos, I am thrilled to be able to serve as the CoverWeb Liaison. The CoverWeb represents, in my mind, one of the wonderful "breakthrough" opportunities of the new digital rhetorics. CoverWeb writing allows many contributors to share in the creation of a single text -- and offers some limited means of textual interaction -- while presenting multiple perspectives on one specific issue of interest to Kairos' readership.
This multi-vocality and multiple authorship allows an enactment of some of the collaboratory promise of hypertext while web publishing allows decentralized publication. Finally, the CoverWeb allows Kairos to deliver texts appropriate to many tiers of readers. This issue's CoverWeb on educational MOOs includes basic introductions to MOOing linked to discussions of the pedagogical possibilities of virtual spaces linked to problems of administering MOOspaces. We have tried to cover a spectrum of possible interests as well as familiarity to MOOs in education and this layering simply wouldn't be possible in print.
As Kairos' CoverWeb is stretching the bounds of academic publishing, it relies upon well established composition research concerning collaboration. I had the privilege of working with Andrea Lunsford on a feature article for the first issue, and she commented that on-line collaboration had a distinct feel distinguishing it from face-to-face collaboration. The CoverWeb is a unique collaboration. The CoverWeb Coordinator (for this issue Michael Day), the CoverWeb Liaison (me) and members of the Editorial Board (for this issue, Eric Crump, Jeffrey Galin, and Rebecca Rickly) interacted with each other and with each contributor's web. The individual contributions have been woven together with bridge text and links to highlight thematic connections. Collaboration took place among Kairos staff and with individual contributors. Authors had some interaction with each other, although encouraging author-to-author interaction is a goal for forthcoming CoverWebs.
So what is a CoverWeb? It's young enough that your thoughts might just get your web in the journal. It isn't a genre. I would argue, contrary to Spooner and Yancey in the May CCC, that electronic publication is post-genre: Genre is a print convention. Rather, the Coverweb represents an expansion of the recognizable and authorizing constructs of peer-reviewed print publication into the web, to challenge the depiction of digital realms as "permissive" publishing space. Coverweb as a concept (or construct) is young enough to be experimental, but staid enough to be recognizably academic. CoverWeb writing allows a multiplicity of voices; the authors, while collaborating, are creating writerly texts. The challenge for Kairos as a professional journal is to offer itself as a writerly text after publication. That's a barrier worth investigating, and the CoverWeb is merely one means of challenging linearity and editorial hegemony.