Reading the Archives:
Ten Years on Nonlinear (Kairos) History

Jim Kalmbach
Department of English
Illinois State University

About this Site
This brief section contains the obligatory explanations for my organizational strategies, tips on how to navigate the site, and thank you's. It reads better than it sounds.

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As We May Begin: A Brief Introduction to Kairos
Kairos logoKairos was founded in 1995 by a group of graduate students (primarily at Texas Tech, Ball State, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) as a response to the dazzling potential of the web to transform our practices and the obvious need for a peer-reviewed forum to reflect on those practices. Those founders included Mick Doherty, Greg Siering, Corey Wick, Jason Teague, and Michael J. Salvo. Doherty blames Becky Rickly for the idea, claiming that

On the road to a Hootie and the Blowfish concert near the campus of Michigan State University, while stuck in traffic, Becky Rickly idly wonders, "What do you think a journal for the kind of work we're doing would look like?"

Undaunted by this mystery, they set out to create an online journal that would explore the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy, or as Michael Salvo (Doherty & Salvo, 2002) put it:

With Kairos, a handful of graduate students in half a dozen states, with no budget and no sense of what was and was not possible (or acceptable), created something that caught (and continues to catch) peoples' attention.

Although the original editorial team has left Kairos (), the journal has been a remarkable success, producing 21 issues over 10 years, each issue (metaphorically) crammed with hypertext. It is widely quoted and widely respected, and the editors have done an excellent job of archiving their work. The Kairos website includes an archive page with links to all 21 issues including alternative, archival interfaces for the first seven issues.

What can we learn from reading the Kairos archives? What can we learn about Kairos, about our community, and about the nature of hypertext?

This webtext is an attempt to answer these questions. I start by describing Kairos' editorial policies and explaining why these policies are so important to Kairos' success. From there I take advantage of the nonlinear nature of the web to jump to a digression comparing Kairos' editorial approach to small press "assembling" magazines published in the seventies and eighties. To get a feel for the ten years of work in Kairos, I construct a slice of the journal with one webtext from each year of publication. I next describe the types of hypertext that I found overall in Kairos, and I present my count of how frequently those types appear. The webtext ends with conclusions and speculations about the future.

If you are not familiar with Kairos, I have set up a random walk to introduce you to its ten years of nonlinearity. I invite you to pause a bit to click this link. It will open a new window containing a random Kairos website. When you are done exploring that site, close the window and click again. One caution, however: If you find a link that you would like to revisit, be sure to bookmark it. If you forget, the link leaves no record in the history queue, and it can take forever for that site to randomly pop up again. To learn more about the idea of a random walk, go back to the about this site section.

A random walk through the Kairos Archives

The Kairos Way: Why Editorial Policies are Important
What makes an exploration of the Kairos archives particularly interesting has been the Kairos editorial policy of putting its authors in charge of the appearance of their text and of that text's hypertextual structure. Because Kairos has been successfully publishing issues for ten years, it is easy to lose track of just how unusual and distinctive this editorial policy is even among online journals . . .

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A Digression: Assembling
Putting authors in control of the appearance and hypertextual nature of scholarly texts may be fairly rare among online journals, but it has an historical precedent in the work of small press assembling magazines in the 1970s and 1980s. This section is a digression about that history. As with any good digression, you can skip this section and continue with the primary argument. Your life will just not be as bright and rewarding.

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A Ten Year Slice of Kairos
Over ten years, Kairos had published 231 webbed texts just in its CoverWebs and Features. To keep from getting overwhelmed by all of this nonlinearity, this section presents a ten-year slice of this work by pulling one random webbed text from each volume of Kairos . . .

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Types of Hypertext In Kairos
The next step in my research was reading through the archives to identify the various types of hypertext that are represented in the Kairos archives. This proved to be a difficult process but after splitting and combining various categories, I ended up with eight distinct types of hypertexts . . .

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Counting The Webbed Texts
Finally, I went through the archive yet again in an attempt to place each webtext in one of the eight categories. This sort of brute force empiricism proved to be frustrating as many Kairos authors combined multiple hypertextual strategies in a single text. Still, I found I could identity a primary hypertext strategy in each webtext. The numbers in this section are presented without any statistical analysis following the approach of William Labov (1972), whose elegant quantitative studies of language variation were so compelling that he could scorn tests of significance and still transform his field.

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Conclusions: The Three Ages of Kairos
In the last section, I argue that the hypertexts in Kairos fall into roughly three groups: Beginnings: Moving Beyond Print (volumes 1-4); Adolescent Exuberance: The Computers and Writing Issues (volumes 5-7); and Coming of Aging: New Media and Beyond (volumes 8-10) . . .

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Coda: A Call for the New Hypertext
This webtext ends with a call for new thinking about online scholarship.

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The last page is a collection of resources used in this site. It includes the following:

  • A link list of all the footnotes in case you missed one.
  • A standard references list.
  • A list of the external links included in the text.

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