Logging On

Scott Lloyd Dewitt and Cheryl Ball, Guest Editors

  • The Manifesto Issue
    If our scholarship seems too cutting-edge, too in-your-face, despite its having been deeply considered, then it is reserved for discussing around conference-hotel bars, on listservs and blogs, or over dinner and wine in the backyard patio.
  • Manifestos as Scholarship
    Wrought with connotation, politically and emotionally charged, manifestos call us to action and demand change—in the streets, in the workplace, in our classrooms, in our minds, and in the virtual spaces we inhabit.
  • In this issue

In This Issue

Scott Lloyd DeWitt and Cheryl E. Ball, Guest Editors

In “This is Scholarship,” Catherine C. Braun and Kenneth L. Gilbert create a manifesto that directly addresses members of tenure and promotion committees; however, there is an implicit argument that also calls the Kairos community to action, to demand changes in tenure and promotion policies that adequately and fairly take digital media scholarship into account and on its own terms. Braun and Gilbert’s manifesto is reflective of Tracy Bridgeford’s webtext in the anniversary issue, in which she called for readers to push the generic boundaries of tenure binders to include a place for digital scholarship. That digital scholarship—and the need to reiterate its worth, its scholarly value—is a consistent topic in Kairos these last few issues indicates that although the journal’s readers and authors (and editors, of course) believe that digital scholarship is here to stay, we also believe that others, outside our field and our departments—that is, those up the tenure line from our viewpoint—still fail to recognize the legitimacy and longevity of digital scholarship. There is much to say about this contradiction, not the least of which are major examples in the field that point to the legitimacy of digital scholarship, in its many forms, including:

  • the MLA’s recent recognition of scholarly websites as valuable inclusions to the MLA International Bibliography (see Chen, 2008)
  • the Council of Editors of Learned Journals’ (forthcoming; see www.celj.org) Guidelines for E-Journal Editors, promoting digital journals that meet 10 basic editorial and publishing conditions
  • the launching of Open Humanities Press, which promotes peer-reviewed, open-access e-journals.

Rather than discuss these newsworthy items here, however, we defer to Braun and Gilbert’s manifesto, which deftly explains how the issue of legitimacy makes headway in promotion and tenure guidelines for digital scholars.

Many of us working in digital media are concerned about issues surrounding intellectual property, copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use, especially as composing in multiple media through remixing and sampling become everyday pedagogical and scholarly projects. In response to this growing concern, Digirhet—a collective who believes those in the computers and writing community should be vigorously involved in intellectual property and fair use—presents “Old+Old+Old=New: A Copyright Manifesto for the Digital World.” This copyleft manifesto “argues for a view of intellectual property that protects Fair Use, and that privileges free and open use over profits and persecution.” Taking on the “old beliefs” on which “outdated [copyright] laws” were written, the Digirhet group asks three kinds of questions in relation to copyrighted work:

  • How does permission-for-use change in digital space?
  • How do we credit the sometimes-hidden authors of different types of digital media?
  • How can we best cite and archive digital work when information moves, changes shape, and dies quickly?

Their concern in posing these questions is to ask writing teacher–scholars to rethink the limitations placed on using copyrighted work in pedagogical (and scholarly) projects, limitations that are retrograde to Fair Use. Their manifesto-answers come in the form of student-produced multimedia projects, about which the student–authors discuss their use of copyrighted material in an effort to redefine what counts as “original.”

The Kairos Editors would like to note that in response to webtexts like the Digirhet manifesto and the Gallery piece (below), which bring to light the changing tenor of copyright issues when publishing digital media, the journal has redefined its copyright statement for authors.

Aptly (albeit alphabetically) following Digirhet’s copyleft manifesto is From Gallery to Webtext, a collection of webtexts edited by Virginia Kuhn and Victor Vitanza. Readers might remember that this collection started at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication as the session, “From Panel to Gallery,” in which 12 presenters showed multimedia texts—mostly digital (in Quicktime and Flash movies, PowerPoint presentations, websites, audio files, etc.) but some analog (such as Geof Carter’s request for visitors to create something from the paper plates, scissors, and glue he provided). Their purpose in the Gallery session was to remediate the sometimes-stultifying atmosphere of listening to presenter after presenter read from papers. Instead, the Gallery offered a chance for the audience to wander, to participate physically, as well as intellectually and emotionally, in the laptop-as-poster-presentation styled session. It was invigorating, and so we were excited when some of the authors remediated, yet again, their conference presentations into manifesto-webtexts.
In the introduction to From Gallery to Webtext, the co-editors comment on the added presentation–revision required when transforming conference pieces to scholarly pieces, presenting—in essence—a manifesto on the forms that digital scholarship can and should take. As with Digirhet’s copyleft manifesto, the pieces included in the Gallery provide readers with critiques on a wide range of topics and require us to rethink our traditional notions of scholarship (as well as Fair Use). Eight authors present close to 90 minutes of video and multimedia text within the Gallery, and so we list them here to preview the collection’s breadth and depth. Each author introduces and discusses their piece inside the collection, so we encourage readers to explore them (and their relation to each other) inside the issue. Although the individual texts can be read in any order and are listed alphabetically in the list below, some texts function as introductions and/or commentaries on others, so we recommend a possible reading path in the descriptions.

  • Sarah Arroyo’s project, “Hands & Writing: A Digital Sample,” explores the relationship between hands, technologies, and writing and asks viewers to consider the social—particularly community—implications of this relationship. We like to read this piece along with Hawk’s “Open Hand Remix.”
  • In Geof Carter’s “PlatesPleatsPetals,” he plays with composition in the wake of many theorists, including Marcel Duchamps and Geoffrey Sirc, to suggest that an empty plate offers a new lens through which we can see multimodal composition. We suggest pairing Carter’s piece with Vitanza’s and Remington’s.
  • Byron Hawk uses the story of Trent Reznor’s cancelled performance of his song “The Hand that Feeds” at the 2005 MTV Video Awards when MTV wouldn’t allow Reznor to show pictures of George W. Bush to correlate with the protest song. Hawk’s version of Reznor’s protest is “Rhetoric of Revolution (Open Hand Remix),” which serves as a critique of the Iraq War as well as a statement on copyright/left and Fair Use. We recommend Hawk’s piece as a powerful counterpoint to Arroyo’s “Hands & Writing.”
  • Virginia Kuhn’s video, “The Components of Scholarly Multimedia,” introduces a reading strategy that the Institute for Multimedia Literacy (at University of Southern California) uses to assess its honors’ students thesis projects. Using the four-point heuristic, she reads a video produced by students from one of her previous classes at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, which draws on narratives of print vs. digital literacy and 2001: A Space Odessey (among other texts) in smart and humorous ways. Kuhn’s piece is a useful segue from kyburz’s introduction to the rest of the collection.
  • bonnie kyburz, “Bones”: kyburz’s video serves as an artful commentary on the original conference presentation of “From Panel to Gallery” as well as an introduction to the “From Gallery to Webtext” collection. We recommend starting your reading with this piece, which appears first in the navigational frame of the text.
  • Robert Leston, “Into the After.word with Victor Vitanza”: Leston’s video explains the exegisis of the collection, detailing Vitanza’s role as catalyst for this group of scholars, while also explaining the impact on writing studies of Vitanza and other scholars who worked in (and left) the English department at the University of Texas–Arlington (aka The Arlington School). We recommend this video as a summative piece to the collection.
  • Timothy Richardson’s “Bereshith” introduces readers to the oral Torah, complicated by Richardson’s purposeful blending of interaction and visuals. This text, he explains, is “an attempt to re-present aurally and graphically the injunction to keep the oral and written [versions of the Torah] separate” since the historical injunction required that “the written text is only available through the oral exegesis on it.” “Bereshith” complicates that injunction by offering visual and aural presentations that must be experienced simultaneously.
  • Victor Vitanza, in “Writing the Tic,” connects writing to gesture to jump cut to remix in an affective exploration of what he calls a Tourettean–Ulmerian–Vitanzian logic of presentation—one that relies less on linearity and more on ideography. You really must watch it. Our recommendation? Don’t force it into a preconceived logic of scholarship; instead, let it wash over you so that the cycles, gestures, and tics create a different logic.

In “Literature and the Digital Illumination,” Lis Lindeman and Gregory O. Smith challenge the presumption that digital media belongs to writing studies. As literature scholars, they address the issue of technology use in literature classrooms, recognizing the complicated (and sometimes vexed) position that digital media often holds in English departments. Lindeman and Smith showcase what many of us have done in our path toward technorhetoricity: starting by creating (the impetus, as well, for this manifesto issue). In this case, Lindeman presents a Flash-text she created as an example for students to model ways of analyzing literature through digital media production, followed by several student examples from her and Smith’s classes. Their point that literary scholars should not be overlooked when it comes to “who owns digital media” in English departments is an important one—so that digital media production as a disciplinary-crossing pedagogical method can be recognized and discussed from both (all!) sides of those seemingly impenetrable disciplinary boundaries. We still (always) have much to learn from each other.

Ted Remington poses “An Inconvenient Rhetorical Truth: A Rhetorical Warming of the Public Sphere” in his manifesto, which documents his journey to media activism and its consequences. In opening and closing video remarks, flanked by a host of affiliated links, Remington discusses what happened when he found himself attacked on national television by right-wing commentator and then-vice president of Sinclair Broadcasting, Mark Hyman. (Our favorite lol-quote from Hyman’s “news” segment is when he said, “Higher education is home to those who can’t hold a job in the real world,” calling academics “otherwise unemployable individuals...”—see “Mark Hyman’s Attack on ‘The Point’” link in Remington’s webtext.) Remington’s collection of first-person accounts and third-person recounts portray a fascinating (and potentially scary) story of what can happen when rhetoricians use their knowledge for good. He became a public intellectual and change agent, thanks in part to the affordances of Web 2.0 technology (such as blogs). This manifesto is, perhaps, the most daring of the lot—situating Remington publicly in the way of criticism that many readers may find uncomfortable, if not disturbing.

In a different take on public intellectualism, Spencer Schaffner presents the "Urban Literacy Center Manifesto," which he found affixed to an abandoned city building on September 12, 2007. The manifesto calls passersby to become advocates for literate activism by creating a literacy center in a building such as the one on which the cardboard manifesto was taped. Schaffner, acting as curator, creates a site that seeks to preserve the handwritten text through a series of snapshots, written text, an audio reading of the manifesto, and video commentary that Schaffner provides to contextualize the manifesto and its attempt at transformation. In a fascinating turn of authorship, the curatorial website requires readers to rethink basic assumptions of this manifesto, including: Who wrote it? Was the literacy center ever created? Were passersby transformed by its call? And more broadly, of manifestos in general: What can the impact of a happenings-like manifesto be when it composed in temporary media? And what happens to its meaning when it is transformed, itself, into digital (if not archival) media? We invite readers to think about these issues as they read about Schaffner’s discovery.

If, at this point, you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the zoomy technology in this issue—the Flash and Quicktime and HTML and CSS and whatever—and you’re thinking, “I don’t care what Scott and Cheryl said in the introduction: This issue is NOT about regular readers composing digital media manifestos; it’s about people who already know how to do this stuff!” First, we’d say we’re pretty sure our authors would disagree with you—most of them are first-time, digital sholars. Second, we’d say that Karl Stolley’s “The Lo-Fi Manifesto” is for you. Stolley calls on digital scholars and teachers to reject consumer and prosumer technologies that “limit digital production literacies” for those that composers can use to create “free and open source artifacts that are software-and device-independent.” His four principles of digital production, he argues, are “essential for the advancement, extension, and long-term preservation of digital discourse.” These principles spell out the LOFI theme: Lossless, Open, Flexible, and In(ter)dependent. Stolley capitalizes on the lo-fi aesthetics of ASCII and old-school monitors by designing the text in green and white Courier over a dark striped background. When the text requires more explanation for the six manifesto points, stretchtext links—or what he calls “accordian” in his CSS—open to Web 2.0-ish, contemporary-styled designs with dark text on a white background. Reading his CSS pages (one screen; one print) is as aesthetically and intellectually rewarding as reading what lies above it. Stolley reminds us that code can be a beautiful instantiation of the inseparability of form and content in digital scholarship. If anyone’s ever wanted to learn CSS and never found the time, use Stolley’s well-commented manifesto.css file as a starting point for lo-fi adventure.

Finally, we present Robert Watkins’ manifesto, “Words Are the Ultimate Abstraction: Towards Using Scott McCloud for Teaching Visual Rhetoric.” In this 10-minute video, Watkins weaves Geoffrey Sirc’s work on writing studies and the punk movement with Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics while calling on teachers to take note of emerging work in the areas of visual rhetoric and multimodality. This manifesto is for teachers who haven’t yet taken up a pedagogy of multiliteracies, or for those who have but need a good way to explain why to their colleagues. Rather than approach his explanation using snide or elitist commentary, Watkins adriotly uses humor, placing himself as a character in the midst of this pedagogical and theoretical foray, to make manifest the notions that visual rhetoric and multimodality are inherent in all the communications that writing teachers encounter. Teaching composition with an eye (as Watkins’ might say) toward rhetoric-made-visible is a point—like nearly all the manifestos in this issue—which may seem simple upon presentation but which, like them all, are offered after (sometimes) individual, (often) hard-won or hard-learned lessons. Humble as we know these authors to be, they offer their manifestos with confidence, knowledge-aforethought, and passion; and, we believe, these manifestos will stand the test of scholarly time, and we offer them to you with hopeful pride.


Chen, Barbara. (2008, Summer). How to be included in the MLA International Bibliography. MLA Newsletter, 40(2), 2.