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
The Manifesto Issue
Scott Lloyd DeWitt and Cheryl E. Ball, Guest Editors
The best ideas for scholarly projects come from diverse places. A gathering of teachers engaged in rethinking their work in the classroom. A heated debate that erupts out of nowhere. That moment, sitting down for the first time after a long day and coming to terms with the realization that there is so much to say and so little time. Exhaustion and dinner and wine on the patio on a warm, summer’s evening.
Sometimes, all of the above.
We all have ideas about how our scholarship comes to being in the world—what we want to say, how we want to say it, where it will live, and what perceived impact it will (or won’t) have on the field based on the what, how, and where. 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. We don’t often make the leap to publishing it in scholarly journals. Why? Because these ideas often don’t take the shape of traditional scholarship—even with respect to the different traditions of scholarship in a journal like Kairos. These ideas—the ones on which we act daily—are exclamations of our research and practice; they are what we feel passionate about; and yet they are also locations of conflict because strong ideas acted on with passion don’t typically follow the models for how knowledge gets conveyed and acculturated within our field.
This special issue of Kairos began at the Digital Media and Composition institute (DMAC 2007) at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The details of the story are not really all that important (although it did play out remarkably similar to the opening paragraph, in exactly that order). At the conclusion of the institute, we were coming off of an incredible twelve-day workshop with teachers and scholars who learned a long list of new technology, designed curricula for their writing programs at home, composed personal stories using a variety of media, and created complex, digitally born justifications for their administrators for the development of programs in multimodal composing. Completely exhausted, we were both struck by the passion of the institute’s participants and what their projects had to say about teaching, research, and their lives as academics. And we encouraged the participants—many of whose digital projects showed promise in scope to be scholarly webtexts—to submit their work to an online journal. Some said they would, but most said they weren’t ready, said they may never be ready, which we could see was not at all true. We were left, then, asking ourselves a number of questions:
- Is there a scholarly space where authors can enact the ideas they are so immediately passionate about in ways that don’t take the shape of traditional scholarship—even with respect to the different traditions of scholarship in a journal like Kairos?
- Is there a genre that would allow authors to enact these ideas but would not require the convention of scholarly composing that could potentially temper those immediate passions? And could this genre inspire the imagination while not imposing rules and forms of the genre on its composers?
- How might we invite scholars, especially those new to composing with a variety of digital media, to put forth their ideas while, at the same time, not overwhelm them with the prospects of a full-blown research project?
- Can we imagine a text, and ultimately, a forum for that text, that seeks sizeable response from its scholarly communities and has the ability to move an argument quickly to the forefront of a conversation?
- How can we create a context that will allow writers to imagine succinct texts that can be accomplished in a short amount of time but that also provoke long, sustained thought from the community?
The Manifesto Issue is our answer to those questions. We did not set out, necessarily, to create an issue on manifestos. The idea came to us as we worked through those questions while also thinking carefully about what the Kairos readership might expect, what the journal itself was capable of publishing, and what scholars who might potentially compose for the issue might submit. We obviously struck a cord with the latter group. We initiated an open call to authors to compose manifestos using whatever media and form they deemed such a text needed. We did not propose what those arguments, ideas, or points should be. That was for authors to tell us; and they did. In the two months from distributing the call to the submission deadline, nearly 40 authors composed manifestos for the special issue.