Cheryl Ball, Editor
In this issue: Un/defining Digital Scholarship
Digital media scholarship allows authors to constantly remix or invent new genres that suit the author’s persuasive and creative needs. Every time a new technology or new medium is created, authors want to explore its boundaries through production. The genres that result are often not initially recognized as scholarship, but journals like Kairos do recognize the value that these pieces add to the field. It is part of our mission to expand what counts as scholarship by publishing such pieces.
In this issue, we offer six pieces—four in Topoi (two are conjoined) and two in Disputatio—that ask readers to redefine the boundaries of digital media scholarship. Each uses argumentation in ways that we don’t find prominently in the pages of Kairos: through forms of visual and aural assemblage, remix, and juxtaposition. That is, while there are plenty of examples within webtexts that assemble media to show a particular point, there are very few pieces in our archives that rely on the reader’s ability to put the pieces together in the ways that these Topoi and Disputatio pieces do. They each certainly have a point to share with readers, so I consider them to be scholarly, but they also make those points in inventive and creative ways: ways that may not involve words, or that use words primarily as images. I invite readers to think of these webtexts as gallery pieces, installations, research designs, or simply as multimodal scholarship that takes the multimodal to heart. If there’s one piece of advice I can offer readers when reading this issue, it would be to take time to listen to and explore how the texts want you to interact with them. Set aside for the moment any preconceptions you have about how the scholarship in Kairos (or anywhere else) usually performs, and play.
In Bonnie Kyburz’s “i’m like…professional: notes on a film,” she presents a 10-minute documentary about DIY (do-it-yourself) filmmaking in the age of seeming opposite entities: YouTube and Hollywood (under the aegis of the questionably independent film festival, Sundance). Kyburz's work asks Kairos readers to reevaluate the roles of affect, play, and pleasure within scholarly venues, and furthers the issue of DIY through examination of the filmmaking process for one Sundance selection that was panned by audiences as being too “strange.” Both the title and the content of “i’m like…professional” present a statement about the mixed position that indie and DIY filmmakers hold in the profession, which Kyburz relates to the mixed position that punk ethos holds in writing studies. To heighten the DIY aesthetic, Kyburz’s film uses multiple jump cuts, ironic soundtracks, and remixed video from YouTube in a way that expects audiences to make connections between the juxtaposed scenes, connections that are not spelled out as readers might see in a traditional documentary. She also uses Prezi, the fairly new zooming presentation tool, to house her video and her brief commentary about the making of her own film. The commentary is presented as a director’s Q&A at Sundance might be, and we encourage reader feedback so that Kyburz can continue to explore the relationship between punk/DIY, composition studies, and the role of scholarship.
Next up is David Rieder. He presents readers with two pieces: a webtext, “Typographia: A Hybrid, Alphabetic Exploration of Raleigh, NC,” and a scholarly article, “From Street to Software: How a Lettered Flâneur Invented a Hybrid Rhetoric.” “Typographia” is an interactive gallery of 26 hybrid image-texts—digital photos manipulated in Flash using ActionScript—presented with the linear essay, “From Street to Software,” that functions in conjunction as an expanded artist’s statement for the hybrid methodology he displays in the gallery. The essay is incorporated within the Flash piece but is also offered as a separate, downloadable PDF, which makes it an unusual (and hopefully unique) entré for Kairos into print-based publishing. If ever there were a reason for the particular added value of a journal like Kairos, this set of texts, which needs to be presented linearly and nonlinearly simultaneously, best showcases that value. There is no print journal that could have published his work in the way it was intended—interacting with the piece through the alphabetic navigation or the GoogleMapped version of the image-texts while reading about his methods in the essay. He also offers readers a download of the essay, the ActionScript file, and the editable Flash file so that you can recreate his method with new graphics and alphabetic texts.
Finally for the Topoi section, we have David Staley’s digital installation and artist’s statement, “On Violence Against Objects: A Visual Chord.” I am pleased to offer Staley’s piece to Kairos readers in part because his work is primarily historical in that he is trained as a historian. Staley approached Kairos last spring when he recognized that his own field was disinterested in publishing nonlinear scholarship, but that our writing studies journal could be a good fit. I agreed, and I hope that more outreach across disciplines will be in this journal’s future. Staley’s piece is primarily a remediation of an installation he originally displayed at a history conference, and that installation stands on its own in the way it juxtaposes Luddic and iconoclastic photos and images into a visual argument about acts of violence done to technological (and other kinds of) objects. Watch the installation on the opening page, which projects 18 random sets of images, then read through his artist’s statement in the rest of the webtext.
In the Disputatio section for this issue, we offer two additional pieces for your reading pleasure. The first is Richard Holeton’s delightful slideshow poem,“Custom Orthotics Changed My Life,” in which the narrator relates his life's downward spiral and miraculous rebound from severe foot problems using animated bullet points, images, charts, and graphs. You will never view Powerpoint (or Keynote) the same after this hysterically (and subtlely dark) piece. I recommend watching it full screen. Next, in “Desktop MCs,” Spencer Schaffner literally shows readers why we would never need to use Powerpoint. He says that “Desktop MCs work ... by choreographing content using multiple applications” and shows us that process through the world of remix in this short, vibrant piece. Also a piece I would recommend watching full screen. Both have compelling soundtracks as well, so make sure the volume is UP.
As if that weren’t enough!
What is ironic about this issue is that the majority of these pieces were submitted within a month of each other and were not coordinated at the time of submission. It was just “the right time” for authors to send us creative scholarship. In addition, as mentioned below, our other sections also feature texts that follow along this serendipitous path.
In the PraxisWiki, for instance, we have a new take on Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) Stories with Matthew Newcomb and Amy Nimon’s “For a Wiki, Click Here: Choose Your Own Adventure Stories as a Pedagogical Match for Wiki Interfaces.” This wiki “explores the possibilities that CYOA-style writing has for the first-year composition classroom, as it emphasizes issues of addressing the audience and audience choice, allowing students to make their rhetorical and narrative choices more conscious.”
And in the Interviews section, Virginia Kuhn presents “Speaking With Students,” a set of interviews with undergraduates from the honors program in Multimedia Literacy at the University of Southern California. In these video interviews, students explain their conceptual thinking behind their thesis projects. This webtext is a great example of showcasing student achievement in relation to learning outcomes and assessment practices in programs that use multimedia. We wanted to hold off to publish this collection in the special issue on undergraduate research, but it was too good to make you wait.
Last but not least, Reviews offers its second MicroReview, Dànielle DeVoss's "Matters of Type" and we round out the issue with Claire Lutkewitte's review of Writing the Visual: A Practical Guide for Teachers of Composition and Communication by Carol David and Anne R. Richards.