Discourse in the field of rhetoric and composition is undergoing a progressive transition from print to online open-access formats, reflecting a trend in scholarly publication as a whole.1 This transition has allowed scholarship to become more specialized and timely as well as reach a broader audience—and often for comparably lower investments of resources and personnel. However, digital publication's potency comes with the caveat of ephemerality. The second version of Steven Krause’s (2007) "'Where Do I List This on My CV?' Considering the Values of Self-Published Web Sites" argued adroitly that the practical and intellectual advantages of online scholarship are offset by a comparative lack of material permanence:
If my article had been published within the medium of traditional print, it probably would have received fewer readers and less notice. However, if my article had been published within the medium of traditional print, it would still be accessible. Paper, as anyone who has wandered through a rare book library knows, lasts a very long time. This trade-off is not insignificant.
Indeed, Krause produced a second version of his article in part because the first version vanished from a short-lived iteration on the online journal College Composition and Communication Online. It is also telling that the style guide for Kairos, this publication, indicates that authors should "whenever possible, link to established sites whose links are not likely to change or disappear in order to avoid link rot" (The Kairos style guide, n.d.).
Digital scholarship's ethereal nature can make it seem detached from its material aspects. Nevertheless, recent works including Thomas Rickert's (2004) "In the House of Doing: Rhetoric and the Kairos of Ambience," Johndan Johnson-Eilola's (2005) Datacloud, and the pieces in this special issue reveal that online disciplinary work has multifaceted and real connections to a rich milieu of places. This text seeks to join a multivocal dialogue regarding the geographical entanglements of online rhetoric and composition journals and the disciplinary discourse that circulates through them. It does so by presenting and interpreting two related online interactive maps built with Google Earth that make 14 years of geographical data from 10 online rhetoric and composition journals visible.2 These maps reveal coherent patterns suggesting local intellectual trends and progressive concept movements. One of the maps is a thematic proportional point symbol map (PPSM) that uses scaled, color-coded symbols to plot the geographical locations of journal authors, editors, and sponsoring institutions. The other map, which I deem a concept magnitude map (CMM)3, uses scaled and color-coded typographical symbols to plot concepts appearing frequently in article/review titles and special issue themes to their corresponding physical locations, functioning as a geographically linked word cloud.4 Brief video demonstrations of both maps are embedded here.
Figure 1. Proportional Point Symbol Map (PPSM) demonstration.
Figure 2. Concept Magnitude Map (CMM) demonstration.
I created these maps as part of my open-access Mapping Digital Technology in Rhetoric and Composition History project, a larger work devoted to aggregating, visualizing, and disseminating geographical data associated with rhetoric and composition.5 The Mapping Digital Technology in Rhetoric and Composition History project can accommodate the geographical aspects of many relevant potential data sets, such as the locations of conferences, grant and award winners, book publications, graduate programs, job openings, and blog posts. The maps created for this article focus specifically on online rhetoric and composition journals and the discourses they contain.6 I assert that online rhetoric and composition journals are materially enmeshed with their subject matter, as they allow authors and readers to engage directly with the modes they investigate, and these journals inhabit an intellectual middle space between conventional peer-reviewed print publications and experimental self-published online texts. As hybrid works subject to lingering print and burgeoning digital conventions, such venues are worthy of study, and they reveal productive information about the geographical entanglements of discourse within the field.
This webtext has a dual purpose: It offers this study's theoretical and practical underpinnings in the hopes that other researchers may use its resources and techniques to produce further scholarship; it also provides findings based on the online journal data set to demonstrate the Mapping Digital Technology in Rhetoric and Composition History project's potential as a research tool. The patterns identified in this article are consciously presented as only a few of the many valid ones that could be drawn from the study's resources; nevertheless, these contributions serve as crucial proofs-of-concept for the methods discussed.
1 This trend toward online open-access venues is most commonly associated with the sciences, in part because of MIT's recent mandate that all forthcoming faculty publications appear in open-access publications. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and other funding groups have established guidelines requiring public release of research generated through their support. The shift toward online open-access publications is also prevalent in the humanities. John Willinsky, who has held appointments in Stanford's School of Education and the University of British Columbia's Department of Language and Literacy Education, developed the freely-available Open Journal Systems software to facilitate the creation of open-access journals. In academia as a whole, the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity, supported by institutions including Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Columbia, the University of Michigan, Duke University, and many others, provides financial subsidies for open-access journals to make them competitive with for-profit publications.
3 See Mueller (2012) for a more detailed discussion about using distant reading methods including word clouds to generate rhetoric and composition histories. Such methods extract patterns from large bodies of aggregated data and are an alternative to conventional close reading methods, which deeply explore a limited number of exceptional data.
4 The term concept magnitude map is believed to be a neologism coined here. No consistent designation for maps that scale typographical symbols in relation to their frequency of use could be identified.
5 See Tirrell (2009b) for greater detail about this project.
6 For the purposes of this study, an online rhetoric and composition journal is one that exists solely in an online, electronic format and is not the digital reproduction of content from an existing print venue.