In this final portion of the interview, Kristine L. Blair answers questions about her outlook on the shift her career, as well as the field, has taken since she took over Computers and Composition Online in 2003 and her recent acquisition of Computers and Composition at Bowling Green State University.
One significant change is that they're better designed, and the reason for that is that more and more faculty are coming to the writing process with stronger digital skill sets. In other venues I've talked about the Goldilocks Syndrome. You get a submission that was all tech, great argument, but no design savvy whatsoever, or you get completely the opposite. Someone had the Flash skills (literally), but it was all flash and no rhetorical substance. Very rarely would you get that appropriate balance between the two. That's less of an issue more and more. People just come in with a great sense of an idea related to the digital classroom, and they want to, and they have the digital skill set to execute that to make that argument a visual argument—a digital argument—appropriate for the readers of Computers and Composition Online. That's one significant change. Another significant change is the way in which Web 2.0, the advent of blogs and wikis, has changed the ways in which we publish that work. How do we host a blog-based interface at Computers and Composition Online? We've had that challenge before, and we've been able to do that, but a lot of times, especially with guest edited issues, somebody will say "someone wants to do this as a wiki, and how do we manage that?" Kairos has talked about this too. How do you archive work? Where do you host work? Where do you archive work? What is the back end that holds it all together and makes it sustainable? That's one of the suspicions of digital publishing, but the skeptics will say that it isn't going to be there in forty years. If I go to look for this piece in four years, will it be there? I think that's a very legitimate concern, and I know that Cheryl Ball feels the same way. Those are some changes. I mean they present opportunities for us in online publishing, but they also present significant challenges that we need to be prepared to address, because that again translates into issues of tenure and promotion.
It's a tough one, because Jay David Bolter (2001) originally said that "print isn't dead; it's just carried into a new medium." To an extent, I agree. However, I think that print may not be dead, but print isn't privileged. This means that even if you want to read a piece from MLA Profession, a print journal that's published annually, you can get that online if you want to read it. You may have to pay, or whatever. I think that some of the issues of open access are going to be another one of those challenges. In some ways, it seems to me to be a false binary. Pieces published in Computers and Composition print are available online. Now Elsevier has moved to a system that even though we might actually have print journal issues, as soon as a print piece has been accepted and gone through the production process, it is available to the scholarly community (for a fee, of course), but it is available to that scholarly community immediately. So, I don't think that print is dead. I just think that we are not going to access print text in paper mode.
I was initially very, very shocked when Cindy and Gail spoke to me at the Spring 2010 4C's [Conference on College Composition and Communication] about Gail's decision to retire and their belief that I would make a good editor of C&C print. I just couldn't believe that they would even think of me for that. I've had success with the online journal but working with Elsevier and managing the big enterprise that is C&C print was a great honor but at the same time very daunting. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to live up to their belief in me. At the same time, I very much wanted to do it. I think that the opportunity to work with both Gail and Cindy in such a collaborative way was a wonderful mentoring experience for me to be ultimately named incoming editor. Through that opportunity, it has been great to understand the nuances of running a print journal and the way in which Computers and Composition has really helped to shape a field. Again, on one level that's very daunting, because I know that I am filling very big shoes and don't think I will be able to fit into them in the same way that Cindy Selfe and Gail Hawisher have. At the same time, I want to try and honor the legacy that they've established through this journal, also through Kate Kiefer's initial involvement as well. I think that that's been an important part of my professional life. I know that it wasn't a rite. It was because of the interviewing process required with Elsevier, who ultimately selected me for the position. It was something I had to earn and prove, and I feel like I'm earning it. I'm trying to earn it and trying to prove it every day through the valuable work that we do at Bowling Green for the journal. Just as with C&C Online, I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything with regard to C&C print if I didn't have the wonderful team of associate editors and assistant editors, particularly Alison Witte and Heather Trahan. Alison is Associate Editor on the editorial side, and Heather is Associate Editor for production. Heather is the one, in fact, who supervises the assistant editors, all the wonderful individuals who copyedit the manuscripts. I'm very blessed to have the community, Cindy and Gail, and the field of computers and writing. But I'm also very blessed to have the Bowling Green team who helped to sustain the legacy that is Computers and Composition, in the sub–discipline of computers and writing.
I'm enjoying my duties as Editor of Computers and Composition immensely. It's not to say that it hasn't been a big learning curve for all of us at Bowling Green. We had to learn Elsevier's EES System, which isn't that difficult, but it's not necessarily the most intuitive of editorial submission systems. We are able to access manuscripts, get them out for review once you determine that they are suitable for review, determine if they're a good fit for the journal itself, and get them out for review ensuring timely feedback. There's a lot of day–to–day managing with regard to the journal, involving normal multi–tasking and time management of both the internal editorial team as well as the editorial reviewers—whether they serve on the board itself or whether they are people who review for the journal—because of their particular types of expertise, i.e., people who are involved in gaming literacies, people who are involved in assessment, people who might have expertise in multi–literacy centers, etc. With that said, there are day–to–day management activities that drive a lot of the work that you do for the journal. At the same time I think that the thrill of it all is being able to see the quality of work that comes in—the different work from both established scholars, but equally important, the work that comes from newer scholars in the field, by that I mean graduate students. It has always been my passion to be able to help graduate students see themselves as future faculty and finding a voice in the sub–discipline of computers and composition and a scholarly community so that aspect of it is very exciting. I see part of my role not just as editor, but actually continuing that mentoring relationship. Even when pieces are not necessarily ready for publication, the language in which you talk to prospective authors about their piece and the way that you help them revise is very dialogical. Feedback certainly is based on reviewer feedback, but it's also based on our own read, our own internal read of the manuscript. Seeing the role, despite the more traditional blind review system that Computers and Composition print has, as very dialogical, as well as to see it as collaborative, was a very unexpected plus for me, because I knew there would be differences between the editorial process of C&C print when compared to C&C Online. That aspect of it has been very, very exciting.
Another aspect I think, and this does carry on the legacy, the quality issue that Cindy and Gail always were attentive to, is the notion of encouraging diverse perspectives, particularly international perspectives. I'm very proud that we've been trying to encourage more international authors to submit and to get feedback from appropriate reviewers in ways that really help bridge the gap between different cultural attitudes toward the teaching of writing, toward the use of technology in the classroom, and the ways in which emerging Web 2.0 work in other Asian, Eurasian, Austrasian regions impact the scope and the mission of journal. I think that we're read in a range of countries obviously, and we get numerous downloads from various parts of the world. That's exciting. It's not as if the minute we took over at Bowling Green people stopped reading the journal. We were able to look for ways to continue appealing to both our localized community of computers and writing specialists at the same time reach out to newer populations. Part of that is done through things like adding more international voices to the editorial board, which was a major task I had to undertake when I first took over the journal and comprised a good part of the first year, and soliciting new reviewers for that purpose. In that sense, there's been a lot of building that has taken place, sort of extending the house, if you will, adding an addition to the good work that has already been done by Cindy and Gail and all the other wonderful associate editors and assistant editors and reviewers as well who have made Computers and Composition the success that it is. It's really about continuing that legacy.
I think that initially there was this thought that we could not maintain at Bowling Green the editorial scope of both Computers and Composition and Computers and Composition Online, and we have been delighted to discover that actually there's been a very symbiotic relationship between the two journals. Perhaps because now C&C print is housed at Bowling Green, we seem to get a lot more traffic, ironically, for C&C Online, and we're very excited about that. Our submissions have gone up. We have had a stronger sense of community for the Computers and Composition enterprise at Bowling Green overall, because some of the folks who work on the online side of things, as section editors, book review editors, for example, theory into practice editors, also serve as copyeditors for C&C print. They are able to work on both sides and see that transition and see when certain pieces make sense as online pieces and certain pieces make sense as print pieces. I think it's a real educational process for them. Though, admittedly we certainly don't have that much crossover of the pieces themselves. People submit directly to C&C Online, or people submit directly to C&C print, though there are conversations on the print side about how some pieces might actually have digital components that could be hosted at C&C Online. We've actually done that in the past, even before the journal. I think having both journals at Bowling Green has been a big, big benefit, and I don't see any move at this moment in time to shift the editorial leadership of Computers and Composition Online to another team, another university. We're just very used to doing both. Again, some people serve both roles for example; our sort of design senior editor, Joe Erickson for C&C Online also serves as book review editor for C&C print. Again, you know that I think this creates a wonderful sort of conversation among the journals because when you have a review that may not be as suitable for print delivery, or if you run out of space, because that is the advantage of online, you have more space to host things. From issue to issue, it is possible to have pieces published in C&C Online, and I think that sort of allows some flexibility on the part of the team, particularly folks like Joe, but it also helps us see this relationship between the print and the digital, between the textual and the multimodal. It really does bridge the gap between the theory and practice in terms of the push towards multimodality in the field. We're excited about the opportunity to host the Computers and Composition enterprise, if you will, and don't really anticipate migrating the journal, the online journal that is, at this point in time. I think we enjoy the community that having both journals in our program has fostered.