Editorial Comments

Since its inception, Kairos has explored the teaching and learning of writing in webbed environments and championed the use of hypertextual links to promote polyvocal, nonlinear, collaborative constructions of knowledge. We have come to realize, however, that much of what we know and think about writing in webbed environments, and indeed about the larger digital culture that surrounds this endeavor and influences it in many subtle as well as significant ways, evolves from knowledge and ideas we are exposed to through our reading of traditional, linear forms of writing--books and journal articles--papertexts.

When we decided to institute a regular section devoted to papertext reviews we had no models for writing a review of a papertext in a hypertextual environment. We had no requirements for the correct length, writing style, or preferred number of links/levels. In short, we had no real criteria or guidelines when we sent out our call for reviews. Instead, we welcomed reviews from anyone who agreed to volunteer their time and effort to write one. Success was not a foregone conclusion from this approach, but we did have high hopes that we would start something interesting.

Now, like Kevin Costner, we can watch with pleasure the players on the field we have prepared. We can celebrate the fact that this papertext reviews section is polyvocal and polyvisual in terms of our reviewers' solutions to the problem of publishing a review of a papertext in a hypertextual environment. It is a interwoven dialogue in that individual reviewers make links from their reviews to pages established by the publishers or authors of the books they are reviewing. This dialogue, in addition to being interwoven, is also ongoing. Using synchronous and asynchronous communications, reviewers responded to and commented on each others' reviews. Several reviewers incorporated these comments, responses, and suggestions into their reviews. Some provide metatext concerning the choices they made while preparing their reviews. Others honestly admit their uncertainties and fears of working in this new environment. The end result is that each review is alive with the voice of its author, as well as the voices of others who contributed to and participated in the social collaborative process of writing, collecting, and connecting this section of Kairos.

And as we read their text and analyze their typographical and design decisions we realize that this endeavor is successful in a completely unexpected--or perhaps the most expected--way in that we find ourselves asking important and searching questions about writing in webbed environments. For example, simply because we can publish massive documents in webbed environments are we obligated to do so? Or, in our efforts to produce effective writing, is it better to consider our audience's potential lack of comfort in reading large blocks of text on a computer screen and strive to make our points more effectively by being brief and bright?

The same questioning can be applied to the creation of hypertextual links. Are we obligated to create links simply because we can? Do our readers expect them? How many do they expect and how often do they expect them to be used? Is it possible that too many links will bury our readers, who may not be familiar with the navigational grammars required for reading and writing in webbed environments, in unwanted or unnecessary information choices?

We don't have the answers to these questions, but with this collection of reviews written in various styles, utilizing different narrative voices, and incorporating different design and linking features we are moving assertively along the learning curve, becoming more knowledgeable about the collaborative creation of texts in webbed writing environments.

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