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
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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