What Matters Who Edits? What Matters Who Publishes?

Issues of Ownership in the Networked Writing Classroom

A Note from the Publisher

The concept of (re)publishing work on the World-Wide Web has taken the centuries-old argument about copyright and authorial ownership of text to new levels. The audience of a journal like Kairos  is undoubtedly familiar with many of the vagaries and problematics with, as our own journal's title puts it, "Writing in Webbed Environments." Even given that, we plan to feature a series of webtexts on copyright and intellectual property as the Coverweb theme for our first issue of 1998.

One standard-setter in hypertext & ownership issues appeared in our first issue: Andrea Lunsford's (with four co-creators) "What Matters Who Writes? What Matters Who Responds? Issues of Ownership in the Writing Classroom." Thus, the title of this note.

While Kirschenbaum's commentary on the Kirkman text is appropriate and forthright, it did not prevent a lively, and at times heated, debate about how (or even whether) we should include the websites she used in our own (re)publication form developing on the Kairos  staff discussion listserv.

It is my considered opinion -- and it is not an opinion shared by all members of the Kairos  staff -- that we can legitimately leave the text as it currently stands, with Kirschenbaum's accompanying explanation, as a means of providing example toward further discussion.

Interstitial from Matt Kirschenbaum:
Mick's statement is right on target, but I do want to emphasize that this student did not download the other sites with any malicious intent; ... the ultimate responsibility for both of these failings lies with me ... Mick is right, I think, that publishing this particular work should be seen as a means of providing example toward further discussion. But I'd hate to see Kirkman have to pay a personal price for such a discussion.

Towards that "further discussion," then, we will follow up on this situation, in conjunction with the aforementioned 1998 Coverweb, by contacting the authors of the websites utilized in Kirkman's work and asking for their opinions on this decision. If any of these authors would like us to re-organize or re-represent their work in some way, we will do so immediately and without question or objection.

This is one of the benefits and difficulties of writing for electronic publication; we can change it, even in a supposedly static, archived environment. It is for this reason that I am equally comfortably in contacting the website authors in question after we publish Kirschenbaum's Classroom Spotlight, rather than -- as some will surely suggest we should have -- contacting them each before we send this issue to the web.

We are pushing the envelope, testing the boundaries, publishing in what electronic writing guru David Porush -- who is scheduled to be featured in the aforementioned Coverweb -- has termed "a seat-of-the-pants make-up-the-rules-as-you-go-along, then-change-them-anyway communications environment." And we will readily admit it if, in retrospect, we are wrong.

 Mick Doherty, Editor & Publisher
on behalf of (but not necessarily speaking for)
the Kairos  Editorial Staff


KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 2 No. 2 Fall 1997