News on Kairos News:

Connecting Where We're Going With Where We've Been

James A. Inman
University of Michigan
Kairos News Editor 
In Kairos 1.2, Corey Wick offers us a vision of News which emphasizes the role of kairos as defined by Eric Charles White ( "in every new occasion a unique opportunity to confer meaning on the world") and suggests useful ways in which we might begin to conceptualize the place of news in an online publication, a forum without the typical constraints of space and time. What I hope to do here is similar to what Wick was able to do then: to begin to articulate ways in which the News section of Kairos might evolve and to call for your input in this process.

Given that we readily use the Information Age as a metaphor for the present day, we should begin to conceptualize ways in which news can be valuable, not as interesting trivia, but as meaningful and useful information, quickly distributed across interested populations. Wick is careful to examine the interpretive contexts under which news is both written and read, but even given these complexities, news is a common text we can use to inform our work and to enrich our lives.

So, one way I envision my new role as News Editor is in beginning to think about how I can distribute  information most effectively. Everett Rogers is one scholar who addresses this idea, and he utilizes the term diffusion to engage the potential of innovations or information to be more widely implemented. Rogers' term is one of many languages, in fact, now being used to talk about the process of moving a commodity from a local arena to a wider sphere of influence. Other terms include scaling, as in moving an innovation or idea from small scale implementation to large scale distribution, and even teacher change which certainly belies more of a focus on individual orientations and development, but nonetheless speaks to how ideas spread.

Taking this model involves dealing with an interdisciplinary history, one as much couched in agriculture as in anthropology, as much in education as in linguistics. But, computers and writing scholars have made important contributions, one of which I think speaks most effectively to how Kairos News might be re-envisioned. The piece to which I am referring is Bertram Bruce's "Innovation and Social Change" which appears in Networked-based Classrooms: Promises and Realities, which he co-edits with Joy Peyton and Trent Batson.

In his article, Bruce outlines two lenses through which he believes the diffusion of information and innovations has been viewed: innovation-centered discourse and social system- centered discourse. Finally, he concludes that "The variety of paths that the realization process of a given innovation may follow show that the effects of an innovation on a social system are not properties of the innovation or of the social system alone" (30). In other words, applying this to working with Kairos News, a useful way of monitoring work is not simply to track the dispersion of the news across a given population, nor is it simply to qualitatively and in great detail attempt to ascertain the effectiveness of the news for every individual who comes into contact with it. Instead, some sort of middle ground must be achieved.

The first way I propose to address this framework is by extending beyond the "issue-to-issue" mode of news delivery, something which also concerns Wick in his essay. My thinking is to use an e-list to send subscribers occasional news briefings, complied weekly perhaps, instead of having them wait for the next issue of Kairos to appear. While I recognize that this may still not meet the standards of kairos, as interpreted by Wick, I believe it nonetheless is a start, a forging ahead in how we might begin to re-conceptualize work in online publication. And, I acknowledge other valuable efforts like EduPage, but I feel our News effort is unique in that it is part of a larger publication.

My second course of action is one which Wick took in Kairos 1.2; I call for input from you, our readers. The frame which I've outlined here accounts for some awareness of the social system into which information is introduced, and while I may be able to make generalizations based on my interactions with you at various computers and writing forums, I know there is no substitute for direct feedback. As you have time, I hope you will e-mail me to discuss ways you see Kairos News evolving. I am eager to hear from you.

Work Cited