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"Post-Modem Reflections"

From the Editor's Desk(top)

Greg Siering
Ball State University
Editor & Publisher, Kairos 

When Mick Doherty asked me in 1995 to join the original Kairos staff as the "Links Editor," I wasn't sure what the job would entail; I had no formal publishing or journalism experience, and I certainly had no idea what role I would play in this new online journal. But, as Mick was always quick to say, it was that exploratory quality that made working for Kairos so intriguing. Then last spring Mick decided to step down as Editor, and I was asked to take over the position, yet another job that defied neat boundaries and demanded constant redefinition. Over the past six months, though, I've learned quite a bit about what goes into editing and publishing a professional journal, and even more importantly, what goes into creating a professional identity in our technology-friendly corner of the academy.

Almost two years ago now, I married another graduate student in my department and made a decision to step off the academic fast track to allow Carmen to finish her degree here at Ball State and to let our girls have a little more stability in their lives. We decided to buck the assumptions that a "successful" career had to take priority over everything else in our lives and that the job market should rule our destinies. Since much of the professional work I do hinges around the Internet, we agreed that I could stay active in the profession just as easily here as I could elsewhere. So when the opportunity to edit Kairos came about, Carmen stood behind me . . . and even gave me a little nudge. Interestingly, though, not everyone agrees that the Internet and the Web can help us redefine our professional identities and roles. One of Carmen's professors noted--in a graduate class meeting, no less--that our academic marriage had sidetracked my career and that I had "lost my momentum" by not immediately entering the job market and accepting a more traditional approach to professional development and success. Ironically, I think that was the same night I was at home e-mailing assignments out to a dozen or so of our editorial board members.

All of these issues of "momentum" and professional identity go to the core of what many of us are doing in our teaching, scholarship, and professional service. Just like those who worked diligently to establish their identities as rhetoricians or compositionists--not just somebody who can "do comp" on the side--we must endeavor to create new professional spaces, practices, and forums for our technology-related work. A large part of creating a valued identity as a technologist--or technorhetorician, as some prefer--has to do with establishing a new way to be a professional, whether that comes through attending a conference like Computers & Writing, through publishing in the webbed environments we promote in our scholarship and teaching, or through collaborating electronically with scholars around the nation and the world. And while publication in print journals will always be important in the Academy, those of us who claim an identity as technologists should consider electronic scholarship just as important to our professional growth. Part of this journal's mission is just that--to act as a peer-reviewed resource that can help bring credibility to online scholarship and its new sense of virtual professionalism.

As I thought later about the possibility that I've lost my professional momentum, that staying off the job market for a few more years might damage my professional reputation, I realized that my--and others'--ability to remain professionally active through online work demonstrates a strong professional identity and plenty of momentum, the results of working in a professional community that so carefully ties together its theories and its own professional practices. If we are to claim that technology and computer-mediated communication will allow our culture to evolve in new and exciting ways, should we not demonstrate that potential with our own lives and work? Should I not become somewhat of a virtual professional for the sake of my family? I think I am lucky to be in a field where technology-enhanced self-determination is possible.

My example is certainly not unique; I think the many individuals who publish in, staff, or read Kairos are going a long way towards establishing their own unique and momentum-filled professional identities as compositionists, technologists, and scholars. So I invite you to look at this journal--and particularly this proceedings issue--in a slightly different light, as both a marker and a promoter of a new type of virtual scholarship and professional identity. Business gurus might call such a challenge of old models of professionalism "thinking outside of the box"; to many of us, it's just what we do.



Greg Siering is the editor and publisher of  Kairos. He is a doctoral student in Composition and Rhetoric at Ball State University where he teaches first-year composition and manages the department website.