For Teachers of Writing
in Webbed Environments
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If we are to revive kairos as an effective tool (and realm) for the composition instructor, we must realize that most of the arguments Plato presented about writing itself in the Phaedrus can be (and are being) made about computers and writing, so little has really been changed by (the tool of) the networked classroom. What is changing the classical application is the realm of that classroom, a realm based largely in the principles of writing-as-process and collaborative writing promoted by social constructionist theory. Baumlin even claims that "contemporary philosophy . . . has taught that writing constitutes rather than merely reflects reality." (178) (see also rhetorical situation information)|
Michael Carter, who has proposed that social constructionism is the key to classical rhetoric "working" in contemporary writing theory, calls upon one other Greek term to act as a counterbalance to kairos: stasis. Carter cites Antoine Braet in saying, "new rhetoricians have ignored the crucial role of stasis , which makes rhetoric firmly dialogical, its goal not the imposition of one position on an audience but a critical discussion among the participants." (97) Already, this should begin to sound vaguely hypertextual; in this sense, stasis is a techne, where kairos is not. This crucial difference allows for us to refer to kairos as simply a realm, whereas stasis functions as the corresponding tool. Carter continues, "Kairos and stasis together form a principle that provides a sensitive and powerful explanation of the role of social context from within the domain of rhetoric itself." (109) The tool and the realm, stasis and kairos, formulate the entirety of the domain, rhetoric, in terms of social contextualization--or, for our purposes, social construction.