Logging On

Scott Lloyd Dewitt and Cheryl Ball, Guest Editors

  • The Manifesto Issue
    If our scholarship seems too cutting-edge, too in-your-face, despite its having been deeply considered, then it is reserved for discussing around conference-hotel bars, on listservs and blogs, or over dinner and wine in the backyard patio.
  • Manifestos as Scholarship
    Wrought with connotation, politically and emotionally charged, manifestos call us to action and demand change—in the streets, in the workplace, in our classrooms, in our minds, and in the virtual spaces we inhabit.
  • In this issue

Manifestos as Scholarship

Scott Lloyd DeWitt and Cheryl E. Ball, Guest Editors

Wrought with connotation, politically and emotionally charged, manifestos call us to action and demand change—in the streets, in the workplace, in our classrooms, in our minds, and in the virtual spaces we inhabit. Put the manifesto in a mediated space that typically features scholarly work, and it provokes different change-actions. The form of a manifesto seeks sizeable response and has the ability to move an argument quickly to the forefront of a conversation (and keep it there). The manifesto’s typical dense state and its sometimes confrontational approach make it easily susceptible to critique yet can quickly facilitate invention for new scholarly conversations and directions. Although we hope for the latter, we are also well aware that the former (i.e., critique) can function to hinder the perceived value of the texts in this issue. The qualities above that make a manifesto are also qualities that can prevent scholarly reception of these texts, which is why we are compelled to outline our peer-review process here.

For the manifesto issue, we followed Kairos’ peer-review process as closely as possible through the journal’s three-tier review system. We made some necessary modifications along the way, which we outline here. Due to the overwhelming number of submissions—more than Kairos has ever received for any themed section or special issue—combined with a shortened production timeline, we expanded our first tier reviewers to include volunteers from the Kairos staff. They worked with us to pre-review the submissions, helping us decide whether a particular manifesto should proceed to the editorial board for a full review. If a text was promoted to a second-tier review, we assigned several Kairos editorial board members who specialized in the manifesto topic to review it. (Because of the number of submissions, we had to conduct reviews “off-list,” meaning that instead of using Kairos’ usual method of asking the entire board to respond to a single text on the editorial-board listserv, we sent URLs to individual reviewers backchannel. This is a typical process for Kairos special issues and was the process that the CoverWeb section used for many years.) We would then review the responses and contact authors who, if accepted, would revise their texts according to the reviewers’ feedback (sometimes with additional editorial interaction) during Tier III. The final versions of the manifestos were then submitted to us for an eight-step copy- and design-editing process, which included author queries and proofreading. (This last part is typical for any webtext—in special issues or not—that is published in the Topoi section of Kairos.)

Because manifestos differ significantly in scope and purpose from the webtexts Kairos usually runs, we wrote a heuristic for reviewers to use. Our goal was create review criteria that reflected the Call For manifestos while also allowing approaches that we really couldn’t have imagined until we received submissions. The questions were intended to help reviewers generate a response that would consider the manifesto form while also allowing for flexibility and openness, since not all of the questions would be relevant to all submissions. The criteria were crafted around four major considerations: Readership, Form, Media, and Response. (Manifesto and webtext are used as interchangeable terms in these criteria.)

Is the manifesto timely and relevant to the readership of Kairos? Has the manifesto allowed the author to address an issue in the moment that might otherwise get lost if it were published on a traditional scholarship timeline? If the webtext is coming from outside the discipline, does it encourage cross- and inter-disciplinary thinking about its subject matter? Could the manifesto bring a new readership to Kairos?
Does the author understand “manifesto” as a text form? Is the manifesto concise and focused? Does the author recognize the text form as something other than traditional scholarship by avoiding lengthy, fully contextualized arguments and indepth reviews of literature? Is the argument clear and pointed? Does it call to action?
Is the medium in which webtext is produced appropriate for Kairos? Does the chosen medium make sense in terms of the piece’s argument? If the medium, on first reading, does not seem appropriate, does the author justify its use? Are the design aesthetics appropriate and of high quality? Is the use of media and design in the webtext purposeful?
Is the webtext provocative? Could it elicit quick, fruitful, engaging, and perhaps heated conversations among the readership of Kairos? Could you imagine that these conversations might lead to important research questions for future scholarship? Does the manifesto explicitly call for or pose questions for future scholarship?

As the above criteria likely indicate to readers, we saw the manifesto special issue filling two needs: as an immediate location for short scholarly work and as an opening for additional work. We see the manifestos in this issue standing proud and shouting their passionate points, and we also see them as beginnings for more manifestos and more in-depth scholarship (be they articles or webtexts; e-books or films, etc.).

What we are most proud of in this issue is both the range of topics in the manifestos and the number of authors new to digital scholarship who chose to create a text, submit it, and are subsequently being published in this issue. Many are graduate students or junior scholars—as the tradition of Kairos holds dear—although several are senior scholars who have paved the way for more-recent scholars to be able to publish such work and have it count. We applaud all of our authors in this issue and hope that more are willing to produce kairotic, momentous outbursts for Kairos for the new section, Disputatio: A Readers Forum, which Beth Hewett and Cheryl developed in response to the need for short works in light of the high response rate to our manifesto call. We hope that readers find much to delight in, argue with, and respond to in these manifestos and begin to create their own.