Kairos of Twitter for
Philosophy, Rhetoric, Composition
Definitions of Kairos in Rhetoric
The Opportune, Critical, or Right Moment for Speech
A Moment Pregnant with Crises and Contingencies
The Situational Context
“Aristotle himself identifies kairos as intrinsically
related to audience--that is, it is important to get the
attention of the audience, but to occasionally choose a
moment to re-awaken them to the attention of the
speaker. That moment, recognized, chosen and
acted upon, is kairotic or interchangeably, kairic.”
Kairos in Modern Rhetoric
“Appeals to kairos in written form try to make use of the
particular moment—attempting to capture in words what
will be immediately applicable, appropriate, and engaging
for a particular audience. Kairos is timeliness,
appropriateness, decorum, symmetry, balance—
awareness of the rhetorical situation or ‘the
circumstances that open moments of opportunity’
(Kinneavy; Sipiora; Vatz; Bitzer; Hill 217).”
-- Writing Commons
Kairos of Technology
“Simply put, technology has both sped up and changed
written communication, opening up new senses of
context and timeliness for writers. As numerous scholars
(Hawisher, Selfe, Moran, Johnson-Eilola, Doherty, et al)
have noted, e-mail and other online writing present
both writers and readers with unique new rhetorical
Kairos of Twitter
The following constraints
help create Opportune
Situational Contexts in
● Current Issues
● Language (Textspeak)
● Audience (Followers)
● Rhetor’s Ethos
Issue Constraint: Hashtags
● Hashtags are topics/issues that structure the dialectic
● Adding a hashtag to a tweet allows the Rhetor to
connect with others based on a topic/issue of concern
(establishing connection beyond the personal).
● Hashtags reveal momentous current issues of concern
within seconds of posting.
● Hashtags are invitations for opportune speech.
(Revealing kairotic moments).
Language Constraint: Tweets
140 Characters (Creative crafting of language)
Lulspeak (aka Textspeak) - ex. c u den, IMHO, l8r
Leetspeak - ex. I33t, s|<1llz, h4x0r
International - Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, etc.
Veiled and Unveiled Political Statements
Commentary (Both Laymen and Professional Views)
Identification and Verification of ideas
Links as “Proof” to one’s tweet.
Audience Constraint: Followers
Followers are attracted to those with similar interests.
Followers are aware of current events.
Followers can be global thinkers (international).
Followers provide dialogs with cultural contexts.
Followers spread the rhetor’s ideas like wildfire.
(Recognizing privacy vs. public speech as part of Digital
● Followers offer instant feedback (to challenge/resist
the rhetor’s tweet/assumption)
Kairotic Moments in Favorited
● Popular tweets are “favorited” or “retweeted.”
● Popular tweets capture the opportune time to address
current issues of concern.
● A single tweet contains ingredients of kairotic
moments that have been acted upon by the Rhetor.
● The Rhetor becomes a part of the kairotic moments as
he/she contributes tweets to issues of concern.
● Rhetor’s Twitter ID builds Rhetor’s Ethos; Rhetor’s
Ethos adds value to Rhetor’s Twitter ID.
Context Collapse of Tweets
● “It is context collapse: an infinite number of contexts
collapsing upon one another into that single moment
of recording . . . The little glass lens becomes the
gateway to a blackhole sucking all of time and space –
virtually all possible contexts – in upon itself.”
-- Michael Wesch
● In Media Res (In the Midst of Things) Narrative - Story
opens with dramatic action rather than exposition.
● Foreignness of tweets invite the audience to further
investigate so to contextualize the tweets’ rhetoric.
Rhetorical Context Crises and
Contingencies: Twitter Bots
● Automated Twitter Bots proliferate the Twittersphere
to “negotiate” or “alter” meaning of others’ rhetoric.
● Twitter Bots fight against the integrity of tweets by
adding texts to the tweets to further confuse or
subvert the contexts of those tweets.
● Twitter bots often serve as the “spectrums” of a tweet’
s meaning, applying different interpretative lenses on
a single thought.