Multimodal Mondays: Kairotic Moments and Historical Perspectives

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Today's guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn (see end of post for bio).


Teaching rhetorical concepts is time well spent in our multimodal classrooms because it helps students become critical consumers of information and images around them.  Many are familiar with teaching the classical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos towards rhetorical analysis. I also find it helpful to introduce the additional concept of Kairos and its relevance to writing and visual rhetoric. Ancient rhetoricians talked about two concepts of time: “Chronos – linear, measurable time – the kind that we track with watches and calendars and Kairos to suggest a more situational kind of time, something close to what we call opportunity.”


This is important for our multimodal writers to understand, particularly with the impact of participatory communication, social media and the currency of information. Writers must understand kairotic moments that will make their writing more persuasive and engaging through drawing upon current issues, commonplaces, and ideologies of the rhetorical time in which they are writing. 


In their book, Ancient Rhetoric for Contemporary Students (2012), Crowley and Hawhee discuss the situatedness of arguments in time and place and the particulars of given rhetorical situations. Effective writers must not only understand their own opinions and beliefs but they must also include the “opinions and beliefs of their audiences at that time and place as well as the history of the issue within the communities that identify with it” (48). This means that in order to understand an issue, students must understand chronos – the history of the issue – along with the way particular communities view the issue as well. “In short, the rhetor must be aware of the issue’s relevance to the time, the place and the community in which it arises” (48).


Students can research the history and perspectives of issues to determine kairos and other rhetorical appeals. These concepts are easily applied to digital and visual rhetoric as students analyze visual and textual artifacts to understand both the history and ways ideas and images are situated in particular communities and time periods.


The Assignment

For this assignment, I ask students to compose a digital analysis of the history and progression of a particular product or industry through advertising artifacts (print or video). They can easily access these artifacts through image and video searches. Starting early and working their way up to current contexts, they detail how kairos and other rhetorical appeals change along with the historical time periods and connect to the culture in which they arose. In a digital blog post students analyze the images and embed them along with proper citation and documentation.



  1. Choose a particular product or industry to analyze.
  2. Conduct image searches in which they locate advertisements (print or video) from different historical time periods. For example, advertisements, automobiles, 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc.
  3. Choose 4-5 images that start in the past and work their way up to current times.
  4. Analyze, in writing, each visual artifact including the rhetorical appeals, context and kairos.
  5. Post to their blogs and present to the class.


Reflections on the Activity and Student Samples

My students came to understand the concept of visual rhetoric and kairos through their thoughtful analyses and historical progression of a variety of products and industries.


  • Kendra chose to look at the evolution of Levi’s Blue Jeans. She started her analysis back in the 1900’s when the clothing was directed towards an audience of cowboys and miners who “needed durable clothing that could withstand lengthy stretches of time in harsh environments.” She traces the history along with different kairotic moments that involve patriotism, rebellion, work ethic, and finally, its most recent campaign that encourages wearers to “go forth” and “uses images of independence and freedom to appeal to a young, hip crowd who values living life to the fullest.” Along the way, she also includes embedded links that connect us to documents and timelines that help us understand the way the time period situated the artifacts.


  • Jordan chose to explore Ford automobile advertisements and starts us in the 1940’s where he states that “Ford Motors” was trying to appeal to families, suggesting that their vehicles were affordable to middle-aged working folks.” He brings in the kairotic impact of the great depression as a reason for this particular audience focus. He takes us through time, recognizing the shift in the 70’s towards a younger generation and images of sexy, hip people in a culture of more exposure and freedom. He includes ads that focus on the concerns of baby-boomers of the early 2000’s and beyond, recognizing that “Ford knew that the middle-class were more interested in safe cars rather than fashionable or affordable ones.”


  • Finally, I offer Caitlin’s post in which she looks at the Cultural Evolution of the Bra. She links her ideas to gender equality and traces the transformations in “construction and marketing.” She starts with early versions (1920’s) in which women were entering the workplace and includes the conical bras of the 50’s and 60’s that emphasized a sculpted “hourglass figure.” She takes us through impressions of women imagining themselves in male gender roles through the more natural, soft woman in the Victoria Secret Ads. She ends her analysis with the “Apocalypse Bra” in which women are portrayed as powerful and athletic and “feature women in strong roles.” She includes other connected multimodal artifacts that speak to the kairos of these issues in relation to the progression of gender equality.



Crowley, Sharon and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, Longman, 2012.


Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things. She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity. You can reach Kim at or visit her website Acts of Composition.

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.