I was incredibly grateful for the candor with which we discussed the state of academic jobs in the DH Praxis Seminar this week. The job hunt is a touchy subject (whether in the academic humanities or elsewhere), and I’ve enjoyed the fact that our seminar doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.
As a few people mentioned on Monday, it is a shame the term “alt-ac” even exists. This entire category of jobs is not defined by its own characteristics, but by that to which it is an alternative. As Katina mentioned during her lecture, until we truly establish an even playing field, where students are encouraged to blaze their own trails without a description of the “normal” path and the “alternative” path, the term alt-ac will have to do.
I also really appreciated the idea of making your own luck. As a musician, I am faced with a field that is built on relationships, networking, freelance, and entrepreneurship. While everyone has heard the story of a musician waiting for his “break,” there’s something to be said for creating your own opportunities and being ready for whatever comes your way as you passionately pursue your career.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick begins the introduction of Planned Obsolescence with quote by Clay Shirky: “The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.”
I love this quote because it addresses an ever-present issue in the Digital Humanities: there will always be broken systems, and there will always be new tools that can help us improve them. This mindset (and the sense of adventure and experimentation that seems to come with it) is one thing I’ve really enjoyed about the Digital Praxis Seminar at the GC. It is not always easy to have this mindset, of course. It requires that we be honest with ourselves about what is not working, even if (or especially if) it has been this way for a long time.
Although no one has yet worked out all the kinks of a digital system of peer-review, Kathleen cited numerous projects and individuals (not the least of which being her work with Media Commons) that are tackling the issue head on. Perhaps we don’t have a perfect solution yet, but let’s get to work and come up with one!
I’ll end with a quote by one of my favorite artists and thinkers, John Cage: “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
1st Definition: The Digital Humanities is the use of digital and technological advances in academia.
2nd Definition: The Digital Humanities is a broad field of study (usually collaborative and project-based) dedicated to digital and technological integration in academic scholarship and pedagogy.
There was a lot of discussion of “digital tools” used in DH. The way I see it, there are two opposite (yet equally useful) approaches: 1) a DHer looks at the digital tools at his or her disposal and asks, “How can I integrate these into my field of research or pedagogy?” or 2) a DHer evaluates systems of research and pedagogy that may be lacking, and then finds the right digital tools with which to get the job done more effectively. In either case, I think the common thread is the DHer’s dedication to the integration of these tools for the betterment of his primary field of study.