I just attended a terrific panel on “Teaching with the Internet and Technology” at the PAMLA Conference in Riverside, CA. One of the presenters, Dr. David Sandner from CSU Fullerton, described a class project he incorporated into a more traditional literary analysis class: he had his students research and create a website, called Phillip K. Dick in the OC. This is an excellent example of digital literacy practices in the classroom, and demonstrates the participatory learning ethos of the digital humanities. It is created in Google Sites, utilizing freely available free tools: choices made in order to demonstrate to other faculty, students, and administrators what can be done without a knowledge of coding. The site incorporates some original research as well as collecting materials and resources scattered across the web.
Some of the discussion at the panel revolved around the problem of student motivation. While students in Dr. Sandner’s class were graded upon their contributions to this website, they worked in groups according to interests and abilities. Some of the students have continued to work on the site since the class ended. One of the points the panel participants made was that students are willing to work, if the assignments have real world impact. Students often perceive papers and assignments read only by their professors as “busywork.” In my next post, I will write about an initiative at Northern Arizona University that also demonstrates the extent to which students can be motivated to work hard–in this case, to produce a professional academic symposium about video gaming without any extra credit.
Here is a short news article from Princeton explaining some of the projects they are undertaking at their Center for Digital Humanities. It gives an excellent example of how a humanities undergraduate can work with a faculty member to do real research using digital tools. This is the kind of work I would like to do with undergraduates! I’ve included an excerpt below and the link to the article.
Sometimes, opposites attract.
Princeton senior Brian Lax is an English major, passionate about British literature. He is also passionate about computer science and is earning a certificate in statistics and machine learning. Determined to marry these two seemingly disparate parts of his academic experience for his senior thesis, he set out to track revisions of poems by W.H. Auden across time — using the computer as his chief research tool.
Working with his adviser, Meredith Martin, associate professor of English and director of theCenter for Digital Humanities, Lax began his journey into the field of digital humanities.
Miriam Posner, coordinator of the digital humanities program at the University of California at Los Angeles, posts some cautionary remarks at Inside Higher Ed regarding the future of alt-ac jobs: some cautions I had not necessarily considered. The entire article is linked below:
But I do hope to give you pause as you consider what a university would look like if it were populated by many more people like me: flexible employees, carrying out a great deal of administrative work, whose time is managed by someone else, who do research when they can carve out the time, whose work belongs to someone else, and who have no voice in faculty governance. The picture begins to look a lot like a corporation. These alt-ac gigs can be great jobs, but they differ in some fundamental ways from faculty jobs as they have been traditionally understood — and not because we’re doing different work, but because we’re doing that work on very different terms. I think we begin to see why so many administrators have embraced the alt-ac model, and why we need to ask ourselves whether this is the future we want for scholarly labor.
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2013/12/04/essay-asks-whether-alt-ac-careers-are-really-solution-academic-jobs-shortage#ixzz2obdZa6C0
Inside Higher Ed
Finding Life After Academia — and Not Feeling Bad About It – NYTimes.com.
The market in my field (eighteenth and nineteenth century British Lit) is very poor this year. Fortunately I am also able to market myself as a digital humanist. My ideal job would be a dual hire in which I teach in my area plus work on creating digital collections. I do have programming and statistical skills, so I can do some of the big data projects; but my heart is really in creating digital collections and digital tools to help scholars have access to materials that are otherwise inaccessible. My dream project would be to be part of digitizing the George Eliot-Henry Lewes collection at the Dr. Williams Library in London. They were known to be inveterate annotators of their books, and to have the annotations available digitally would be a great boon to Eliot-Lewes scholars.
But right now I am feeling oppressed by the terrible job market, and the necessity of marketing myself. Academics are already prone to suffer from imposter syndrome, and being on the job market only exacerbates this feeling for me. I still also feel that after nearly ten years in grad school, I “should” try to get a “real” academic job first (i.e. tenure track assistant professor in my field), before looking for alternate careers. So even though I embrace alt-ac and digital humanities, I still feel that it is the consolation prize for those who don’t make it in academia. So mea culpa, and I will try to keep my emotions in line with my stated beliefs and commitments.
The Chronicle of Higher Education argues that civil disobedience is called for to change the paradigm of academic publishing.
Aaron Swartz Was Right – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.