Digital Humanists: If You Want Tenure, Do Double the Work | Vitae.
This article from the new Chronicle of Higher Education job site, Vitae, describes the difficulties digital humanists encounter when tenure committees evaluate their work. As a Ph.D. Candidate in English literature trying to bootstrap my way into the digital humanities (in a program that does not value it), I am not at all surprised that digital projects often do not count toward tenure. My digital projects are, as my dissertation advisor puts it, “a distraction from my real work.” Evidently the situation doesn’t get any better if you find a tenure track job in English. This is changing, slowly–but the main trend is for digital humanists to work off the tenure track in alt-ac positions. While it may be a plus to not have to work for tenure, neither do alt-ac positions provide the benefits of the tenure track.
The good news, according to the article, is that some programs are slowly coming around. The MLA has issued guidelines for evaluating digital scholarship.
The recommendations advise making expectations clear to candidates; asking faculty members familiar with digital work to participate in the review; accepting the work in its original, electronic form and not only, for example, as printed screen shots; and staying informed about technological innovations that help people with disabilities to conduct research, among other principles.
It is a good start.
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.