[Humanist] 26.148 should I quit

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jul 11 22:42:42 CEST 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 148.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (18)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.143 should I quit

  [2]   From:    Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>                  (254)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.143 should I quit


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 16:55:41 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.143 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20120710204952.0AB3B284F15 at woodward.joyent.us>


Alexander: I had far more time to write in my non-academic job than I do in
my academic job, which feels like it consumes every waking hour at times.
 You'll have the same issue with publishing once you go into academia, even
if you get a research job with a 2-2 or 2-1 teaching load.  You won't
believe everything that gets piled on to you.  It's a miracle anyone
publishes, though some have better support.

Jim R

For me, the main problem is a lack of resources, particularly time. Plus, I
> was made redundant from my (non-)academic job, so I'm in even more of a
> parlous state.
>
> My biggest fear is that I have worked very hard for a White Elephant
> qualification that's either not good enough for some posts, or makes me too
> qualified for others.
>
> Thanks, in any case!
>
> - Alexander



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2012 17:02:21 +0100
        From: Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.143 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20120710204952.0AB3B284F15 at woodward.joyent.us>


@ Hugh

One strategy I'm looking into is getting into a university via the backdoor
and getting a job in one as a web editor. Strangely enough, that's where
all my job interviews lately have been coming from. It may be a forlorn
hope, but I have done sort of well as a web editor, when I'm not being made
redundant, that is.

@ Willard

Certainly, keeping one's finger in the pie helps. I stayed up all night
recently banging together a site for my BJJ club, for example, and the
response to my initial post has spurred me onto writing an article on
Ceefax...

You mention 'de-professionalisation' - to a degree, I concur. Perhaps the
main problem with academia is that you are trying to join a breakaway group
from society, with surprisingly different mores and outlooks. (If my
English department was anything to go by, anyhow.) Joining this club is
difficult, because of the unwritten or unspoken rules.

It would be much easier for all concerned if it were something you could
dip in and out of. My problem is wanting a career but needing a living, and
when you're fighting for the few ways into 'the academy', it's hard to do
both, especially these days.

@ Daniel

Trust me, if I had been told about the importance of a publication record,
I'd have been churning them out from day one. My big mistake was assuming
that all supervisors go about it the same way, but no one really went out
of their way to correct me.

I have my doubts about universities too - especially the ones that call you
in for interview from half-way across the country before telling you that
you've failed because (you guessed it) your publication record sucks. Do
they actually bother to read application forms before shortlisting? It's
not even joined up. The same institutions that seem to have it in for the
early career brigade still keep churning them out via studentships.

I suppose it would just be a crying shame if my PhD is ornamental and I end
up in a job I could have got if I'd stayed happy with an MA. It depends on
whether a PhD is a means to an end, or an end in itself, and I am inclined
to see it as the former.

- Alexander

On 10 July 2012 21:49, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 143.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>   [1]   From:    Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>
>  (235)
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.135 should I quit
>
>   [2]   From:    Hugh Cayless <philomousos at gmail.com>
>  (60)
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.133 Should I quit?
>
>   [3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>  (37)
>         Subject: quitting or not
>
>   [4]   From:    Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>
>  (41)
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.133 Should I quit?
>
>
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 02:21:38 +0100
>         From: Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.135 should I quit
>         In-Reply-To: <20120709202617.4590E284946 at woodward.joyent.us>
>
>
> Dear Willard,
>
> For me, the main problem is a lack of resources, particularly time. Plus, I
> was made redundant from my (non-)academic job, so I'm in even more of a
> parlous state.
>
> My biggest fear is that I have worked very hard for a White Elephant
> qualification that's either not good enough for some posts, or makes me too
> qualified for others.
>
> Thanks, in any case!
>
> - Alexander
>
>
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2012 22:05:36 -0400
>         From: Hugh Cayless <philomousos at gmail.com>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.133 Should I quit?
>         In-Reply-To: <20120706201230.9C88B284EE6 at woodward.joyent.us>
>
>
> The replies so far have been from people who didn't quit, so I thought
> you should hear from someone who did :-).
>
> I quit in 2001, after graduating in 1999. I don't regard my Ph.D. as a
> waste of time97it taught me to be intellectually fearless, something
> that has stuck with me ever since. There is bound to be regret and
> feelings of failure, but failing also teaches you and forces you to
> become stronger. And you have to realize that getting a tenure-track job
> is almost purely a roll of the dice. Of my grad school cohort (4) only
> one of us is still teaching in higher ed, and he doesn't have tenure.
> Further, even if you got one of the mythical tenure-track jobs, you
> might end up somewhere you hate. It's no guarantee of happiness. The
> Versatile Ph.D. site (http://versatilephd.com/) has a lot of good
> information about quitting and beyond.
>
> On a bad day, I would rant about how graduate education is a giant fail
> machine that chews good people up and spits them out, but I won't go
> into that now. We can wish it were not so, but most of the incentives
> are stacked against change. I'll just conclude by saying that it isn't
> your fault and that there is probably a lot of good you can take from
> the experience and apply elsewhere.
>
> Only you can decide whether you should quit, but there are plenty of
> other cool things to do in the world.
>
> Best,
> Hugh
>
>
>
> --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 14:16:32 +1000
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: quitting or not
>         In-Reply-To: <20120706201230.9C88B284EE6 at woodward.joyent.us>
>
> Before I was called to my first academic job, which I still hold, I had
> no evidence whatever that I would get one. Involvement with
> computing almost by itself guaranteed that I would never have a
> chance at the tenure-track and would always be on the wrong side of
> those tracks. I had gone from a PhD into a non-tenurable job in a
> university, and after a number of unsuccessful efforts (assisted by well
> meaning and highly influential people) I decided to do what I most
> wanted to do in the time available before, during and after paid work. I
> had a spot of good luck with a grant from the Canadian government to
> fund my research. Then, as we say, fortune smiled on me. Out of the blue
> an e-mail message, and not long after that, a job offer.
>
> It's hard to see that anything of use to anyone is to be learned from
> this much abbreviated personal narrative -- there's too much that just
> happened, or didn't. But the mantra that kept me going may be worth
> repeating: the only thing that matters, I told myself, is the work.
> Of course certain kinds of work were impossible under the circumstances
> I then had, specifically any kind which required sustained
> concentration. But I found a kind that I could do in bits and scraps of
> the day and night, and pressed on with that.
>
> As a result of the obsessive state into which I led myself other things
> did not get done, other things (and people close to me) were ignored.
> Some of the consequences were not good, at least not immediately.
> A life turned out as it has; other possible lives were not lived. Who
> knows which of these would have been better?
>
> What most matters to you? If it's scholarship, then what sort can you
> do? There's so much to be done that involves only reading and writing
> and thinking.
>
> A healthy measure of de-professionalisation of the disciplines would
> make it easier (if done right, in a good way) for those outside of the
> academy to publish alongside those within it -- not for measurable
> impact (the idea be damned, for it comes from the place of the damned)
> but to communicate and converse. To build and grow a community of ideas.
> To learn from others.
>
> I am also fond of pointing out that the single thing most responsible
> for me getting that academic job was Humanist, neither peer-reviewed nor
> rateable. The historical moment in which thinking it up and making it
> work were possible has of course passed, but surely all such moments
> of opportunity to leap creatively into the unknown are not in the past.
>
> Yours,
> WM
>
> Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
> the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
> London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
> University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
> (www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
> (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/
>
>
>
>
> --[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 14:20:22 +0100
>         From: Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.133 Should I quit?
>         In-Reply-To: <20120706201230.9C88B284EE6 at woodward.joyent.us>
>
> Alexander
>
> For my sins, I sometimes find myself watching talent shows on TV. When a
> contestant gets kicked out, at least one of the celebrity judges or mentors
> or whatever can generally be relied upon to tell the unfortunate individual
> never to give up on his/her dreams, that this isn't the end of the road,
> that his/her time hasn't yet come, that this is just the beginning, etc. I
> think that's just about the most heartless bit of advice in showbusiness.
> Subscribers to this list probably know better than to proffer the academic
> equivalent (though god knows I've heard it often enough elsewhere).
>
> Perhaps you should have started cranking out articles sooner. But even if
> someone had tipped you off that it was the right thing to do, you'd
> eventually have realised there was some other bit of advice that you hadn't
> heard and that you probably would have been unable to follow even if you
> had heard it (for instance that research funding counts for more than
> research publications, or that jobs will be coming up in sub-discipline X
> whereas you're in sub-discipline Y). Soon, all PhD students will be putting
> more effort into publishing articles than into finishing their theses, and
> something else - something equally unreasonable - will be found to
> differentiate them. Maybe that's happened already.
>
> Assuming that you're looking for work in the UK (because you haven't told
> us otherwise and I don't know how things operate elsewhere), you're an
> 'early career researcher', in which case two publications from you is equal
> to four publications from someone more established for the purposes of the
> wretched REF - so there's probably something else counting against you
> besides the length of your publications record. Maybe it's just the fact
> that you *are* an early career academic. By and large, appointments
> committees aren't out there to give the next generation a break, they're
> out there to identify the most economically valuable candidate who will
> apply for the job under the terms and conditions that the university or
> faculty administrators have permitted to be set.
>
> The rules are changing all the time, and in any case they are manifestly
> unfair. At the end of the day, there are too few good jobs and too many
> good scholars chasing after them. Universities expect the moon on a stick
> from job applicants, and they get it, too, because we go into this for love
> and only later - much, much later, and often too late - ask ourselves
> whether there's any sense to the sacrifices that we and our families have
> been making.
>
> You might get a job, you might not. If you do get one, it's likely to be
> on a fixed term contract, in which case you'll probably find yourself
> asking the same question a year or so down the line (less if it's maternity
> cover). I do, however, have one positive thing to say, which is that
> 'Should I quit?' and 'Was it all a waste of time?' are very different
> issues. You can quit without its having been a waste of time. You can
> always quit without anything's having been a waste of time.
> Best wishes - whether you stay or go
>
> Daniel






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