[Humanist] 26.475 should I quit

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Nov 11 10:53:22 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 475.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Jennifer Edmond <jedmond36 at gmail.com>                     (49)
        Subject: Re:  26.473 should I quit

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (40)
        Subject: quitting?

        Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2012 15:47:07 +0000
        From: Jennifer Edmond <jedmond36 at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.473 should I quit
        In-Reply-To: <20121110085616.86E046063 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Alexander,

No degree is anything more than the cumulative experience of the years you spend earning it. It doesn't entitle you to anything - indeed you might see yourself privileged (as i do) to have spent 5 years developing your own competences, while others get caught up at an earlier career point serving the goals of others. 

I often joke that the only thing I am actually 'qualified' to do is explain movies (or German novels, but I get less call for that). But I have turned this experience of understanding text and subtext into a large number of truly enjoyable paid positions, from DH support person to research strategist, from Institute director to research project PI.  I miss wearing my academic robes, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing about my unorthodox path post PhD, which I chose only because the traditional options before me were, as yours are, asking too high a price for what they offered. 

Humanist doesn't seem quite the place for this kind of platitude, but what the hey: life is what you make it. 

Jennifer Edmond
Director of Strategic Projects
Trinity College Dublin

Sent from my iPhone

On 10 Nov 2012, at 08:56, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 473.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2012 13:41:46 +0000
>        From: Alexander Hay <alexander.hay at gmail.com>
>        Subject: Re:  26.158 should I quit
>        In-Reply-To: <20120713234025.EF554284D57 at woodward.joyent.us>
> Something of an update. Having asked about one job I wanted to apply for, I
> was told I needed a monograph published. I asked if the very long journal
> article I had written might count. No.
> Since this is one of only a few non-Oxbridge fellowships being advertised,
> I really have no chance of getting a job.
> Now, I'm presently working full time (and not as an academic) so it's
> rather hard to get down to the British Library to do research for a piece
> someone will probably rubbish anyway.
> Yes, this is a whinge, but I feel entitled to one. Or getting back the five
> years I put into getting the white elephant qualification I have.
> Remind me again of how hard it is to get into academia. I'm minded to flog
> my PhD certificate on Ebay - it might be worth something that way.

        Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 09:38:09 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: quitting?
        In-Reply-To: <20121110085616.86E046063 at digitalhumanities.org>

For many years I have been saying to PhD students and those interested 
in a PhD that the only defensible motivation for doing the degree is 
love of the subject. The primary reason I've had for saying this is that 
such an important role in society requires devotion to its central 
purpose, very hard work and long hours -- 60 hours/week at minimum, I 
would guess, but who is counting? The fact is, however, that everywhere 
I know of jobs are (to put it mildly) difficult to get. In some places 
(such as the UK) and in the humanities at least, and I expect also in 
the theoretical end of the natural sciences, the number of available 
positions makes hen's teeth look plentiful. Luck has a dominant role to 
play, it seems. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.

But then jobs have been scarce as long as I can remember. When I was a 
doctoral student at Toronto in the early 1980s it was said of the 
English department there (a very fine department it was) that it 
produced more PhDs in a single year than all of Canada could absorb in 
10. I spent 8 years (3-4 of those part-time, working to support a 
family) in the programme; my first academic job came 12 years later. I 
should note, however, that those were the days when association with 
computing was poison, at least to N American English departments.

Somehow I kept my research going all that time, though at an enormous 
personal cost. I was obsessed. But having been lucky enough to have 
gained an academic position and held it for the past 16 years I know 
what a huge difference it makes to have the social mandate and the time 
to be a scholar. No one should ever belittle the difficulties thrown in a 
scholar's path by most other kinds of employment.

As we build our PhD programmes in the digital humanities we may not have 
to face such a severe problem of placing students, but there are 
unlikely to be enough positions once these programmes are as numerous as 
they seem likely to become. So, it would seem, a debate we need to have is 
how we shape these programmes to train students to be able to do the 
digital humanities in the world as it is.


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/

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