[Humanist] 24.472 job at Ryerson: jobs and disciplines

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Nov 7 11:51:25 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 472.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 06 Nov 2010 06:41:10 -0600
        From: "O'Donnell, Dan" <daniel.odonnell at uleth.ca>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.468 job at Ryerson: jobs and disciplines
        In-Reply-To: <20101106074301.252D4A6EFC at woodward.joyent.us>

You are arguing a different point then, Jeremy: the problem in your view 
is with disciplinarity, not the Ryerson job. To help separate them, I'd 
argue that the purpose of a job ad is not to maximise the number of 
candidates in an abstract sense but to get a suitable pool of the right 
people for the job you have. Ryerson needs English professors and wants 
to move into DH. They quite correctly are worried about finding that 
combination rather than scoring the even bigger pool they might have got 
by advertising something more general.

In fact, when hiring committees focus on the size of the pool rather 
than its relevance, they tend to waste everybody's time: this is in my 
experience the problem with ads that imply the discipline is open. It 
never is /actually/ open. A committee that claims to be open is either 
misrepresenting the situation in the department or hasn't quite made up 
its mind between two or three areas. But they never mean "anything." 
What they do often want in these cases is a really large pool: the idea 
is that maybe somebody will show up in it that will get them excited. 
But they do end up wasting the time of most of the applicant who aren't 
in their secretly preferred disciplines.

On the other question, I think if I were building disciplines from the 
ground up, I might not have an "English Department" as distinct from 
"French" and "Film" and "New Media." But I think there is enough of a 
distinction to have some kind of culture department that would operate 
alongside History, say. In purely practical terms, we see this 
distinction as we are setting about trying to establish a graduate 
school where once we had an apprenticeship model. In some 
areas--Sociology, Anthropology, some aspects of Women and Religious 
Studies--the departments have been able to combine to offer a single 
theory and methodology course; but history, philosophy, and English 
haven't really been able to work with that model (New Media and Film 
Studies are in a different faculty at Lethbridge and the administrative 
headaches of looking for commonalities there are beyond the powers even 
of Tylenol 3).

I'm less worried that many of my colleagues seem to be about the 
survival of the Humanities and Social Sciences in the modern University, 
f for no other reason than that eliminating them would prevent most 
students from going to University and gaining access to middle class 
jobs. Things can certainly get a lot worse in the sense that governments 
and administrators can decide to starve them of research funding and 
make our lives miserable by giving us ever bigger classes. But in fact, 
even from a purely practical perspective, the H and SS can't be actually 
eliminated without causing riots.

The real danger for us is that governments and administrators starve us 
/almost/ to the point of being able to drown us in the bath-tub. The 
worse our situation gets, the poorer educational experience students 
have; the more cynical our alumni are, the less willing they will be to 
pay the taxes that by-and-large support us. The less respect there is 
for our studies, the more impoverished we become.

We need several things, I think, to reverse this--some of which are very 
difficult for humanists to do. Above all, we need more and better PR. 
The idea that HSS work is useless is belied every day in the 
newspaper--take a look one day how many professors from the HSS (well, 
mostly SS) are quoted on a given day in newspaper articles. The Digital 
Humanities should be an important part of this PR. As I've written for 
the popular press myself, DH is the killer humanities app, especially 
when it is grounded in a discipline: it is what takes breadth of 
knowledge and makes it actionable in the current economy; a student with 
a degree in philosophy and a background in informatics is going to have 
a pretty powerful mix of skills. One of my colleagues in Management 
Information Studies researches employer attitudes towards student 
programmes. His claim to me was that in fact the employers he 
interviewed were less interested in MIS students (or computer science or 
other pure skills) than they were in people who combined ICT skills with 
some other domain knowledge. The one time I was able to teach a course 
on informatics to English majors here, the students were getting hired 
straight out of the class: suddenly it was like nursing.

On 10-11-06 01:43 AM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 468.
>           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                  Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>          Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2010 07:41:44 -0400
>          From: jeremy hunsinger<jhuns at vt.edu>
>          Subject: jobs and disciplines
>          In-Reply-To:<20101105061909.E22E6A3DCC at woodward.joyent.us>
> I don't think it is necessarily a problem that most jobs are disciplinary, but what I was pointing out is that one shouldn't expect many applicants if one narrows digital humanities to that applicable in one discipline, or to people who can teach in one discipline or subdiscipline.  I also think that it is going to be extremely difficult for a DH person to advance in a department that is primarily disciplinary oriented, because the DH person does not necessarily place DH papers usually in the journals that are rated highly in disciplines, they might, but I think we can all see that it is perhaps less likely.  I also wonder about a strongly DH person working as Department Head, especially if they start outside the discipline.  There will be, I think a strong insider/outsider structure for them to fight through.  So even if they get a t-t, I suspect  they will be even less likely to get tenure(if it still exists) and if they do get tenure, it will be even harder for them to get
>    promotion.   From my point of view and I'm interdisciplinary in humanities and social sciences, I'm not sure the humanities can afford to push and promote disciplinarity, disciplines do not seem to relate as strongly to the legitimation to funding bodies external to the university anymore, except in a few circumstances.  I think the justification for a plurality of disciplinary departments in the humanities on the university is also losing ground.  Universities have significant reasons to dissolve disciplinary departments to save money as bureaucratic overhead is expensive.  This also does a fair amount to scare some faculty into leaving to places they find more amenable or retiring, as the humanities faculties were in a report a few years ago, the oldest populations on campuses.  DH is another one of the anti-disciplinary trends pushing against traditional disciplines, as it requires knowledge of at least another discipline to be successful, and the set of skills embodied
>   provided might be a source of legitimation for the DH in the university, more than in the discipline or her own department.
> So, most of the jobs advertised in DH are disciplinary history and english.   Those disciplines are the two that overproduce the most ph.d.'s currently, no?.... I wonder...
> Jeremy Hunsinger
> Center for Digital Discourse and Culture
> Virginia Tech
> http://www.tmttlt.com
> Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.
> -George Iles

Daniel Paul O'Donnell
Professor of English
University of Lethbridge

Chair and CEO, Text Encoding Initiative (http://www.tei-c.org/)
Co-Chair, Digital Initiatives Advisory Board, Medieval Academy of America
President-elect (English), Society for Digital Humanities/Société pour l'étude des médias interactifs (http://sdh-semi.org/)
Founding Director (2003-2009), Digital Medievalist Project (http://www.digitalmedievalist.org/)

Vox: +1 403 329-2377
Fax: +1 403 382-7191 (non-confidential)
Home Page: http://people.uleth.ca/~daniel.odonnell/

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