Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DH Grad Students! What Do You Want?

Seriously now, tell me. I'm currently a Member at Large on the executive of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, and I've decided to do some work to help grad students.

I'm not, actually, a grad student, and I haven't been since, err, 2004. But I was a grad student in Digital Humanities (or "Humanities Computing" as we used to call it when I was a youngster) from 1997-2004, over two degrees and in two universities. From the wonderful, invigorating panel discussion on graduate issues in DH at last year's Congress in Waterloo, I learned that ... much has changed since my time, but also, depressingly, other things have not changed at all.

Some issues I discern:

  • Alt-ac: is it really a thing? A desirable thing? How to plan for this career path? How to advocate for this work as "alternatively academic" rather than "alternative to academic"?
  • Dissertations: Should dissertation or completion requirements devised, in my discipline, for literature students investigating their ideas in prose be the same ones we use to assess or train digital humanists? What is the role of the built object in capstone work for DH PhDs? How about programming? Or soldering? 
  • Double-disciplining: It is still true that digital humanists, particularly students, have to do twice the work for half the credit--not just in the dissertation, but in everything. We are expected to have full knowledge of the primary discipline that house and credentials us, as well as full knowledge of the emerging canon of thinking and range of practice of DH.
  • Can you fix my printer / build the department website / manage our Facebook page / explain the cloud to the department? Even DHers hired into academic positions may find themselves being asked to do kinds and numbers of tasks other professors or students are not asked to do.
  • RA work: how is being a research assistant in DH different from standard RA positions? Are there some best practices here? How to explain to others the value or scope of this work, and the skills unique to these positions? (Like project managment, collaboration, technical work, etc.)
  • Unreasonable job ads: "Department of Something seeks expert in Medieval Whatsit, an expertise in composition theory, and a funded multimillion dollar research project in DH." Many hiring departments do not seem to know quite how to hire a DHer into the tenure track, and what it is reasonable to expect. Needs some advocacy?
  • Access to research equipment, datasets, etc. This work often requires high-power tech, beyond the index cards (or Scrivener) that other humanist grad students need to get their work done. How to fund this?
  • Training: Nuff said.
  • Grad programs in DH: what should these look like? Are they a good idea? In what ways and for whom?
What do YOU think needs addressing. And how can I (and by extension, CSDH) help?

Drop some comments; tweet this and share with your network; beat the bushes from some ideas and some interested parties.

Give it your best shot, and I'll give it mine.