Posts Tagged failure
How’s that for a clickbait title?
tl;dr: You can now do open-peer review on something Quinn Warnick and I wrote, https://digitalpedagogy.commons.mla.org/keywords/failure/.
Way, way back in what feels like forever ago—and perhaps it was given my two new jobs since then—I attended the 2012 MLA Convention in Seattle. That convention was notable for a number of things for me, including a panel that I co-organized with Kathi Inman Berens on “Building Digital Humanities in the Undergraduate Classroom”; a talk that I gave on #altac and the digital humanities; and the publication of Debates in the Digital Humanities. Note that I didn’t have anything to do with the latter, but it’s a book that changed the field and Minnesota was kind enough to buy pizza for the small but growing DH contingent at the MLA.
Also at that convention, I ended up in a conversation about digital pedagogy and the lack of books on the subject, which was thrown into sharp contrast by the appearance of Debates. The happy result is that in the months that followed I found myself engaged on the advisory board of what eventually became titled, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. The editors who steered the project—Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers—felt that a publication on digital pedagogy probably shouldn’t be limited to print as it simply didn’t respect the medium of the discussion. And fortunately, they were able to place the project with a press that agreed: the Modern Language Association using its tremendous MLA Commons platform. The result will be a book-like publication that is open access and allows for the presentation of original assignments and student work in relation to those assignments.
Even early on in the process, the editors knew that they wanted to organize the volume by keywords that were central to digital pedagogy. Those who contributed keywords would curate pedagogical artifacts and materials in relation to their term. I was both amused and flattered when I was asked by the editorial team to tackle “failure.” It was only a couple of years since I had flailed and failed very publicly in the pursuit of a job and I had since given talks and written articles about failure of one sort or another. It seemed like the FAIL meme had come home to roost and that I should embrace it.
I might have embraced it a little bit too hard at first, and I failed to make much progress in pulling together my thoughts on “failure.” But last November, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at Virginia Tech by wonderful Quinn Warnick, whom I had met at the DH Conference in 2013. (Kids, never let people tell you that networking won’t pay off.) Our conversations over my time in Blacksburg led me to think that Quinn could be an ideal person to fail with, and we began to discuss what failure meant in the context of our own teaching and that of people we admired. Eventually, we decided that there were four types of failure in digital pedagogy:
- the technical glitches we have all experienced in our teaching, when something just doesn’t work
- the difficulties students have in implementing tools that are functioning just fine
- when students are directed to find failure in others’ work as an opportunity to do better in one’s own, like peer review
- failure as an epistemology, where students are asked to fail on purpose
Along with articulating how we saw failure working in the classroom, we found assignments or experiences that responded to each of these tiers of failure. We wrote them up and sent it off to our editors.
I’m now proud to say that Quinn’s and my keyword has appeared as part of the open review process for Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities. From now until 18 January 2016, you will be able to tell us exactly how well—or how badly—we failed at describing “failure.” (Consider it a Tier 3 exercise!) Please join in the conversation and let us know what you think: https://digitalpedagogy.commons.mla.org/keywords/failure/.
I love my job. I build amazing projects with a great team. I teach courses about all things digital. I collaborate extensively with friends on a wide range of projects. And along the way, I get to rethink what it means to work in and around the academy. My role is part of what has been increasingly called an alternative academic—or alt-ac—career.
Last year, the #alt-academy collection highlighted the wide range of jobs that fall under the umbrella of alt-ac. I contributed an essay on how to go about finding and applying for such positions as well as reflecting on the feelings and appearance of failure that one may (inevitably?) feel on transitioning from traditional academic careers and into a new position. My paper was part of a cluster in #alt-academy dedicated to providing “signposts” for people who were trying to figure out new trajectories, actively working on getting there.
In May of this year, a second Getting There cluster was announced. Like the first, this collection will provide a venue for discussing the pathways one may take to an alt-ac track and provide these signposts for those who are curious about alt-ac. My exciting job has slowed me down in organizing this cluster as I would have liked to. But today, I am formally inviting abstracts for essays and other media that explore “getting there.”
Contributions to the cluster may include any of the following:
- reflections on the decisions and circumstances that lead or led to alternative academic work
- the education and training of graduate students
- consideration of the practices that prepare one to be successful on the alt-ac track
- suggestions for overcoming barriers to effective preparation for alt-ac work
- critical essays, personal narratives, or general “alt-ac advice”
While I expect most submissions for this CFP will take the form of original essays, the #alt-academy project welcomes other forms of participation and media: YouTube videos, diaries, materials from panels or workshops, tweets tagged with #altacadvice, previously published blog posts, and more.
Given the participants in the first iteration of #alt-academy, many of the contributions are slanted towards those working within the digital humanities. While welcoming further contributions from those within that community of practice, I am particular eager to see abstracts from those working elsewhere in the academy.
#alt-academy accepts new contributions at any time. However, I know deadlines make it easier for all of us to get things done. As such, please send abstracts by 17 November 2012. Drafts of essays will be expected by early winter 2013 but will certainly be welcome before that point. Individual pieces for the “Getting There 2” cluster will probably be published as they are completed.
Contributing to #alt-academy is a bit unusual. But so is the nature of our work.