Posts Tagged mla

Teaching with Games: A CFP for MLA 2013

Building on several panels at the 2012 MLA Convention that separately considered digital pedagogy (“Building Digital Humanities in the Undergraduate Classroom,” “Digital Pedagogy,” and “New Media, New Pedagogies”) and games (“Digital Narratives and Gaming for Teaching Language and Literature” and “Close Playing: Literary Methods and Video Game Studies“), this electronic roundtable will generate discussions about the use of games in the teaching of literature, languages, and/or writing.

More than simple discussion, however, we will highlight concrete implementations of games in the classroom. Presenters will engage in informal discussion or offer interactive electronic demonstrations, lasting no more than 4 minutes. These presentations will take place at stations with appropriate audiovisual equipment around the meeting room. The remainder of the session’s time will allow the audience to circulate among stations, asking questions of the presenters. Those attending the session will leave with discrete assignments, activities, or ideas that they could build on in designing their own courses.

We welcome abstracts for presentations on any topic linking games and pedagogy, including the following practices:

  • Games for language acquisition
  • Interpretive games (e.g., the Ivanhoe game)
  • Games as platforms for discussions or activities
  • Gamification (as subject, as method); critiques of gamification (as subject, as method)
  • Student- or group-designed games
  • Games played inside/outside the classroom
  • Game modification
  • Social games in the context of a social/classroom space

Types of games may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Video games
  • Board / card games
  • Virtual Worlds / MMORPGs
  • Alternate Reality Games (ARGs)
  • Social games (e.g., Cow Clicker, Farmville, The Nethernet)
  • Spatial Games (e.g., foursquare, Shadow Cities, geocaching)

This roundtable session will feature up to eight presenters. Presenters are welcome from a broad range of institutions with a range of contexts and budget demands. Selection of participants will be based on a cross-spectrum of styles, classrooms, student experience, successes, and failures.

Send 300-word abstracts and bio to brian [dot] croxall [at] emory [dot] edu by 15 March 2012. N.B. All panelists will need to be MLA members (or have their membership waived) by April 7th.

I am organizing this session on behalf of the MLA’s Committee on Information Technology.

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Five Questions and Three Answers about Alt-Ac

What follows is my talk for a session at the 2012 MLA on “#alt-ac: Alternative Paths, Pitfalls, and Jobs in the Digital Humanities.” I’m thrilled to be speaking on the panel with a fantastic collection of alt-ackers that I admire: Julia Flanders, Matt Jockers, Shana Kimball, Bethany Nowviskie, and Lisa Spiro.

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  • Good afternoon, all. My comments today are titled, “Five Questions and Three Answers about Alt-Ac.”
  • I’m tremendously pleased to see this panel and the one that directly follows it happening at this year’s MLA.
  • The need for ongoing conversation about alternative academic careers was brought home to me again recently when I received a rejection notice—a very kind one, I might add—for a tenure-track job that I applied to this fall.
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  • Nine hundred applicants. You don’t need statistical analysis or to be a digital humanist to figure out those odds.
  • As Amanda Watson put it on Twitter, these sorts of odds make it clear that we must rethink graduate education and not ignore different paths for employment after the PhD. And that’s exactly what alt-ac can be.
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My Job

  • In my current position as a CLIR post-doctoral fellow at Emory University’s Woodruff Library, I’m lucky to be exploring the alt-ac track.
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  • My principal responsibility is to develop and manage digital humanities projects in DiSC, Emory’s Digital Scholarship Commons. I also taught an Intro to Digital Humanities this semester.
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  • In the past year, I worked to get DiSC off the ground, along with three colleagues. All of us are on the alt-ac track together.
  • And this situation brings me to the first of my promised questions:
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    What’s the relationship between DH and alt-ac jobs?

Relationship Between Alt-Ac and DH (Question 1)

  • As many of you may have seen, Stanley Fish recently had a piece in The New York Times, where he talks about the rise of the digital humanities at the MLA. His observation is a bit behind those (Howard 2009; Pannapacker 2009; Howard 2011; Pannapacker 2011) who made similar statements about the 2009 and 2011 MLA…but we’ll give him a break. He is Stanley Fish, after all.
  • What you might not have seen was the very smart response to Fish from Ted Underwood, who teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature in the English department of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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  • Underwood suggests that one of the reasons why DH is not the future of literary studies is because it “is not a movement within literary studies.” It’s equally at home in history departments (the slate of DH activities happening at the AHA right now certainly bear witness to this fact), in art history, in linguistics, in libraries, and many more corners of the campus.
  • Underwood calls digital humanities “extra disciplinary.” We might say the same thing about alt-academics.
  • One of the obvious connections between DH and alt-ac, then, is how extra-disciplinary they both are.

The Future (Questions 2 & 3)

  • Question #2: Is alt-ac the future of DH?
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  • Well…not entirely. We have the creation of tenure track positions—and occasionally cluster hires—at places such as Maryland, Nebraska, Iowa, Clemson, Northeastern, and more. These positions are clearly not alt-ac.
  • But insofar as scholarship in the Digital Humanities tends to require collaboration on multiple scales, those in these positions will in fact be “alt”—marked by difference. The pursuit of tenure for these scholars won’t be the same as those who have previously been promoted.
  • What’s more, I think alt-ac is the likely track for most positions in the digital humanities—and probably for the university as a whole.
  • In fact, let’s face it: the university is already primarily populated by people who are non-fac. And many of the non-fac are the alt-ac.
  • That being said, alt-ac cannot mean short, terminal contracts; alt-ac cannot be a continued casualization of labor in the university. Instead, we should look to models elsewhere in the university—libraries, administration, research only positions—for helping us structure these career paths, both within and without DH.
  • What’s more, these must be career paths. We need to think about how to create opportunities for advancement.
  • Now let’s turn it around (question #3, by the way): Is DH the future of alt-ac?
    Screen Shot 2012 01 07 at 2 13 50 PM
  • No.
  • There many different ways to get your “alt on” that don’t involve building things (as Stephen Ramsay would have it). You can find alt-ac careers in a library, in a museum, in an archive, in a federal agency, in a think tank, or even—dare I say it—in administration.
  • So it’s not necessarily helpful for us to frame alt-ac as only being a thing that happens in digital humanities.
  • Again, one of the lessons of “alt-ac” as a concept is that there is intellectual labor in getting things done, in accomplishing the very impressive and real work of the university, throughout the whole university.

Bonus Questions

  • And finally, a question (#4) that I’ve heard no one ask aloud: how should the MLA deal with the rise of alt-ac?
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    After all, sessions like this have little to do (on the surface at least) with the study of the modern languages.
  • #5, and the kicker:
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    Can the MLA shift its purpose from representing those who teach and research modern languages to those who study or studied the modern languages?
  • This simple shift would be enough to make the whole of what we’re discussing—to say nothing of the panelists—belong unequivocally at this annual Convention. I’m not sure that it’s something that alt-ac needs so much as a way to keep the MLA relevant with what the transformations we’re facing.

Conclusions

  • More than either an object or method of study, the digital is something that is happening to the humanities in the 21st century.
    Alt ac panel 011
  • And alt-ac is something that is happening to universities.
    Alt ac panel 012
    It is not the only thing nor is it necessarily the most important. But it’s happening and in some cases it’s a very good thing.
  • Perhaps in 2017 (or ’18 or ’19) we’ll be reading a piece from Stanley Fish talking about the rise of reconfigured, hybrid professionals at the MLA. And if in 2018 he’s a few years late in noticing the rise of alt-ac, well, so much the luckier for the rest of us who will have been the beneficiaries of the future’s accelerated arrival.
  • Thanks.
    Alt ac panel 013

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Three Reasons to Use Social Media in Hard Times (MLA 2011 Version)

It’s been so long since this year’s MLA ended that you might wonder why I’m going to the trouble of posting my second talk. Hasn’t the moment passed? Does anyone care about what I said two months ago, even if you weren’t there? And considering the arguments that I make in this talk about social media being faster than regular scholarly communication, isn’t there some irony in my taking so long to get this up? So it goes.

I have a ream of excuses (from snow to THATCamp Southeast) for why I’m a bit behind the curve on posting this talk. But the reason I’m finally getting to it today is the Day of Digital Humanities (AKA #dayofDH). As I wrote in my first post this morning on my Day of DH blog, the digital humanities is not only about Digging into Data and distant reading but is also about the digital distribution of humanities scholarship. Hence, a long delayed blog post.

As I mentioned when summarizing my MLA, this talk was part of the “New Tools, Hard Times” panel, where I spoke alongside Marc Bousquet, Rosemary FealMarilee Lindemann, and Chris NewfieldMeredith L. McGill moderated the session. Marilee organized the panel and was generous enough to invite me to play along. Marilee blogged her talk and Chris posted his reflections on the panel. And if you want to read the VERY lively tweetstream for the session, look at the hashtag archive for #newtools.

The one thing that I wish I had done differently with my talk is change the title. Writing for ProfHacker has taught me the value of a title that promises discrete numbers. Your audience knows as they’re going in exactly how many data points you’ll be giving them. What’s more, there’s a suggestion that these data points will be something discrete, something that they can apply and use in the future. Those are some of the reasons why I chose the title I did. But personally, I found the title too similar to the talk I gave in Trinidad last October. It’s more than a little, however, likely that no one else pays enough attention to what I’m doing to notice the parallels. I attribute the lack of creativity in titles to how late I was up re-working on the talk the night before I gave it. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d call it “The Glass Tower: Social Media in the Academy in Hard Times.” But then I’ve gone ahead and committed the terrible sin of the colon-ized academic title. Perhaps it’s well enough as it is.

What follows is the text that I used when presenting. In a few places I ad-libbed, but you’re getting the gist here. And I’ve included the images that accompanied the text (images precede the text). In rare cases, you’re missing part of the dynamism of the transitions, and you’ll just have to consider that a good reason to see me give my next talk in person.

Three Reasons to Use Social Media in Hard Times

Good afternoon. I’m glad to be present today. You may have heard that I was unaccountably absent from last year’s MLA. Of course, if you’ve heard that—or have even heard of me—it’s largely due to the confluence of two trends: hard times in the academy and social media.

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The hard times that the academy has been facing recently have been well documented, and unfortunately SUNY Albany is not so much a watershed as a disappointing continuation of a trend. While the number of positions advertised in the MLA’s Job Information List during the last academic year ended up being higher than Fall 2009 led us to believe [PDF], it remains true that most college classes are taught by people who are not on the tenure track. As Marc Bousquet has written about today’s job “market,” finishing one’s PhD is often the best way to make sure that one will never teach college again. My own difficulties with finding even an interview for a “proper” job is my dubious claim to fame and the reason I’m sharing a seat at this table with these more distinguished panelists.

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At the same time that the academy has been going through furloughs, hiring and pay freezes, and the erosion of public and private funding, we have been discovering social media. We, like everyone else, use social media for managing networks of friendships. But academics increasingly use social media, both in their research and teaching: for example, a recent Chronicle article cited a survey that suggests more than 30% of faculty are using Twitter.

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While this rise in social media is merely correlated with hard times in the academy, it’s still a relationship worth noting. My own, academic use of social media coincides neatly with my own hard times in the academy. I began blogging at the same time I began applying for jobs, in the fall of 2007; I started using Twitter shortly after returning from the 2007 MLA in Chicago; I built my own website in Spring 2008 and radically overhauled it as I was going on the job market for a third time in 2009.

As a whole, I believe many academics view social networking in the way the philologists probably viewed the new criticism: it’s new, it’s what younger scholars are doing, and, perhaps most damningly, it’s “not how things have been done.”

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All of this is true, to an extent, and the university is an institution that prides itself on continuity and tradition. But given the hard times in the academy, I’m skeptical that we can hope for continuity. For good or ill, the university is a-changin’. So with that, I’d like to quickly touch on three reasons why hard times call for us to use social media:

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It’s cheaper; it’s faster; and it’s more open.

It’s Cheaper

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Although we don’t have money to meet with each other as often as we may have had in the past, we can use social media to help us communicate with one another even if we can’t attend. My own experience shows that this can still be effective. Not only did my own paper for last year’s MLA go viral on a small scale, but I was able to participate in other sessions remotely as people tweeted about what they were hearing or blogged their conference talks. I could ask questions in real time and have them relayed to the speaker in the conference rooms.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t have support to attend conferences or to be engaged in professional development. Indeed, we must assert that participation in these venues is necessary to being scholars. But even when money is not such a pressing issue, there are always more events than time. Social media helps us be in multiple places at once.

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This is not to say that we shouldn’t have support to attend conferences or to be engaged in professional development. Indeed, we must assert that participation in these venues is necessary to being scholars. But even when money is not such a pressing issue, there are always more events than time. In the interest of time, however, I’ll just point you to Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence.

It’s Faster

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Speaking of journals, social networks are much more efficient at disseminating information and scholarly work. This is something you intuitively know if you’ve ever had a journal fall behind on their publication schedule once they’ve accepted one of our articles.

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I had a great opportunity to observe a case study of the speed of social media this week in connection with the “Because” manifesto, which was written by a friend.

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On the morning of Tuesday, January 4th, the first tweet about the manifesto went out. (It happened to be from me.)

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Shortly after my first tweet is sent, people begin retweeting it. And some of them work for The Chronicle.

In retweeting, some people pull out excerpts that resonate with them.

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Others comment on what the message says.

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Some people offer suggestions for how the MLA could respond.

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Another response on Twitter is that people start talking about how the post is “making the rounds.” This naturally gets more people reading it and spreading the post further.

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Even AdjunctHulk weighs in.

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Not everyone is going to give Paraphernalian a free pass.

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And others don’t find that Paraphernalian speaks for his or her experience in the Academy.

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Eventually I realize that I have to include this brief history in my talk, which I had already written.

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And finally the post gets picked up by Inside Higher Ed. All of this in less than 24 hours.

Social media is fast enough to provide us and our work with a large audience—one that outstrips what we can normally expect from our publications. As Paraphernalian wrote to me privately, it’s “Weird that more ppl will read this than anything I wrote as an academic.”

It’s More Open

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Too often the justifications made by state legislatures to cut funding is that no one is really sure what academics do with their time and money. Social media, then, can help those outside the academy understand what we do in higher education.

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Suddenly the academy isn’t as shielded from the outside world. It’s no longer an ivory tower.

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We’ve become much more like a glass tower. Or as Dan Cohen puts it in his forthcoming book, we move from an ivory tower to an open web. Helping people see how hard professors work is part of helping the academy when we’re in hard times.

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Academics are not always especially good at sharing their work with other people. But I think that social media helps us get over that mistrust as we get to know each other better, through what Clive Thompson has called a “social sixth sense.” Social networks, in other words, help those of us inside the academy share our work and ideas, as well as our lives with one another.

Perhaps those who feel most disconnected from an academic community are the contingent labor among us. Even if you’re at a school that invests in you and cares about you, you might not have time to participate in your 9-to-5 academic community because you’re teaching too much or you’re on your way to the next school. The openness of social networks can allow the most disenfranchised among us to find community, then.

Perhaps my attitude about the importance of openness for the academy in hard times is cavalier, a function of my (relative) youth, inexperience, and lack of a tenure-track position. After all, it’s always important to be circumspect when communicating online. That being said, I have to admit that I’ve opted to be fairly open in my online interactions and that it’s had a salutary effect on my career. I’m speaking here now in large part because of it.

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As such, if I may propose some questions for discussion, I’d ask how us to consider how we can advise graduate students in effectively using social networks in an academy which appears to be permanently facing hard times. And secondly, to return to the subject of publishing, to what degree should academic freedom be extended not only to the area of one’s research but also the mode/method in which that research is conducted and presented?

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Dr. ProfHacker, or How I L3rn3d to St0p Worry1ng and <3 teh fail!!1! (MLA 2011 Version)

As you might have intuited from a previous post, I had the opportunity to attend the recent 2011 MLA Convention in Los Angeles. One of the panels that I spoke on was organized by Jason B. Jones and featured a trio of the ProfHacker team on the theme of “Hacking the Profession: Academic Self-Help in an Age of Crisis.” Here’s the description of session #48 from the official MLA program: “This roundtable discusses how we narrate our academic lives online, whether in blogs or on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or in any other format. In particular, we are interested in how we talk about failure or, more gently, about the common problems that plague any academic life: the class that doesn’t quite work, the committee that’s driving us crazy, or the article that can’t quite find a home.”

To insure that we had plenty of time left for discussion, we decided to practice what we preach and give our talks in the Pecha Kucha format (AKA 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide). This was my first time giving a talk in this style, and I found it a very interesting exercise. Often I write my talks and only come to the images later, but I found that I had to work on both simultaneously since the slides would determine where I would be in the moment of my argument. I also discovered that in 20 seconds I can say at most 4 lines of 12-point Times New Roman text. I liked the whole approach well enough that I’ll definitely include a Pecha Kucha presentation the next time I teach.

What follows is the text that I cribbed from when presenting at the MLA. In a few places I ad-libbed, especially on the first slide. But you’re getting the gist here. And I’ve included the images that accompanied the text (images precede the text). Make sure you don’t miss Natalie M. Houston’s talk from the same session on “Happiness Hacking.”

Dr. ProfHacker, or How I L3rn3d to St0p Worry1ng and <3 teh fail!!1!

Title Slide Title, introduce myself.

 

Admit to this being my first time doing Pecha Kucha. A Genius

The problem of the academy, especially the humanities, is that we’ve been too easily waylaid by the ideal of the romantic genius. We think we need to be like the people we study. That we as scholars must be solo geniuses. And we believe that genius scholars never have problems…or failures.

Sign with poor spelling from Failblog

It doesn’t have to be this way. Failure is a common human experience. As little as academics seem like humans at times, then, we need to plan on having failures. And we shouldn’t consider it unusual or untoward. Some academics have become better than others at this.

test tubes

In a 2007 article in Wired, Thomas Goetz considered the problem of “dark data,” information that is abandoned since it doesn’t conform to hypotheses or doesn’t yield a dramatic enough outcome for a high-profile publication. Reporting on failures is valuable, writes Goetz, because “your dead end may be another scientist’s missing link, the elusive chunk of data they needed” (Goetz).

Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis

A possible solution to this problem is the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine, which, Goetz notes, “has offered a peer-reviewed home to results that go negative or against the grain” since 2002. Since that same year, the Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis, reports on “experiments that do not reach the traditional significance levels…[t]hus, reducing the file drawer problem, and reducing the bias in psychological literature” (JASNH website).

LolLacan

These two journals play an important role for their particular fields by making “failure” public. Perhaps the idea of publishing unsuccessful research is not applicable to every field. But while we do not yet have a Failed Lacanian Interventions Quarterly, many academics are talking about failures in their professional lives as a whole. These discussions about research, teaching, and service take place on blogs, on wikis, and on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Banner for my class

The advantage of discussing our failures in public is that we can get help from other people. As an example, in Spring 2010 I taught a senior-level seminar. I’d taught the class once before and it had been really successful. Last January, I found myself in a classroom setting where I couldn’t get the students to talk to me. In a discussion-based class, it was obvious that I was failing.

Tweets about my class

My frustration with the situation resulted in my trying several different in-class activities. But at the same time, I wrote online about the difficulty of the experience that I was having. (You’ll notice from the tenor of these tweets that I was more caught up in the notion of my own genius rather than noticing that I was failing my class.)

a help sign

Meeting with the director of undergraduate studies and asking him for help was useful, but so too was the response I received from my network of colleagues who had had similar experiences in the past. In particular, Erin Templeton saw my plaint and wrote a ProfHacker post about how silence is golden…until it isn’t.

ProfHacker post

Erin’s post begins by recounting her own “failure” in getting a class to talk and what steps she took to both get her students talking and in coming to terms with what she could not change. Among other things, she suggested methods that she had learned from other academics public narratives. (You’ll notice a virtuous circle happening where one person narrates publicly and others get the benefit.)

 

ivory tower

I never did get that class talking as much as I had hoped to, but narrating my experiences and asking for help online—rather than staying locked in my ivory tower—improved not only the class’s interactions, but also my own abilities as a teacher. ProfHacker became, in a sense, a Journal of Negative Results.

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At the risk of patting ourselves too much on the backs, however, I’d like to suggest that ProfHacker and the work of others like Tenured Radical, Dean Dad, Sisyphus, and many more expose a different sort of failure: the general failure of the academy to make plain many of its most regular practices, from mentoring to writing letters of recommendation.

Old compass on a map

Narrating our lives need not only be about personal failures, then, but a desire to correct the failures of the academy to make its customs navigable to those who are new. By discussing how the academy works—even when it isn’t working so well in its present circumstances of “hard times”—we provide opportunities to diversify who can be successful in the profession.

Three academic self-help books

There are increasing numbers of academic self-help books. Many of these are really useful, from Donald E. Hall to Kathryn Hume to The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career. But these books are limited in being from only one point of view. The advantage of narrating your academic life publicly is that you can hear from a wide range of interlocutors.

Steven Johnson book cover; crossed picture of A Genius

It’s this wide range of interlocutors that makes a university interesting. Large groups of creative and interesting people working together are also what author Steven Johnson suggests is responsible for innovation. In other words, Johnson’s book argues against the model of the solitary genius, against the idea that one person can repeatedly create something ex nihilo.

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The advantage of narrating your life online, failures included, is that whether you are at a large research institution or not, you can participate in large group conversations that not only inform but also create, such as the real-time, crowdsourced publication Digital Humanities Now or the comment threads at ProfHacker.

 

An ivy covered college

Now, it might seem problematic to be narrating our personal and institutional failures when the academy is facing such hard times. After all, how can we expect state legislatures or individuals to continue funding our campuses if they are aware that we fail at times?

man with camera over his face

Contrary to expectations, however, I think that showing our failings might make us more sympathetic to those outside of academia. Instead of being the romantic geniuses in our ivory tower, we start to look a little bit human. And humans and human experience is what lies at the heart of the university.

Google Wave logo

In 2009, Google made a splash when it announced Wave. In 2010, Google made a splash when it announced that it was going to kill Wave. If you’d ever used Wave, this probably came as no surprise. I believe there’s a lesson that we can learn from Google, however. Admit our failures—including the academy’s—and do so quickly. Then talk about them.

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Thanks.

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Guest Post: Pick 13 at MLA 2011

The following is a guest post from MLA Executive Director, Rosemary Feal. Rosemary asked on Twitter yesterday if anyone would be willing to post a short guest post from her on his or her blog. I volunteered, and the rest is history. If you want to play along, you can find the 2011 MLA Convention program here [PDF]. –BC

It’s easy to cherry-pick 13 sessions for the purpose of finding plays on words, references to popular culture, use of specialized vocabulary, or titles that, well, just sound alien. Or are about aliens. Zombies, even.

What would happen if I picked 13 sessions entirely at random, I wondered? So I went to random.org and asked it to choose 13 numbers between 1 and 821 (821 was the last session number on the MLA convention program). Here’s what it came up with. Try this at home, kids, and report in!
~ Rosemary G. Feal

466. Teaching Asian American Literatures

7. German in the Life of the University: A View from the Trenches

751. Writing and Curatorship: The History of the Book

249. Career Options in Translation for Language Students

67. Modernist Transnationalism and Japanese Noh: (Mis)Translating Culture in Yeats, Pound, Konishi

345. Psychoanalysis and Love

711. Literature before the Social Sciences

449. Where Are We Now? Ecocriticism and Narrative Scholarship

31. In and out of the Archive: Biography, Autobiography, and Constructing the “Self”

457. African American Literature on the Pacific Rim

115. Sephardic Resurgence!

37. Teaching the Senior Seminar

637. Narrating Lives from East to West (1400–1700)

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