SAH Blog


  • No More Plan B by Anthony T. Grafton and Jim Grossman

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    Oct 11, 2011

     New graduate students file in. They're nervous, they're  eager, they don't know quite what to expect. If the director  of graduate studies does the job well, the annual  orientation ritual will nourish their anticipation while  allaying their anxieties. Still, out of a sense of  responsibility, faculty members should keep one source  of reasonable trepidation on the table: the job market. It  is what it is, and new students need to enter with their  eyes open to it.

     But open to what? And what is the "it" that is the job  market for historians? Academe alone? That is what we say when we offer statistics on placement. That is what we say when the department placement officer proffers the annual warning that ye who enter here do so at your own peril. Most orientations include a reference-in the best cases even some focus-on "alternative" careers. But the default, the hope, the gold ring, is the tenure-track position.

    A curious irony. On the one hand, the intellectual experience that awaits our students is probably richer now than it has ever been. Traditional core fields like political and diplomatic history are experiencing revivals, new fields like transnational history are expanding, and new methods are being forged and honed. The old economy of scarcity that limited research in the early years of graduate school to the stacks of one's own university library has made way for a digital Land of Cockaigne. Verbal, visual, and aural sources from dozens of cultures crowd the screen of anyone enrolled at a university.

    Read the rest of this article at The Chronicle for Higher Education website

    photo of Henry Ford Museum by David Schalliol

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  • Do 'the Risky Thing' in Digital Humanities by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

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    Sep 27, 2011

    Last spring, I gave a talk on the digital future of scholarly publishing at the humanities center of a large research university. The crowd was small but engaged, and the discussion afterward was challenging and thoughtful. Near the end, however, a young woman asked a question that threw me for a second. "I'm a grad student and starting my dissertation," she said, "and while I want to do a digital project that would make my argument in an innovative form, I know the safe thing to do is to be conservative, to write something traditional and leave experimentation for later. What would you advise?"

    "Do the risky thing," I blurted, before my scruples intervened in the split second between phrases. My concerns went like this: I'm not her dissertation director; I don't want to create conflict in her progress toward her degree; I don't want to set up unreasonable expectations about what her department will actually support. And so my immediate qualification: "Make sure that someone's got your back, but do the risky thing."

    New forms of digital scholarship have received a great deal of attention across the humanities in the last few years, and from the coverage-in The Chronicle, The New York Times, and elsewhere-you would think the work had become prominent enough that it would no longer be necessary for a junior scholar to ask about the need to defend it. Digital humanities seem to have reached a critical mass of acceptance within academe, helped in no small part by groups like the Modern Language Association, whose past president, Sidonie Smith, is leading an investigation of future forms of the dissertation, and whose Committee on Information Technology is working on issues surrounding the review of digital scholarship for tenure and promotion. Yet such working groups are still working for a reason.

    Read the rest of this article as it originally appeared on The Chronicle of Higher Education (www.chronicle.com)

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  • The Art of Advocacy: The Museum as Design Laboratory by Barry Bergdoll

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    Sep 16, 2011

     Since 2007, when I ventured out of the academy to take  the reins of the Department of Architecture and Design at  the Museum of Modern Art, we have traversed an  unexpected set of economic, social and environmental  challenges in which the centrality of the design  professions has become manifestly clear, even as  larger forces - in which designers are too often complicit  - act to marginalize the disciplines of architecture,  landscape architecture, urban planning, design and the  fine arts. Having worked side-by-side with diverse  professionals, I am more than ever convinced that a  cooperative, multidisciplinary approach is fundamental to the future vitality of the field - and essential if designers are to contribute to solving the enormous problems of our day. At MoMA we have been trying to discover meaningful positions and prospects even as practitioners have been jolted into discussion of just where the moral compass should be set.

    The horizon of socioeconomic expectations - the matrix in which decisions were made and values assessed - of the early years of the new millennium seems distant today; new uncertainties prevail in the second decade of this now not-so-new century. What seemed a few years ago to be the emerging paradigms - the rapid maturation of digital fabrication, an explosion of new materials, a widespread acceptance of the priority of sustainability, a slowly reawakening ethos of social responsibility - are being submitted to intensive questioning from perspectives that are gaining daily in urgency.

    Continue reading "The Art of Advocacy: The Museum as Design Laboratory" on Places [at] Design Observer.

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