I’d Like to Thank the Academy… (or not?)

Kidding. Well, not so much – I am grateful every day for the chances I have to study here. Yet, as technology and digital concerns are increasingly prevalent in everyday life and discourse, it is incredibly discouraging to see that the academy in both art history and musicology are so behind when it comes to embracing digital method and digital scholarship and its validity. Ayers notes in “Does Digital Scholarship Have a Future?” how the academy and path to tenure has not changed, despite huge changes in the technological world around us. This is not necessarily encouraging. Sidni Dunn echoes these concerns in ” Digital Humanists: If You Want Tenure, Do Double the Work,” an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

This is especially difficult as the scholarly community is developing online in ways it doesn’t in person. Musicology and digital humanities scholars have very active twitter platforms, where scholars critique, promote, and discuss new scholarship. Not only that, but they are finding their voices in critiquing the state of academic life and the issues inherent to the structures of the academy.

More than that, I have found Twitter in particular to be a great way to guage interest in ideas, test the waters, and announce fellowships. This community building is incredibly important for scholars. Just last week, a couple students in a seminar I’m in sent out the word on the results of a group project we had done. This reader, a History of Musicology, was our updated and modern approach to addressing a historically very elitist field by highlighting interventionary texts in the discourse. People responded quickly and with great excitement! One person’s post had 253 likes, 93 retweets, and 70 comments, while another had over 100 likes, retweets, and comments. That is incredibly overwhelming feedback from a community of scholars that rivals that of a conference presentation or paper.

The means through which we communicate with each other are changing. Actually, I’d venture to say they have already changed permanently.

The publishing has changed significantly, as well, as more blogs and strictly online repositories and archives are gaining MLA classification and repudiation. More importantly, scholars are just using these sources more often. They get the foot traffic of left clicks. They have people’s interest and ease of access (sometimes). And, scholars such as Joan Fragaszy Troyano  are working to publish guides like “Discovering Scholarship on the Open Web: Communities and Methods” so that this new world of online publication and research is supported, ethically sound, reputable, and trustworthy.

But how long will it take us to reach that point? How long will we sit in acquiescence while we are keeping up with one world of new technology while still conforming to the monographic tenure approval process?

I have no idea. Because really, we can talk all we want about the issue but never actually fix the problem. I’ve never had a conversation about this privately or in class that has produced viable solutions or suggestions for alleviating this incredible pressure on young scholars to be hip and new yet also continue the time-honored tradition of working alone in a dark room, driving yourself crazy writing a book you don’t know if you care about in order to have some job security and maybe buy a home or start a family.

All this in perspective, though, there are worse things to have to deal with in order to have a job and get paid. I don’t mean to complain. I’m merely throwing my opinion out into the ether while hypocritically offering no solution other than that we need a solution (or two. or three).