DH09: ACH general meeting

in DigiLib BLog
June 24th, 2009

The Association for Computers and the Humanities wants YOU to be a member. You get an OUP journal subscription out of it! And ACH, one of the organizations putting on this conference, is funded by its membership dues. Do it, folks.

Stefan Sinclair, chair of the ACH jobs effort, is putting on a jobs slam! Like speed-dating, but different. Job seekers are going to spend 30 seconds each presenting themselves, and perhaps they’ll get hooked up with jobs. But first, job opportunities:

Brett Bobley: NEH digital humanities center fellowships! NEH pays both you and the center to get you set up, and you do research for a year. *sigh* Dream job. If only I didn’t already have a dream job, I’d totally apply.

Neil Fraistat: MITH has a job opening, another assistant director in charge of web programming and proofreading! Get in touch with them if you are such a person or know of such people.

Claire Warwick: University College London has a postdoc fellowship in user experience of digital reading, connected with the INK project. A year; all being well [funded], five years. They want someone with a background in user studies.

Stefan Sinclair: McMaster University has a digital humanities/high performance computing postdoc fellowship. First position of its kind, one year with other possibilities. They want to prototype not only larger-scale text analysis that takes weeks, but also on-demand HPC.

Now, for job seekers.

Amanda French… isn’t here! PhD in English, studies the villanelle and other poetic forms, website design, information architecture, usability, DH curriculum development.

Sarah Toton! PhD in American Studies expected this December. She’s experienced in digital project planning, project management, information architecture etc. She’s writing a dissertation on robots!

John Murray. His B.S. is in Digital Narratives. He’s a programmer, writer and artist… and he has a job already! Nice.

Tanya Clement! PhD in English Lit, experienced in TEI text encoding, visualizations and text analysis. Matt Kirschenbaum, her dissertation supervisor, says: “Tanya is the best.” Well said (see also her presentation on Gertrude Stein, that I blogged earlier).

Paula Chesley! Doctor, linguist, studies statistical methods in linguistics, natural language processing, Romance and English linguistics, and psycholinguistics. “Basically, what I’m interested in is words.”

Joshua Sternfelt is a postdoc at UCLA, got his doctorate in history from UCLA and transitioned to digital history. Interested in pedagory, oral history and sound technology, and digital theory [what exactly does that mean?..] Seems to be fantastically involved in several communities and events.

Matt Wilkens is a literature PhD, right now a Mellon postdoc fellow at Rice. He studies contemporary American fiction, corpus methods in literary criticism and history, and literary and rhetorical theory.

Jeremy Douglass is a postdoc at UC San Diego. Others have spoken, but too softly for me to hear, and too quickly for me to record. Sorry, guys; feel free to augment.

Stefan asks: so what can ACH, as an organization, do to help you find jobs? And people who have recently hired other people, what is most important for candidates to know, besides the basics?

Dot Porter is an American recently hired to work in Ireland, and the process was a bit different from one in the States. In the US, you go for a couple of days of interview, meet everyone, it’s all stressful. In Ireland, she went for a day, had an hour an a half long interview with specific and probing questions, and it was still stressful but felt good. Another thing: after Dot came on board in October, they hired other people. An applicant with a wonderful application, great CV, great references… and the phone interview was terrible. Like it was a completely different person from who was on the CV. So if you put past experience on your CV, someone might ask you about it, and you should be prepared to talk about it! Otherwise it’s just embarrassing.

Stefan’s tip for anyone going into a “traditional” discipline with a strong DH focus: it’s very tough, if you get an offer, you don’t want to compromise that — but do try to get DH production in the contract, and it won’t be limited to publications, but important scholarship in non-traditional ways (projects, for example) should be considered.

Bethany Nowviskie makes a good point: get your job description broken down into percentages of time dedicated to each kind of activity. That way, you may be able to negotiate time for research. Particularly important for people who aren’t on the tenure track or tenured.

Matt Wilkens reminds us of MLA’s recent undertaking, that of creating recommendations for digital research evaluation for promotion and tenure. Perhaps ACH could create something similar that job candidates could then point to, as a tool that would interviewers evaluate candidates’ digital work. Many nods from the audience; “that’s a super suggestion.”

Claire Warwick and Melissa Terras beg you to keep your covering letter short, and also tailor both your CV and your covering letter to each individual job. Common sense and widely known, but people still don’t do it.

Lev Manovich says: research the campus, the program, the faculty and their research interests. Show that you’re really interested, invested, in being at that specific place and working with those specific people. Neil Fraistat is surprises by the number of applications he gets for MITH jobs from people who don’t even seem to know what MITH is. So, yeah, do your research.

John Unsworth: once someone has made you an offer, the game starts over, and at that point you have bargaining power that is also likely your last opportunity for a number of years. So use it, though don’t overplay the game. :) But at that point, you are no longer the supplicant, so do shift gears.

On to the more usual general meeting. Julia Flanders, president of ACH, updates us on recent happenings. In the last year, ACH has focused on funding student bursaries, both for this conference and for the DH summer institute in Victoria; working on a project of making the history of DH research more accessible, and they’re digitizing and TEI-encoding all conference abstracts going back to the very beginning. Edward Vanhoutte and Melissa Terras are also hunting down all kinds of materials — meeting minutes, Humanist list posts, abstracts, articles. blog posts… Maybe all this can be data-mined! In the future, ACH would also be interested in proposals for how this data may be used.

ACH has also been supporting the Digital Humanities Quarterly, which is, frankly, the coolest DH publication I know of. Do check it out; two issues are already out this year, and a third issue will be released hopefully at the end of the summer, with another in the fall.

ACH also supported a manuscript editing workshop in London, and sponsored a TEI meeting. This is something they’re interested in expanding: supporting small events. Not a lot of money, but perhaps seed money that can “leaven the DH dough.”

In the coming year, ACH website will be redesigned.

Another topic this year is that the job-search-related events will hopefully be expanded. Have suggestions? Contact Stefan Sinclair.

After four years, Melissa Terras is stepping down as The Membership Person. Instead, there will be a more generic membership email address, emails to which will be answered by a more distributed group of people. In the past four years, the LLC journal subscription has risen 68% to just under 300 subscribers. Cool! Paul Caton proposes a prize designated for the 300th member. This could be you!

Announcement: The Literary and Linguistic Computing Centre at Cambridge will be turning 45 in October, and its director of 35 years John Dawson will retire then. They’ll be celebrating! If you’re in Cambridge then, do join them.

The end.

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