What I Should Have Said in my Panel About DH Careers this morning…

This morning I spoke on a Panel at the American Historical Association Conference about working in “alt-ac” (or more specifically, non tenure-track DH-related) career paths. In that panel I shared some of my own experiences with following a nontraditional career path that led to my working as an Administrator in Academic Technology for Chapman University. Additionally, I spoke about the training that I give to the graduate students in my “Intro to DH” course to prepare them for jobs outside of a traditional faculty position.

But there was one thing that I didn’t mention while I sat in that room, but that’s been on my mind ever since. And that is this: I am where I am because I liked to have fun and play on the internet. It is not because I ever followed anyone’s advice about what I “ought” to do.

The allure of the internet became apparent to me in 1996 when I was taking an undergrad class on feminist literature and I created a website called “The Bluestocking Bookshelf” that was a hyperlinked portal to the writings of my favorite female writers. Back then there were only a few dozen webpages devoted to the likes of Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, and I aimed to create an well-curated list of them as a resource for myself and for my classmates. Of course there were very few of my colleagues who had an internet connection (and I had to print out a copy of the website for my teacher), but by then I was already hooked in by the rich possibilities of the online medium.

In the intervening years rarely have I ever ventured into an online foray with the specific intention of increasing my employability, so it’s hard for me to advocate that graduate students and/or early-career scholars should follow my example. Instead, I think they should find that fun thing outside of their coursework that they love doing (whatever it is) and they should just do it. Even if it’s not yet clear how it will impact their career possibilities in the future.