Change remains the same

By | September 25, 2011

As I’ve mentioned in passing, I’ve recently left my job as a digital strategist to start my PhD in the department of Media, Culture, and Communications at NYU, a move that folks on both sides of the Academy/Industry divide received with a certain amount of inevitability.

And in accordance to this shift in trajectory, I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog, its content, and its audience. I hope that even as I shift my focus to less immediately-actionable concerns, what I post here will be accessible and interesting (assuming, of course, that it ever was). A lot of my thinking right now revolves around globalization, location data, and cultural citizenship broadly. I’m becoming more and more interested in the tech sector as a cultural industry, and relatedly, venture capital and the political economy of innovation.

As a function of the sometimes awkward transition that I’m in the process of, I’ve also been thinking a lot of similarities and differences between the media/communications industries and the academy, particularly in relation to digital talent and scholarship, respectively.

A recent blog post by Natalia Cecire in her Works Cited blog struck me in how similar the issues/challenges/opportunities she describes surrounding the digital humanities in the academic “job market” (and the professional as a whole) were to those in the advertising/marketing/media industries. The shoe-horning of digital onto hiring requests. The valorization of digital as dean (or client) candy, which in turn works to alienate it from more established areas that digital should be working alongside. The┬álack of structural support for making digital innovation feel truly valued and consequential. The need to realize “the real promise of digital” beyond the novelty and flash and its challenge to the established working order of various industries.

I’m not yet familiar enough with the academic profession to really speak to how this might play out there, but on the industry side, it seems like many of the suggestions made by academics might apply: access to collaborators, time set aside for skill development, exposure to and time to develop ideas outside of their immediate responsibilities, senior support as well as the opportunity to mentor up. Granted, all easier said than done, but certainly worth keeping in mind. And perhaps, overall what might help is the very idea of adding “Humanities” to the Digital equation. That perhaps instead of recruiting for digital expertise along, there is a need to look for those hybrids who can think of digital in terms of culture and discourse, people and texts, rather than strategy and tools.

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