When I began my wonderful entanglement with The Studio in 2018, I did not know what would result. I wanted to learn new digital methods, theorize about digital work in contemporary higher education, and become a bit more sophisticated when it came to doing work that would reach out beyond academic journals. As I mentioned in my second blog for The Studio Summer Fellowship, I never would have imagined that I would do research focusing on Kosovo, learn skills related digital mapping, or have to figure it all out during a global health emergency. Yet here we are.
Moving into this PDH Capstone semester, I found myself turning to a state of wonder as I follow three threads of digital engagement in my scholarly journey.
The first thread pushes me to return to the digital work I have already done. The maps I worked on during my summer fellowship need polishing. Some are worthy of showing off, but others need a bit more streamlining. Do I need them to be perfect to serve as a proof of concept for future digital work? I wonder whether a project that was intended to be (1) a platform for a personal learning experience, (2) a tool to help a research team visualize a difficult data set, and (3) a product for a very niche audience should now be leveraged in some new way. There is no doubt the work needs to be finished, but does it need to include features that show what I can do (beyond what it needs to do? I currently lean toward no, because that feels self-serving. At the same time, does small-scale digital scholarship beget larger digital scholarship based, in part, on the electronic traces it leaves in cyberspace? Must I leave a certain type of trace?
The second thread leaves me wondering how to write about the digital interdisciplinary work that I currently do in order to obtain grant funding. I cannot share much about the data I use on here at this time, but essentially my work relates to digitally curating a set of European educational policy data and using it to show how it affects students’ lives. Sure, I can model this data statistically, but it doesn’t then have the potential pack as much punch as visualizations do. That said, in order to garner enough support to protect my time to do this work, I have to write about my scholarship differently to apply for grants from data curation funds, education research funds, policy/political science research funds, or general international research funds. In addition to the disciplinary cultures this requires me to navigate, I must also consider how the grantmaking conventions differ from U.S. contexts to European contexts. I certainly do not have the protected time to do all this grant-seeking. Thus I wonder what kind of time investments do I want to make, whose patronage do I want, and how can I foresee the strings that are attached?
The third and final thread relates to the future scholarly work. As I approach the academic job market (I’ll graduate in 2023!), I wonder what to do as I become ever more aware that digital skills are not particularly valued in my discipline. While many doctoral students find their way to The Studio seeking pathways out of traditional academic careers, I still very much want to be a professor. I left a solid higher education career that I loved in order to make the educational investments needed to obtain a professor position – a choice I wholeheartedly stand behind. Along the way, in addition to the traditional research, teaching, and service work of an academic in my field, I found I enjoyed digital work, even though it doesn’t quite fit into the traditional boxes. As part of my capstone, I want to learn more about ways to incorporate explain DH work within my field of higher education and student affairs.
Weaving these three threads together, I wonder if it will take the types of “proof of concept” scholarly demonstrations mentioned above, or obtaining certain types grants, in order to obtain that faculty position. Or, I wonder, will it be necessary to pull away from doing digital work until I pass this period of scholarly precarity?