The 2012 convention of the Modern Language Association saw two deeply thoughtful #alt-ac roundtables — one on jobs in the digital humanities and another on systemic, corporate, and institutional responses to a broader “future of alternative academic careers.” I moderated the second panel and participated in the first. Both, in their ways, spoke to a remarkably changed environment: to altered employment conditions in the academy, to the humanities as they have entered the digital age, and to a moment in which hybrid scholar-practitioners and non-traditional academics are becoming more visible, and more desperately needed. This is a rough blending of remarks I made in the two sessions.
By “alt-ac,” a growing community speaks not of “alternatives to academic employment,” but rather of “alternative academics” – “alt-academics,” that is, in the way that alt-country music has a bit of rockabilly and folk mixed in – or old Usenet discussion groups would signal a fringe twist on their subject-matter with an “alt.” preface. I chose #Alt-Academy as the title for a recent MediaCommons publication — a collection of essays and personal narratives on the subject — because, taken together, our 32 authors were really gesturing at “an alternative academia” in the way that writers create speculative fiction or works of alternative history. Read the rest of this entry »