announcing #Alt-Academy

Readers of this blog will know that, for more than a year, I have been working with a group of wonderful people to bring an edited collection collection of essays and a distributed, online community into focus.  (You can see some of my past #alt-ac writing here, or follow the conversation on Twitter.)

Today, I’m very pleased to announce the release of #Alt-Academy, an open-access collection of essays, dialogues, and personal narratives on the subject of alternative academic careers for humanities scholars:

Initial contributors include Willard McCarty, Julia Flanders, Anne Whisnant, Rafael Alvarado, Julie Meloni, Lisa Spiro, Doug Reside, Tanya Clement, Hugh Cayless, Tom Scheinfeldt, Amanda Gailey, Dot Porter, Joe Gilbert, Wayne Graham, Eric Johnson, Dorothea Salo, Sheila Brennan, Jeremy Boggs, Sharon Leon, Brian Croxall, Arno Bosse, Miranda Swanson, Joanne Berens, Amanda Watson, Patricia Hswe, Amanda French, Christa Williford, Suzanne Fischer, Patrick Murray-John, Vika Zafrin, Shana Kimball, and James Cummings.  Gardner Campbell and Tim Powell will provide invited commentary in the coming weeks, and the project’s general editor is Bethany Nowviskie.

As a MediaCommons project, #Alt-Academy takes a grass-roots, bottom-up, “publish-then-filter” approach to community-building and networked scholarly communication around the theme of unconventional or alternative (“#alt-ac”) careers.  24 essays and multimedia contributions are currently available under a Creative Commons license. See our “Welcome” and “How It Works” pages to learn how you can comment, contribute, or volunteer to edit an #Alt-Academy cluster. 


#Alt-Academy was created by and for people with deep training and experience in the humanities, working or seeking employment — generally off the tenure track, but within the academic orbit — in universities and colleges, or allied knowledge and cultural heritage institutions such as museums, libraries, academic presses, historical societies, and governmental humanities organizations.

The work of such institutions is enriched and enabled by capable “alternative academics.” Although they are rarely conventionally-employed as faculty members, the people contributing to #Alt-Academy maintain a research (or R&D) and publication profiles and bring their methodological and theoretical training to bear every day on problem sets of great importance to higher education. For some, keeping their considerable talents within the academy can be more difficult than making a switch to private-sector careers. Class divisions among faculty and staff are profound, and the suspicion or (worse) condescension with which so-called “failed academics” are met can be disheartening. For all that, these authors love their work. Many on the #alt-ac track describe the satisfaction of making teams (and systems, and programs) work, of solving problems and  making or enabling breakthroughs in research and scholarship in their disciplines, and of contributing to and experiencing the life of the mind in ways they did not imagine when they entered grad school.

The #Alt-Academy site is for them, for their academic partners and institutional leaders, and for the next generation of hybrid humanities scholars — people who are building skills and experience in precisely those areas of the academy that are most in flux, and most in need of guidance and attention by sensitive, capable, imaginative, and well-informed scholar-practitioners.