DH Academic Programs: Where are they?

Reading Susan Hockey’s description of academic programs in DH has me thinking about the potential career opportunities this field can open up. It’s certainly no secret that the market for tenure-track jobs these days is bleak. So humanities studies graduates, equipped with critical reading, writing, and thinking superpowers, run the risk of not securing the dream job and not knowing what other careers to pursue. It’s an unfortunate situation to be constantly told, “There are no jobs for you,” but never, “You could do this or this or that and here’s how.” But I believe DH can help us find career alternatives wherein we can still exercise our very particular set of skills.

The prospect of still finding a career is one of my reasons for pursuing DH—it also helps that I’m sincerely interested in computer technology and it’s usefulness for archival work. But it’d be great if I didn’t have to pursue this path all on my own. Fortunately this class is being offered, which is already helping me feel validated in my pursuit. However, if this is the future of humanities (and top universities were starting such programs eleven years ago), why aren’t academic programs and opportunities in DH more prevalent? Why don’t we see any English classes cross-listed with computer classes? Why don’t more universities offer a certificate in DH?

It seems to me that the move toward DH studies and practices is a slow one. Perhaps what I see as potential for career possibilities institutions see as a fear of losing their surplus of low-wage workers otherwise called graduate students and adjuncts. It just doesn’t make sense to me that in the “Digital Age,” our English departments don’t seem to be taking more advantage of what that might mean not just for the field but also for our students and their future livelihoods.

2 thoughts on “DH Academic Programs: Where are they?

  1. ebcousins says:

    I’m also curious about the role of DH and its relation to academic alternatives – I’m personally not going to continue toward a Phd or tenure track job after my masters, partly because of the reasons you’ve cited in your response…but it does make me think about what the DH field’s relationship to things like #alt-ac might be like. And is the ability to perhaps expand beyond insular academia a solid advantage for DHers, or can it also be problem in trying to place DHers in departments. What does happen when “token” DH spots are filled – are they valued in the same way that other specializations are? If we have such a broad range of modes of engagement and methods for DH, can it count as a specialization in the same way, say, British Romanticism can? This gets touched on in Evaluating Digital Scholarship, but it would be interesting to look at the possible pigeon holing of digital humanists – what are departments looking for when they are trying to include the ‘digital’? What are the expectations?


  2. I agree; it’s quite strange that DH doesn’t have a strong institutional presence, and I wonder how much of that is because those doing DH are primarily using it as a research tool rather than studying the digital as an object. Yet I’m regularly frustrated at how little DH information students studying literature get. Granted, I’m in a program that gives DH a presence (for which I’m grateful), but when I reach out to librarians and historians, I can’t help but feel like we might be doing something wrong in English programs (did everyone just laugh out loud?). I guess all of this is to say, I’d love to see some CS courses cross listed with English and DH certificates made available, but first I’d like us (departments) to make sure we reach out to those who are already making DH a practice.


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