Author Blogs

Becoming b-roll #4C19

Digital Digs (Alex Reid) - 15 March, 2019 - 06:07

Here’s the text and videos used in my presentation in case you weren’t inclined to drag yourself over here at 8am.

Rhetoric and composition has been talking about video for decades—as a teaching tool, an object of study, and a medium of scholarly and student composing. More than 15 years ago, Dan Anderson was discussing the impact of prosumer media creation tools, including digital video cameras, on pedagogy. Of course that was years before the arrival of YouTube. I don’t think it is surprising that the last decade has produced hundreds of scholarly articles on the rhetorical practices of YouTube. To generalize about that research, I would say that we are quite apt at the cultural critique of the videos we study. However this presentation isn’t really along those lines. 

Today I’m talking about a specific filmic, compositional technique and investigating its rhetorical operation. I imagine we are all familiar with the concept of b-roll, but just in case it’s basically the footage filmmakers record away from the primary action that is intended to give a more holistic sense of the setting. So it’s often used in introductory and transitional moments in the narration. Sometimes it’s used to help characterize or illustrate the narration. 

Certainly b-roll can be some of the cheesiest, cliched crap that you see in a low-budget informational. It can be overly staged and phony. 

(n.b. I’m only showing clips from these videos but I’m including the whole things here.)

In other words, it’s rhetoric, just like your momma and Plato warned you about. Now these are cases of decontextualized, stock footage and that is one kind of b-roll. But I’m interested in a different, more singular use of b-roll that we find in the work of some YouTube vloggers. This b-roll footage is not stock material. And I would argue that it is not simple scene-setting. In the case of vloggers we are not only seeing their setting, we are seeing their world, their environment, and often their homes and private spaces as they see them.

Now I need to pause and qualify that last statement. Obviously we are not literally seeing through their physical eyes, nor are we transparently or telepathically sharing their phenomenological experience. There are rhetorical and aesthetic stylistic choices. There are technological characteristics. There are genre considerations. Each of these shapes each step from camera placement to the final edit. It is, in this respect, a fiction, but as Latour would point out, it is not a fiction in the sense of being untrue, but a fiction in the sense that all truths, all knowledge, must first be built. So the vlogger’s b-roll does tell us how they see their world in that they involved in a recursive relationship as they are shaping and shaped by their environment and that environment is shaping and shaped by the particular vlog episode. 

So far I don’t think I’ve ventured into unfamiliar territory. Maybe we don’t often give much thought to the b-roll in YouTube vlogs but the idea that composers participate in this kind of recursive shaping relationship with their cultural-material contexts is not so odd. It is an insight we might find recurring in various ecological approaches to composing going back to Marilyn Cooper’s “Ecology of Writing.”

I’m going to push this a little further to take up the idea of b-roll in relation to Thomas Rickert’s theory of ambient rhetoric. B-roll is not itself “ambient video,” which is an entirely different genre. Instead b-roll is a version of language as Rickert describes when he writes

the world comes to speaking in language and gives bearings to being, human beings included, but cannot be understood to issue solely from human being; the world is the largely assumed and relied-on background stitchwork of relations emergent with our everyday doing and making. Language, then, is a way of the world’s being grappling with the rest of the world, with humans as a site for its meaningful disclosure.

Thomas Rickert, Ambient Rhetoric 102

So we can just substitute “video” for “language” in that passage, and while the two are not equivalent, there is sense in saying video is a way of the world’s being grappling with the rest of the world. In some respects we might even find that easier to recognize in our willingness to conceive of video, perhaps because of its obvious technical qualities, as being something that does not “issue solely from human being.”

Even though the shots are composed and edited so that the vlogger might exert maximal agency over what appears on the screen, it is still the vlogger’s world that is being grappled with. Casey Neistat lives in Manhattan. He cannot compose a non-Manhattan. Peter McKinnon lives in Toronto. When it is winter, it is winter. 

Commercial filmmakers have sets and soundstages. A film like Avatar can place actors in a completely virtual world. But vloggers must compose from the world in which they are situated. To return to Rickert’s terms, in b-roll we encounter the “largely assumed and relied-on background stitchwork of relations emergent with our everyday doing and making.” And what better way to describe a core value of the vlog than as an engagement with our everyday doing and making?

We can push this a little further though. If b-roll grapples with the rest of the world, then what about a-roll? For vloggers a-roll puts them in front of the camera. Sometimes it’s a locked shot with the camera fixed on a tripod. Since vloggers are often one-person production teams, it’s either a locked shot or the shaky, handheld selfie style shot. As with the b-roll vloggers can certainly give thought to the space behind them as they move through it, but again it is always set against the limits of their lived, built environment. 

If we can manage to extricate ourselves at some level from our anthropocentrism, at what point might we see ourselves as becoming b-roll, as becoming part of the ambient hum of the world grappling with itself? Perhaps it is hardest to imagine this with our a-roll vlogger, but witness the other humans. They have become b-roll: a new generation of animated render ghosts in an ambient cityscape. 

The render ghost is James Bridle’s term for the inclusion of people into architectural drawings and illustrations. Understandably the inclusion of people can provide a drawing with a sense of scale and offers a way for the viewer to situate herself in the space. I too can imagine standing on that street corner, waiting for the light to change. As one of Bridle’s projects investigates, these render ghosts are often created from photographs of real people scraped from the public web. 

Architectural render ghosts

In some ways this is a part of a long tradition. There have been people set into the backdrop of cityscapes as long as artists have drawn them. We are similarly familiar with the role of extras in movie-making. There are always people filling in the scene. However, I would say the phenomenon I’m discussing here is part of a shift in this practice. Implicitly we know that we are surrounded by camera. Most people we walk past carry one with them. There are security cameras, cameras on cars, and so on. You might walk into the frame as someone is face-timing or taking a selfie. There are a nearly endless number of rhetorical purposes into which you have inadvertently stepped. Much of this camera footage is never seen by human eyes and in the rest your presence is likely ignored as just another feature of the backdrop. Sure, we are used to being anonymous in an airport, at a mall, or on a university campus, but such anonymity is always anchored to our own perspective and narrative. Here our anonymity becomes a rhetorical feature of a scene. We are simply another feature of the world.

So what’s happening in my classroom with this? I suppose I might say that the underlying impetus of the composing courses I teach is to disrupt the disciplinary, paradigmatic hegemony of the late age of print. Of course that doesn’t really fit in a learning outcomes bullet point so I tend to go with something like “Understand how new technologies create new writing practices.” I think it’s very hard to identify ambient rhetoric operating in the spaces of textual composing. The technologies of textual production, combined with the cybernetic, territorializing, and encoding features of genres, serve to smooth out and erase the disruptions of ambient conditions, though maybe you can tell if something you read was written by someone a little buzzed at a party or hungover the next morning or while flying on a plane to a conference. In other words, the world is always in the background, even if it isn’t on camera. Having students create a short b-roll video, what I sometimes call a “portrait of a place,” is a way to focus on this aspect of composing. 

The tricky part then is trying to understand how we are ourselves a part of this background hum. In our own semi-consistent conscious narratives, we are front and center, of course, and that’s one slice of the world, one brain humming away. But other slices see us and our composition processes as interwoven with the background. I’m not here to say which slice is distorted and which one real or better or worse or more or less just. They do however interact. 

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with some gesture toward the kairos of the college bribery scandal and specifically where it intersects the subject of vlogging with the case of “social media influencer” Olivia Jade Gianulli. I’m guessing you know the sordid details of the criminal case so I won’t rehearse them here. What’s relevant from my perspective was the way that being a college student, and maybe particularly being a USC college student, was integral to her brand strategy. In this situation, we can see how the ambient hum of b-roll moves out in different directions. One direction is familiar to our critical modes in that it attaches Olivia Jade to an ideological position as a college student that offers her some veneer of ethos in reaching her demographic of college attending and college aspiring viewers. Sitting in the dorm room gives her that in a way that’s perhaps subtler but no less real than what accrues to a judge on the bench or a professor in front of lecture hall. 

The other direction is harder to parse, and I’ll end with it. It sends us down proprietary algorithmic rabbit holes where image becomes data. Growing one’s brand and social media influence is a data-driven game. Under the eye of the digital camera we all become data points. We all become part of the hum of network servers and their cooling units. There is some attenuated relationship between those data points and our bodies and voices. This context seems indifferent to Olivia Jade’s ambitions and ethical judgments of her actions. The point I’m trying to make here is that while we have competing ethical and political goals carried out on these platforms and we might study and intercede in the space of human agency, there is another layer of rhetorical operation—material, ecological, and technological—that operates with indifference to our intentions. It is there in the background, in our b-roll, and in the network. My work is about trying to understand how that thing works.

Categories: Author Blogs

the “robot-ready” humanities

Digital Digs (Alex Reid) - 24 February, 2019 - 14:44

So I’m in the midst again of another well-intentioned effort to communicate the value of liberal arts (specifically English) majors and was introduced to this report, “Robot Ready: Human+Skills for the Future of Work,” by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and ESMI, which is a firm involved in economic modeling. I want to start here by looking as some charts from the report and seeing if you see the same thing I do.

So this is fairly straightforward and mostly not surprising. Liberal arts majors make less money. Dog bites man. You can wonder about that spike in the late 30s/early 40s. More on that in a minute.

If you’re familiar with this kind of graphic (if not it’s a Sankey diagram), you can see how liberal arts majors shift career areas over time. I’m thinking there is some causal relationship between these career shifts and the early middle age salary boost. There are other factors like getting some post-BA degree, changing family situations and so on, so it’s certainly not the whole picture.

Now this gets a little interesting. Basically it’s saying that 1/3 of students with a liberal arts degree don’t get jobs that require a college degree, even after they hit that 3rd job. The thing is that my own experience makes me scratch my head about all this. My first 3 jobs following graduate were 1) temp worker doing database entry work, 2) museum tour guide 3) TA. That covered less than 18 months. At least 2 of those jobs required college degrees, and they all had crappy pay. So I’m wondering what the hell we’re measuring here. On the other hand I’m a lousy test case for the liberal arts student as hardly any of them are going to end up being tenured professors.

This is the most curious part to me because we always talk about the lifelong skills of the liberal arts. Sure, English majors aren’t learning immediately practical stuff or getting certifications that will allow them to walk into a job, but in the long run… So what is here is really not good for us. The differences aren’t that stark, but if we aren’t helping students pursue careers AND they don’t feel they’ve learned enduring life skills, then how do we spin that? Wait, wait. I know. Our students are far too savvy to fall for the life skills question. They’re critiquing the hell out of that question! To which the only reasonable response can be “Critiquer, critique thyself.”

So, I know, you’re asking “but what about the robots? I was promised there would be robots.” Well that comes in the “solution” rather than the problem-posing part of this report. The basic thrust of this report’s argument, like so many of its kind, is that the humanities need to find a way to add technical skills to the education that their students are receiving. Those technical skills, plus the traditional “soft skills” the liberal arts have always provided, will provide liberal arts students with more career flexibility (and earning potential) moving into the future. It’s an observation that has been accurate for a long time and, as is implicit here, is more pressing than ever. In short, being “robot-ready” means having communication skills, ethical understanding, cultural sensitivity, etc. (gotta love the etc here) while also being prepared to work in highly technical environments with your robot overlords.

The thing is that I don’t really see an argument for traditional liberal arts majors here. I see an argument for “infusing” soft skills into STEM and business education. More importantly, I am bewildered by the notion that matters of communication, ethics, cultural understanding and so on are not transformed by material-historical processes. I mean, isn’t that humanities 101? So how does it make sense to be in the middle of a massive historical change (e.g., getting “robot-ready”) while peddling the notion that the liberal arts and keep keeping-on? The suggestion in this report is that sure you can still be an English major, just minor in Computer Science or something so that you get some technical skills too. OK, maybe that works, in which case, we don’t need this report or conversation. On the other hand, if material-historical processes do matter and we are in the midst of a significant cultural transformation, then the same-old, same-old won’t work, right?

The whole business just seems a mess. On a national disciplinary level, in the span of my career, it strikes me as worse than ever. On the one hand, there’s a tremendous opening to address the kinds of sociopolitical and ethical concerns that have long been a focus of the liberal arts. It seems there might be more interest than ever in hiring people who understand these matters. On the other hand, it seems that we need to change our approach to such issues because so much of what we’re offering just doesn’t connect. We can blame students or technology or whatever, but in the end I think we need to see the ground shifting under our feet.

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hold me closer tiny rhetorician

Digital Digs (Alex Reid) - 10 January, 2019 - 15:48

After all, who can resist an Elton John reference?

Well, I’m in the midst of book revisions (and there was much rejoicing). I’m thinking back–and perhaps modifying–a notion I had a few years ago: minimal rhetoric. I’m thinking “tiny” rather than “minimal.” Maybe both.

My attraction to “tiny” is from the line in A Thousand Plateaus that has stuck with me, punctum-like, through the years:

There is a micropolitics of perception, affection, conversation, and so forth. If we consider the great binary aggregates, such as the sexes or classes, it is evident that they also cross over into molecular assemblages of a different nature, and that there is a double reciprocal dependency between them. For the two sexes imply a multiplicity of molecular combinations bringing into play not only the man in the woman and the woman in the man, but the relation of each to the animal, the plant, etc.: a thousand tiny sexes.

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 213

Really just “a thousand tiny sexes.”

And then I was watching this EGS lecture from Manuel DeLanda on YouTube. I’d link to it here, but it’s been up there for 7 years and has averaged about one view per year, so you can go watch it if you like but I figure you’ve had your chance! Anyway, he said something fairly obvious but that struck me last night when I couldn’t sleep around 3:30 am. He observed that the direction of modern science was toward a proliferation of ideas and methods rather than toward a unifying theory. I mean, that is obvious, right? Instead of a single 21st-century science department we have more and more sciences, interdisciplinary centers, majors, journals, conferences, grants, etc., etc.

A thousand tiny sciences… minor sciences, even. So what about rhetoric?

As we know, one of the contemporary historiographic trends regards “big rhetoric.” For those who don’t know, it’s the expansion away from the traditional objects of study for rhetoric scholars (e.g. political speeches) and into the vast space of cultural representations. And the nonhuman turn opens that even farther. To make that happen we’ve had ever more capacious theories of rhetoric. I’m probably as big a rhetorician as you’re likely to find (seek me out at CCCC and see what you think). So I am generally in favor of these theories of big rhetoric. In my view, the restriction to the historical areas of rhetorical study are just that: a product of historical circumstance. I have argued in defense of and made my own versions of arguments for a general new materialist and posthuman theory of rhetoric. I see that as a necessary disciplinary step.

And yet it leaves me wondering: what about the thousand tiny rhetorics?

To be sure, we do a good job of analyzing specific rhetorical situations: our classrooms, this or that workplace, a particular text, and so on. Basically this is an interpretive/hermeneutic move: the application of a general theory of rhetoric to a specific instance. An act of deduction. So there are thousands of instances but they’re all of one thing…. Well not really because as a discipline we have disagreements about that general theory of rhetoric. So we often perform our disagreements about generalities through our interpretations of specifics.

I’m talking about something different here. A thousand, non-unifying irreducible rhetorics… and us being ok with that. In fact, not just ok, but recognizing that the ontological situation is that there really isn’t a general theory of rhetoric, or at least, there isn’t a theory with enough explanatory power to offer much insight into the problems we need to address.

What this really requires though is something intermediary, something in-between the general theory of rhetoric and the interpretation of a specific text/object/event. So I’ve started to think about my work as a digital rhetorician in those terms. If I am interested (as I happen to be) in the rhetorics of emerging digital technologies, which presupposes some posthuman/nonhuman/new materialist approach since I’m looking at the rhetoric of something that isn’t human, then why can’t that be its own thing? Why should the methods I use to study that be applicable to any other situation? So I’ve been thinking about a method that describes the rhetoric of digital media in a way that fosters the invention of further capacities. E.g., can we describe the operation of social media or smartphones in a way that allows us to invent and experiment with expanding the rhetorical capacities of these devices and their users? So it’s not just about one device or one situation. But it also isn’t a general theory of rhetoric. It’s somewhere in-between in a pragmatic space, trying to understand how material conditions here lead to certain rhetorical capacities and then using that understanding as a basis for experimentation.

But that’s just one tiny rhetoric. My point is there must be a thousand more.

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counting to zero: the hapless math of English Studies

Digital Digs (Alex Reid) - 12 December, 2018 - 08:09

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jonathon Kramnick offers an analysis of the contemporary academic job market in English in comparison with its state 20 years ago (coincidentally when I was first on the job market). This can be put in the context of statistics on the awarding of phds from the NSF. This chart shows degrees by subfield since 2006 and this one, which shows only major fields, gives a view back to 1986.

To my eye there are some curious rhetorical turns in Kramnick’s article. He recognizes the significant declines overall in the job market and especially for tenure-track positions (old, but worsening news) with the note that writing jobs remain comparatively strong. Of this he speculates “The rising proportion of tenure-track jobs in composition and creative writing appears to reflect a change happening within the structure and mission of many departments even as they get smaller.” This apparent change suggests to him “that the jobs crisis may be worse than it seems.” Really? For whom? I suppose one might similarly suggest that it is not as bad as it seems (though really it’s bad for everyone).

But here’s the funny part. He determines, with a few caveats, that the decline in literary studies jobs is evenly spread across all periods and fields and that as such “the field structure of English stands out as remarkably and encouragingly firm.” 

I don’t know. To me this is like standing on the curb and remarking at how evenly all the parts of your house are burning down. 

But let’s circle back to those phd stats. Though the chart going back to 1986 only shows the major field of “Letters,” you can see that in general there’s been modest growth in the number of degrees awarded as the number of jobs have significantly declined. Looking at the other chart, though the numbers are only indications (since the fields are self-reported by institutions), between rhet/comp and speech/rhetorical studies, there are ~250 degrees per year over the last four years of the report. It’s hard to compare this with job opportunities as jobs on MLA and elsewhere are often listed in multiple categories. However, generally speaking, there aren’t enough jobs for all the rhet/comp degree recipients, but the situation is comparatively worse for those in literary fields. Regardless, there’s nothing here for anyone to suggest creating or expanding phd programs. And the oft-remarked, ongoing decline in numbers of English majors only reinforces this evidence.

Kramnick ends by offering this observation about the failing job market. “

That pinch is real and urgent. It requires our care and our hardest thinking. But there is no evidence that individual fields need to fight it out, or that any one of them is going extinct.

In other words, we’re all in this together. We ought to do everything we can to understand how best to respond to the shrinking market — how to lobby for more jobs, how to reshape Ph.D. programs, and how to decide whether all such programs can be sustained.

How can I put this? It isn’t good news that the “field structure” remains firm. It’s one of the primary pieces of evidence, if not sources, of English Studies’ problems. It means that even as we declined we failed to do anything different. Anyway, I think for English it’s pretty much all over but for the crying at this point. I mean, there’s going to be literary studies for the foreseeable future. It’s just probably at around 1.5% of undergraduates rather than the 4% it was 20 years ago. 

As for my own field of rhetoric, I’d say its survival will depend on its almost wholesale transformation away from printcentric, belletristic traditions that still typify its research practices and much of its teaching. A multidimensional transformation is required. One that recognizes communication is/is becoming

  • digital/multimodal (we’re sort of there, but the varieties keep expanding faster than our adaptions to them and as a field we still don’t have enough practical-technical expertise)
  • global/multi-cultural-ethnic-etc (doing a better job of valuing cultural and human differences and the challenges of communicating across them)
  • data-driven/machinic (we have to do better at handling data and understanding the role that machines play in every aspect of rhetorical activity from invention to delivery)
  • specialized/technocratic (again, we’re doing a decent job of moving away from the premise of “general writing skills” but we’re still not adapting quickly enough to the proliferation/shifts of expertise)
  • public/distributed (somewhat in an opposite direction to the last point that more people are performing a wider range of rhetorical-compositional practices. E.g., who would have thought that technical communication would become a quotidian practice? Well anyone who’s seen a “how-to” video on YouTube or visited a wiki. 

And those are just the ones I can come up with on the fly. I’m sure there are many other equally observable shifts. The point for me at least is that all of this is quite different from where we were 30-40 years ago when we were really just graduating the first large generation of specifically trained rhet/comp scholars, when Maxine Hairston was talking “winds of change,” when we were just taking on postmodernism and cultural studies, or when we were just starting to talk about computers and composition. (In other words, the field I was introduced to in the mid-90s.) These days we need completely different specializations and coursework from undergrad to grad, even while we still connect to the history and tradition of rhetoric. 

Compare that with Kramick’s observation that over the last 20 years the fields of literary studies have remained basically static. I realize he doesn’t quite mean it to come out that way, and of course there have been various “turns” and theories have come in and out of fashion. But really if we looked at those undergrad courses, how many of the assigned readings would be the same? Would the students be asked to do different things? Sure things are a little different. But that has to be put in contrast to the fact that the communicational practices and literacies of most of humanity have been completely overturned during this period. 

I mean I’d give rhet/comp a “gentleman’s C” for its efforts to keep up, but English Studies is obviously failing, as every indicator will tell you. And I just am not sure how rhet/comp manages to do better while tied to literary studies. I also don’t think rhet/comp has much chance on its own. 

So… yay!

Categories: Author Blogs

the broken fun of the humanities

Digital Digs (Alex Reid) - 4 December, 2018 - 14:49

The moral of this story is probably that some Chronicle of Higher Ed clickbait articles are too absurd to pass by, in this case, Timothy Aubry’s “Should Studying Literature be Fun?” I find this to be such a bizarre question and ultimately I’m unsure what it has to do with the concerns of the article itself.

Aubry observes “So much of academic life seems colored by high-stakes political struggles.” Huh. Not sure, but you’ve got to love the passive voice there. Who is doing this coloring I wonder. This, it seems to my reading of the essay, is part of the “not fun” portion of academic life and studying literature (we can discuss disambiguating those two some other time). Here though it’s the decades long history of canon-busting, recovering voices, and incorporating new cultural perspectives that is familiar fare, or as Aubry terms it “The urge to dethrone literary heroes on the basis of their bad politics.” What is apparently lost (or wait, maybe not) is an opportunity for an aesthetic appreciation of literature. He notes the (again familiar) rite of graduate school passage where one learns to abandon (or at least not vocalize) one’s love of literature. “It wasn’t that professors spent much time debunking aesthetic judgment. Those battles had already been fought and won. It was just that certain questions to do with beauty or pleasure almost never arose; you learned not to ask them the same way you learned to stop liking bands like Coldplay.”

These are all familiar stories to me about grad school and English Studies. (Don’t worry, rhetoric has parallel processes to those of literary studies.) You can decide on their veracity for yourself.

My thought though was that I wasn’t really sure what any of that had to do with experiencing fun. I’ve witnessed glee in the critical evisceration of authors, scholars, fellow faculty and/or students. Plenty of people appear to love a good public pillorying on social media, in some online magazine, or maybe at a conference. And I don’t mean that as a negative judgment. My point is just that, from what I can tell, people enjoy these activities. On the other hand, I’m not sure that aesthetic appreciation is inherently fun. I’m not saying it couldn’t be fun for some people. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s intrinsically more enjoyable than a good expression of righteous indignation and anger. 

Now that said, I do recognize that there’s always been some odd pseudo-(?), Neo-(?), post-(?) Puritanical urge to insist that none of this critical/political stuff is fun and certainly none of it is done for personal enjoyment! Maybe that’s some version of the mommy/daddy “this hurts me more than it hurts you” (no, it doesn’t). Or an ethical/rhetorical warning that (to appear) to enjoy doling out judgment and punishment undermines its moral foundation: sober as a judge as the saying goes. Or perhaps, as Aubry suggests, a way of indicating the seriousness of our academic work.

So Aubry ends with what I’d consider a commonplace. Specifically he switches what he presents at first as an either/or (politics or aesthetics) and tries to turn it into a both/and.

Moreover, to struggle against inequity and discrimination, it is important not only to stop celebrating those bad modes of writing that denigrate particular groups, but also to work to spread the opportunity to have good, fulfilling aesthetic experiences as widely as possible — even when those experiences contribute nothing to the improvement of society other than themselves. To affirm literature’s aesthetic value is to argue that it does something more than serve as an instrument for a particular politics, that the experiences it fosters are worth pursuing not only because they reaffirm our political views or further our ideological aims, but because they represent a mode of fulfillment — a quickening of our perceptions, a dilation of our temporal experiences, a revitalization of our thought and feeling — unavailable elsewhere.

In short, there’s gotta be some overlap in that good politics/good aesthetics Venn diagram, right? I don’t know. You could ask Plato or maybe enjoy some good Socialist Realist theater.

But let me end on some fun. The work we do should be fun. Not all the time of course but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, on balance, at the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing then maybe you should consider doing something else (or at least working somewhere else). I know that can be easier said than done for a variety of personal/unique reasons. But as general career advice and even more generally as a way of defining the work undertaken by humanities faculty: yes, you should be able to enjoy it.

Hell, work/life is hard enough as it is without insisting that you shouldn’t enjoy it whenever it’s possible to. What a weird idea. But the fact that this whole “no fun” notion is all too familiar is just another odd broken thing about the humanities or maybe academia.

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