IMG_2392_edited_smallBy Henry Adam Svec

“If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning / I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land,” sang the late, great Pete Seeger. Notice he did not say that if he had a hammer he’d submit it to peer review or place it in his tenure and promotions file. He’d hammer it. All over the land! Of course, while on the blacklist in the 1950s, a good stretch of Seeger’s land was made up of college campuses across the United States (Seeger was a nomadic pragmatist: he had a message to spread and, as far as audiences went, he would take what he could get). Still, Seeger’s signal would not be bent or broken or, least of all, subjected to any sort of bureaucratic metrics.

It is funny that I only came to fully appreciate Seeger’s commitment to communication (just one of the legacies of the folk revival in general) after working with the Czech computer scientist and programmer Mirek Plíhal, who is not even a fan of American protest music but who nonetheless embodies its ethics. I met Mirek in Dawson City, Yukon, where the two of us were artists-in-residence together at the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture in the spring of 2013. Mirek was there to work on an app about Newfoundland, and I was there to work on a collection of Klondike attempted murder ballads, but we ended up collaborating instead on a project called Artificially Intelligent Folk Songs of Canada (see www.folksingularity.com). Basically we built a computer that can access the totality of the history of Canadian folk music and generate new yet hyper-legitimate compositions from the source data. It was a strange, beautiful brew: humanism meets science, art meets technology, East meets West, etc.

 

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Lisa Visser, Untitled: By Grand Central Station Station I Sat Down And Wept, 2010. Image source: http://www.ocadu.ca/dev/student_gallery_old/past_exhibitions/hybrid.htm

Lisa Visser, Untitled: By Grand Central Station Station I Sat Down And Wept, 2010. Image source: http://www.ocadu.ca/dev/student_gallery_old/past_exhibitions/hybrid.htm

There have been some interesting conversations going on in the Twittersphere over the weekend, that’s for sure. It’s MLA weekend in Chicago, and the tweets on precarious labour and big conferencing have been particularly fascinating, because they question how much the tenured professoriate really cares to know about the struggles of the precariously employed. Here in New Brunswick, Canada, we are in countdown mode as we await a strike deadline at my home university (it expires at midnight tonight). I have felt particularly precarious in these negotiations, because even though I am in a full-time tenure-track position, I am on maternity leave this year and the effects of a labour action on that status have not been made entirely clear. In the midst of all of this, I have been catching up on old tweets about Faculty Orientations articles, and I found some feedback on Jacob Remes’s recent guest blog contribution “For Complaining: Three Anecdotes, and an Argument.” One tweeter (@imposterism) used the analogy of kvetching Ring Theory (see this article in the LA Times for a explanation of Ring Theory and for a useful graphic, which @imposterism references) to discuss the politics of tenure-track employees complaining. To quote @imposterism: “while relative privilege doesn’t erase value of complaints, it should perhaps determine their direction and aims.” Yes.

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IMG_0128In 2014, one of my goals is to update this blog on a semi-regular basis (every week? Every two weeks? We’ll see how it goes). I’m starting here by outlining some topics that I hope to cover with the help of guest bloggers in the next few months.

Part of this effort will involve expanding our guest bloggers to include anonymous writers, so that we can try to cover some of these issues with greater honesty. Many people have approached me to say that they want to write something, but have said they are afraid to speak their truths online. I hope that this blog will provide these important voices with some writing space soon. (If you haven’t contacted me yet with an idea because you have been hesitating to put your name on something, I hope that you will take this as an open invitation!).

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20131216_163138By Jacob Remes
William Lyon Mackenzie King Research Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and History, SUNY Empire State College

One
I have a friend who is a star.  At a conference panel recently, half of the people in the standing-room-only room left after she was done, and those who stayed directed all their questions to her at the end.  Her first book has become a textbook and a landmark on graduate student exam reading lists.  Not only that, but she and her partner are both tenured in at a research intensive university ranked in the top 60 national universities by US News.  In short she seems like she’s won the game.  She has the job most of us imagine, or are trained to imagine, that we want.  Her ideas are well known, recognized as important, and spreading.  Her book sells.

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IMG_1371By Sarah Hudson
Ph.D. candidate, Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick

“Have kids while you’re in grad school…I did it, it was great!” The advice came from a well-respected, friendly professor in my department. I was 23, single, and in the second year of a master’s degree in science.

In many ways, the advice was good. There are jolly reasons to have your kids while still in grad school. It can be tricky to envision jumping into parenthood at the beginning of a degree, when you likely have commitments to taking classes, teaching, delving into your own research, and possibly doing fieldwork. However, in many graduate programs you can at some point be flexible with your work schedule, and parenting-friendly arrangements can be made. I have fellow-grad student friends who found time to get their theses written between their kids’ naps, after they had gone to bed at night or with the help of a sitter to entertain their kids while they wrote from home. Others travelled as a family doing fieldwork in remote locations. These friends managed to juggle the responsibility of graduate school and parenting, in order to get both jobs done.

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baxterBy Andrea Terry
Department of Visual Arts, Lakehead
University

I’ve spent the last four years doing contract and sessional teaching gigs. When colleagues, friends or family ask me where I’m based, I self-identify as an itinerant academic and then explain that I’m currently at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Eyes light up at this response, and they lean forward intrigued, looking to hear more, and so I go on to explain where my teaching has taken me. I won’t lie – it’s not an easy career path, particularly at this stage. But then I look back and consider all the benefits I’ve reaped in the past four years, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing.

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binderBy Chantal Richard
Department of French, University of New Brunswick

It appears I’ve reached new heights in multi-tasking. There are laws that prohibit talking on your cell phone while driving, but as far as I know there’s no law against talking into a micro-recorder. So here I am today, driving to Halifax for a conference and I’ve got five hours ahead of me so I figured I’d dictate this blog. Multi-tasking is, of course, something we’ve all learned to do, especially those of us who have kids.

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