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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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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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I’ve commented already on the goals I have for this blog, but I’d also like to reflect a little on my inspiration for it. I was very lucky to work with three fantastic women as graduate students during my first few years of teaching. All have since finished their MAs with me and have gone on to either doctoral programs or law school. They were all a joy to work with and I learned so much from each one of them. I know they are already doing amazing things with their lives and I look forward to seeing where they end up in a few years.

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IMG_0160I spent some considerable time today trying to craft the perfect post about all the exciting topics I’m hoping to cover over the next few months. However, making that list of ideas readable is more difficult than I thought it would be. I’ve also bugged some people to guest post for me, and am exciting to receive them (you know who you are!). Who will win the guest post race and be the first to orient us? Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I thought I would offer some thoughts on my own experience of transitioning the great divide from graduate school to the tenure-track treadmill four years ago. These are probably tainted reflections at this point, because I’m remembering them from my current position of increased confidence and security. But nevertheless, I think they hit on a theme that I’d like to raise on this blog in a couple of different ways.

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