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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Will Skype Kill the MLA?

Posted by Marc Bousquet on 01/04/11 at 02:36 AM

By my count of positions discussed on the essential Academic Jobs Wiki: Seven of forty-three positions in French with “interviews scheduled” were interviewing by Skype and bypassing the MLA convention in Los Angeles this week. (More fools them: the rains are ending and the forecast is lovely.) Five of the seven were tenure track positions. In German 3 of 27 tenure track and 3 of 18 nontenurable positions are bypassing MLA. Traditional English literature fields aren’t Skyping much as yet (just one or two in most fields), but among writing specialists at least 7 tenure-track jobs of the 150 or so discussed are bypassing MLA.

Given that most MLA cities aren’t as desirable in early January as Los Angeles (Toronto, you know I’m talking about you!), will the cost savings of $5,000 to $10,000 per search lead to more Skyping and less flying of three to seven socially deficient individuals across the country to imprison them in their hotel rooms for most of three days? Um, yeah, duh.

The question is: how far will this trend go? It’s leading in writing and the foreign languages, where money is tightest and allegiance to the MLA is lowest. Let’s say most of the English literature and cultural studies fields follow suit-- with spikes during years of conventions scheduled for, say, Philadelphia.

Remember that the profession’s hiring class is aging faster than a horse on crack, and try to imagine the fading appeal of long flights and long days listening to the young folks ("Wah wah wah Zizek blah blah blah three manuscripts under consideration") followed by toddling over ice-filled sidewalks for stale cheddar soup and an oxidized chardonnay. So much more comfy to tune out in front of your video screen and read your email while pretending to listen.

Indeed: no need to interview at the lousy times chosen by MLA at all. Heck, why not interview at your own convenience? Not six interviews in a row, but three interviews every Friday afternoon in December. Or November. Or January.

So what’s the impact on MLA?  With fields at the leading edge of adoption at 10% of interviews already, let’s pick a number for a near-term plateau, a conservative number like 25% of all interviews bypassing MLA--probably higher in writing and foreign languages. Let’s say in five years, roughly five hundred interviews might bypass the convention. That’s roughly two thousand interviewers who might not otherwise come, and at least a couple of hundred interviewees, those whose only interviews are Skyped.

MLA’s budget is several million a year, so losing a fraction of convention income isn’t going to bankrupt it. but let’s say conservatively they collect $200 a head per attendee. That’s a hit of almost a half-million a year right there. It’s probably more, because many folks renew their dues just to attend the convention, and there’s the rake from booksellers, some of whom might no longer come, hotel bookings, etc.  And half a million pays five to seven staffers, without whom MLA can offer fewer services, thus diminishing the luster of the whole operation, making credible eventual future bypassings. Chances are excellent that fifty percent or more of writing jobs alone will bypass MLA, given the deservedly poor reputation of the organization in the field. If I were doing MLA resource allocation, I’d be thinking of a likely half-million dollar hit, and praying that it wasn’t a full million.

This question and others will be discussed at the panel, New Tools, Hard Times: Social Networking and the Academic Crisis. This Thursday January 6, 5:15–6:30 p.m., 406A, LA Convention Center A special session. Presiding: Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick Speakers: Rosemary G. Feal, MLA, Marc Bousquet, Santa Clara Univ., Brian Croxall, Emory Univ., Christopher John Newfield, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, Marilee Lindemann, Univ. of Maryland, College Park. Format: eight-minute presentations, discussion.

Also see the two offerings by the Division on Teaching as a Profession (yours truly on the executive committee): Deprofessionalized? and Governance Matters.

Deprofessionalized? Friday, 07 January. 8:30–9:45 a.m. Modern Language Association Convention 2011, Los Angeles. Plaza 3, Marriott.

Format: published discussion materials; 5-minute prepared remarks; discussion between panelists and audience.

1. A Split in the PMC? Rising Managers, Falling Professionals.Marc Bousquet, presiding. Tenure and Teaching Intensive Appointments Occupy and Escalate We Work

2. Solidarity v. Professionalism:  Abetting Wayward Labor. Kim Emery, University of Florida. Deprofessionalization requires a more radical solution than re-professionalization. Academic Freedom Requires Constant Vigilance The University and the Undercommons Professionalism as the Basis

3. Precarity, Itinerancy, and Professionalism. Lisa Jeanne Fluet, Boston College. Precarious faculty professionalize themselves without many of the usual compensations. What are You Going to Do With That? The Ph.D. Problem Things I Learned From Grading AP Essays

4. What Rolls Down Hill: ‘Professionalization’ and Graduate Student Administrators. Monica F. Jacobe, Princeton University. Consequences for graduate students who provide or even donate administrative labor. Play PhD Casino! Graduate Students Hearing Voices Higher Exploitation

5. Busting Faculty Labor For Fun and Profit. William Lyne, Western Washington University. Faculty work is being devalued to cut costs, increase profits and reinforce class barriers for students. Power Concedes Nothing Without Demand Public Benefits, Private Costs

6. Internal Stratifications. Jeffrey J. Williams, Carnegie Mellon Univ. As doctors farm out some tasks to nurses, practitioners and physicians’ assistants, the professoriate is shifting some tasks to sub- or tertiary professions. Remaking the UniversityThe System of Professions

7. Untitled. Bruce W. Robbins, Columbia University. Secular Vocations

Can’t make the MLA?

Join Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Dick Ohmann and many others at Left Forum 2011 (March 18-20), Pace University, NYC.

Interested in joining Ohmann for a panel on working incommercialized higher ed? Drop him or Susan O’Malley a line by January 5, 2011. Have an article for Radical Teacher’s issue of the same theme? Send a proposal by May 15, 2011.

Fish Does It Again
It happens roughly once a year, usually around the holidays: just when you’re sure that you can safely ignore everything under his byline, Stanley Fish takes notice of something worthwhile and doesn’t entirely butcher it: Carvalho and Downing’s very important but absurdly priced Academic Freedom in the Post-9/11 Era. (Yes, Virginia, full disclosure: I have a piece in it. OMG, so does Ward Churchill.) Unquestionably the must-have academic freedom book of the first decade of the millenium--ask your library to buy it.

RIP David Noble

x-posted: howtheuniversityworks.com


Comments

Although I’m a Texas writer, I live in California, and out here where we’re all broke, I feel that no money should be spent for travel.

On the other hand, “Skype” gives me the creeps--it always makes me think of the jerky picture you get on earth in sci-fi movies right before the space ship explodes and the astronauts you’re watching get catapulted into deep space.

By Shelley on 01/05/11 at 12:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Dear Valve,

My name is Barbara O’Brien and I am a political blogger.  Just had a question about your blog and couldn’t find an email—please get back to me as soon as you can (barbaraobrien(at)maacenter.org)

Thanks,
Barbara

By on 01/28/11 at 12:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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