My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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why I am not going on the academic job market

I have decided not to go on the academic job market this year. I’ve wanted to be a professor for a long time. I still want to be a professor. Just not now.

Making that decision was quite hard for me. If all goes well, I will have my PhD next summer. Thus, it is this fall when I should go on the academic job market. To be proper, I signed up to go to every academic conference in my field this fall. (For those not in academia, academic job opportunities are posted in the fall, with applications due throughout the fall, and interviews taking place in the winter/spring. Finishing graduate students normally go on the market during their final year. Academic conferences are key places for being seen and feeling out different departments and practicing job talks.)

Before he passed away, my advisor and I had many long conversations about whether or not I belonged in academia. He told me that I had too much energy to do research and that I would find academia maddening at this stage in my career. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with his logic. My reasons for wanting to go on the job market were simple: I *love* teaching, I *love* students, I *love* research. Peter kindly reminded me that this is not what academia is about – he used to joke that the University paid him to attend meetings so that he could keep up his hobby of teaching. Peter was infinitely patient about most things, but boy did he hate bureaucracy.

I feel the need to explain why I’m not going on the job market in a public way, mainly because everyone keeps asking and I expect that it’ll be ten times worse at 4S, AOIR, ASIS&T, and the smaller academic things I’m doing this fall. By no means am I rejecting academic research. Last time I quit academia, I published more academic papers and attended more academic conferences as a non-academic than ever before. I love scholarship and I love the research that academics do and I love academics, especially when they wear tweed coats. I have every intention of doing research when I finish my PhD. I just don’t think that I can stomach doing it as a 1st year assistant professor right now.

There are multiple reasons for which I think that going on the academic job market doesn’t make sense for me right now. The major ones are:

1. IRB/human subjects. I am a huge supporter of ethics in research, but my experiences with IRBs (at multiple universities) have been nothing short of miserable. I feel extremely claustrophobic right now because of it. I will save the details of my anti-IRB rant for another time, but the short synopsis is that I think that IRBs are destroying social scientists’ ability to do good qualitative research and ethnographic research in particular. In theory IRBs are about ethics; in reality, they are about protecting universities from being sued. Qualitative (and especially ethnographic) research is seen as risky because it’s not controlled and structured and formulaic. I do not believe you can do true ethnography under an IRB and it depresses me to think about all of the data that I’ve collected that I cannot use in my dissertation because it didn’t fit into an IRB-approved protocol. I’m told that not all IRBs are as bad as the ones that I’ve faced, but “not as bad” is not good enough right now. I want to do research that is guided by ethics, not institutions.

2. The tenure process. I have been watching friends go through the tenure process and it makes me sick. There’s no room for innovation, for playing outside of the rules. You have 7 years to publish X articles in the *right* journals in the *right* way. My favorite phrase associated with this is “Least Publishable Unit.” In other words, what’s the minimum contribution you can make to get a good publication out of it. I don’t write like that and I don’t want to. I also think that most of the “respected” journals are so locked down as to be inaccessible to broader audiences. I want to be an academic, not a hermit. I believe that academia is an institution built on knowledge creation AND dissemination. My goal is to write for public audiences, to make knowledge palatable and interesting and accessible. I want to contribute big ideas that will make a difference, and to leave the mini-contributions for my blog.

3. Overhead. I had this intense conversation with a young professor about the hells of starting up a new lab, applying for grants, starting new syllabuses, advising students, attending meetings, being stuck on the shitty committees, constantly reviewing, etc. He lamented that there was no time for research. I’ve heard this over and over and over again. Becoming a professor at a top tier university seems to mean death to research. Being a professor at less prestigious institutions seems to mean unengaged or unmotivated students. I’m not ready for either. I do a lot of “community service” right now (Nicole and my JCMC special issue will be done next month!), but I need to do research. I have too much energy to do research right now. And I need to work with brilliant students who are just as enthusiastic as I am.

4. Geography. One of the hardest lessons that I learned was that geography *really* matters to my sanity. I need to live in a city, where I can go dancing at 2AM just to work out some raw energy or grab sushi at midnight. I like to joke that I need the people around me to be more crazy, most intense than me, just so that I feel calm. Living near a major international airport increases my sanity tremendously. And having a beach nearby is extremely important for helping me feel grounded. I need sun because being seasonally affective isn’t so good for being productive. I also want to be surrounded by Big Industry both for consulting reasons and to remind myself of what the corporate world looks like. Right now, I can’t imagine living anywhere in the U.S. outside of NY or LA. That’s not very useful for going on the academic job market. And besides, there’s a part of me that wants to live abroad for a while anyhow.

5. Lack of flexibility. I want to do research – fieldwork – outside of the U.S. This means traveling and having the flexibility to travel. I want to consult and speak whenever it’ll be interesting and helpful to do so. I want to run to DC whenever a bill gets proposed that is nightmarish. I don’t see how this is manageable as a first-year prof. To complicate matters, academia is all about long-term. That’s why tenure is seen as such a reward. I’m not sure that I’m ready to be in a single place for the rest of my life, or even for 5 years in a row. I want the flexibility to jump around and that’s just not fair to academic colleagues.

These are the major issues. The worst is really the IRB. I can’t tell if the pain in my stomach when I think about IRBs is nausea or a murderous desire. Either way, it ain’t pleasant. But any which way you read it, I can’t imagine a full-time academic position that would make sense for me now. And I don’t think that I’d be good for an academic institution right now either. I think I’d make a great advisor, teacher, and researcher. But I don’t think that I’d make a good colleague right now. I need to work out some raw energy first. I still hope to go back to academia, but I need to wait. I can imagine a future where I’ll find the tenure game entertaining, know tricks to manage the overhead, and need less flexibility. And maybe IRBs will one day wake up and get it. OK, maybe not. But still, I can imagine a way in which I’d be a good colleague, but right now, I fear that wouldn’t be the case and I’ve already burnt enough bridges by being a punk-ass public grad student.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that it’s academia OR industry. I think that industry research is equally FUBAR, but for different reasons and I can’t imagine having my research locked down inside of one company. I just think that there has to be another way. I’m toiling with ideas of consulting, independent research, ::shrug:: I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve decided to let the wind take me where it will. I will focus on my dissertation this year and then I will see where I end up. My only plan post-graduation is a desperately-needed vacation. And then I will look for what’s next. I will not even entertain the possibility of jobs until after a vacation. That’s kinda terrifying (especially since I need to figure out health insurance), but I’m looking forward to it. Freedom…

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42 comments to why I am not going on the academic job market

  • Hey, Boston has a big airport, nearby beaches, midnight sushi, and late night dancing. Plus lots of brains and students!

    Hooray for energy, even if it complicates matters 🙂

  • Sounds like a good decision, and – perhaps more importantly – a decision made for the right reasons. I guess I’m heartened to find somebody whose willing to take the leap, confound expectations, and see where they end up.

    Best of luck, danah, with whatever you end up doing.

  • Have you looked into schools that don’t offer tenure? My alma mater, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, doesn’t have tenure, departments, or a lot more of the trappings of the modern academic establishment. The IRB (and the entire institution) is new and not battle-scarred.

    It is also a small undergraduate-only engineering college and focuses on teaching more than research, which might not appeal to you, but I wonder if there might be similar schools that eschew defaults of the academic establishment.

    I would encourage you to investigate these kinds of alternatives.

  • Kat

    Best of luck — I look forward to seeing what comes of the paths you take.

  • You highlight one of the biggest drawbacks of academia as profession – no flexibility of location. Nearly every other profession has some degree of choice where to live & work, but academia has almost none – it’s like being drafted as a professional athlete, but at 1/100th of the salary!

    But your other concerns are really much more variable than you paint them – there are jobs where tenure expectations are reasonable & defined by your own interests & ambitions; where administrations are humane & supportive of junior faculty, allowing them to pursue research & teaching without burying them in busywork & arbitrary hurdles; and where IRBs are more supportive and open-minded. The problem is that you can’t find these institutions without applying broadly and hoping that you discover the answers to these concerns through the interview process. Don’t let horror stories stop you from doing what you’ve wanted to do for a long time – when you find a good job, it’s really the best job in the world!

    Good luck on the search for the right career match…

  • Here, here.
    My post-grad plan: get in car. drive west.
    Be well,
    Jenny

  • Unfortunately, you are absolutely right about academia…

  • Gio

    Find a boy, get married, quit researching, cook, keep house clean. That’s all. Bye

  • Being a professor at less prestigious institutions seems to mean unengaged or unmotivated students.

    I was mostly with you until this. That’s very arrogant, elitist, and misinformed Dana. People choose schools for a number of reasons: economics, convenience, better teaching (at schools where undergraduate education is their primary mission), location of a significant other, and on and on.

    You’ve been around academia long enough to know that the prestige of an institution has little to do with its teaching, and even less to do with its students. You will find highly capable and motivated students everywhere.

    You would never accept that sort of casting aspersion against an entire group of people in another setting, and you shouldn’t have done that here.

  • My $0.02 (now at par with the U$ !) is, go to Europe. There are many schools there that would value the contributions you could bring, with many international programs that are given in English as the language of instruction. It will do you well to be immersed in non-American culture for a few years, to be able to culture-check your assumptions, and expand your ground.

    Also, IRB (we call it ERB here) varies from institution to institution, depending on how much they value qualitative, and more radical methodologies. We get some pretty funky stuff passed for research here in Toronto, although participatory action research approaches (eg. inspired by Freire) needs to be framed carefully to get it through.

    In general, the larger and “more prestigious” the institution, the more they behave like corporations, and therefore, the more soul-destroying they become. It would be unwise, I think, to paint yourself into an academic corner in which your “only” choice is the academic equivalent to the factory farm.

  • SEV

    I don’t really have a 2 cents, but as with so many other things, you’ve elucidated a lot of the doubts and questions I have too. Going to smaller colleges means more teaching, less research; bigger colleges means vice versa. Pretty much a lose-lose situation. And the industry doesn’t offer a viable option.

    And I don’t really have a solution either 🙂

  • Danah

    I have had great respect for your work for a while now, but since reading this post my respect has increased severalfold. Reading it I was reminded of another fiercely independent thinker, Mary Midgley and thought you might enjoy this final paragraph from a piece she wrote on not getting a PhD:

    “Institutions which have to examine people train their students in fighting mock battles, and that emphasis on competition has increased out of all measure. No doubt it produces good lawyers. But the philosophers of the past were not just lawyers. They were volcanic phenomena, eccentric thinkers who located new problems and grappled with the issues of their age. Many worked outside universities. Indeed, a number – Hobbes, Berkeley, Mill, Nietzsche – growled explosively about the bad influence that universities have on thought. Today, as more people are being channelled into higher education, is it perhaps time that we looked into this?”

    http://education.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,5299899-108228,00.html

  • Follow your own path and your happiness will be infinite. (That sounded like a fortune cookie.) You could always start your own company that lives by no rules but your own.

  • Joe Blo

    Dana-

    For better or worse you’re a star. This blog makes you much more public than most academics, and you enjoy that… both the criticism and the support, I suspect.

    This gives you opportunities otherwise closed, but would also make a lot of academia more difficult, as your tenure committee would look not just at your academic work but the much wider scope of this public space.

    I really think you might enjoy working outside of the US. I know of at least one brilliant prof who went to Vancouver exactly because she didn’t want to deal with the high pressure american tenure process (which to me seemed as focused on money as publication, but that would depend on the field). She’s got great students, because other professors know who she is and recommend her program.

    You’ve got that reputation in spades, and if you wanted to take on students you wouldn’t have any problem finding them wherever you go. That’s the great and terrible thing about stardom:^) Being able to tell which ones are really the students you want… that’s a very different skill, but not uninteresting.

  • Kevin – I’m trying to point to something that I’ve seen that has really bothered me, although you’re right to point out that that sentence is a sweeping generalization. First off, it’s important to point out that I’m talking about schools where research is supported and encouraged (usually deemed “research universities”). I’m not looking to only teach and so schools that focus solely on undergraduate education are not part of what I’m talking about. I actually think that community colleges are the best place to teach if you’re only interested in teaching. My experience has been that most of the students who attend there do so because they want a solid education. They actually show up to class, do their homework, and engage. The same can be said of many smaller colleges that focus on creating intimate learning communities. But again, this isn’t what I’m talking about.

    Research institutions are a very small percentage of all schools and, by and large, they tend to be either extremely well-endowed medium size institutions or very large schools with big sports teams (or medium size institutions with endowments and sports teams). Unfortunately, the sports-centric schools (and here I’m talking football, not golf) are much more likely to be what is deemed a “party school.” Yes, this is a stereotype, but my experience has shown that it’s pretty consistent. Party schools often attract students who are more interested in Friday night’s kegger than whatever you’re teaching in class. This is not to say that there aren’t gems – there usually are – but that it really does suck to teach when you can guarantee that 20%+ of your students will come in with a hangover if they come in at all.

    Measures of prestige do vary but my experience has shown me that when students fight desperately to get into a school based on merit, there are more of them interested in taking my classes seriously. This is particularly noticeable now that I’m not teaching computer science. Far too many unmotivated students take a look at media studies and think “Easy A,” simply because they think that they know the material. During the last undergraduate class I taught, I ran an anonymous survey and found that less than 10% of my class read all of the readings and that over 50% read none of them. I was *horrified*. I reduced the reading – the result was that more of the class read all of the readings but the same amount read none of them. (Actually, that’s not entirely true – they were all happy to read the Scott McCloud book which was all comics.) They were happy to talk about Facebook or WoW but they didn’t want to read them and it was very hard to get them to talk beyond their personal experiences.

    I want to teach engaged and motivated students, but I want to do research first and foremost. I should probably have written that sentence as “Being a professor at less prestigious research institutions…” to be clearer in what I’m talking about. You may still disagree with me but I’m trying to share my experiences and discussions with faculty at those schools. It’s one of the reasons that they cite in telling me why they want to go to a more prestigious institution.

  • ls

    It’s pathetic that the way academia works often scares off people who could be its most valuable assets in terms of both teaching and research. Brilliant people who actually *want* to teach and *want* to research, with clearly proven ability to do so, don’t want to play the game they are expected to play if they want to subsist in the profession they desire – that’s a really, really sad state of affairs for American higher ed. It’s especially sad when far too many people (IMO) are in grad school for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to teach or research (or at least, don’t pertain to wanting to teach or research for the benefit of a broader community or public), who get to be faculty for not questioning the system.

    The response you gave to Kevin’s comment makes sense, but it also makes me concerned that there’s a presumption that professors are entitled to teach students who are genuinely engaged. I understand that it sucks to try to teach people who are uninterested, but part of the task of teaching is to try to make people interested. It can’t always be done, but it seems a bit disrespectful to colleagues to think that you shouldn’t have to deal with the football players or the hungover kids – someone has to teach them. Whether they get anything out of their classes or not is largely a matter of the infrastructure of college life at the kinds of schools you are talking about (you’re given a scholarship to play football, but you have no time to study, so you don’t engage in class – that’s less a reflection of the student’s willingness to engage than of the system that they’re put in, which claims to give them a free “education” but is actually making money off of them, and making that money by placing a higher cultural value on the football team’s performance [also encouraging massive parties] than academics). I feel like if you *really* want to teach, you shouldn’t want to teach JUST the “best” students; that’s not what teaching is ultimately about. I haven’t had to deal with the long-term frustration of teaching uninterested students (yet), so I don’t personally know what that feels like – but if you want to go to a “better” instutition because you want to teach “better” students, it seems like you’re buying right back into that game of prestige, rather than working to re-define how that game works. Not that you said you wanted to re-define it…but I think it’s an implicit desire in what you’ve said (“I want to be an academic but not in this academic system.”)

  • Michelle Smith

    Here Here! As an ABD myself, I’m *cringing* at the thought of being chewed up and spit out by the “perish or publish” tenure process at R1 universities… assuming I could get a tenure-track position to begin with! And the politics? I just don’t see how it could possibly be worth it. I also love teaching, and love doing research… but I’m really bummed out about all the bullsh#$ I see in academia.

    I’ve heard that Europe is much better, and I’m ready to go for it… At this point I would wait tables in Germany while looking for a research / teaching opportunity just to get away from the insanity that is the American university system!

    Good luck, and I hope you find what you’re looking for!

  • It seriously does sound like you should look somewhere other than the US. Most of the issues you’re raising seem to be peculiar to the tenure system there. Well, apart from the ethics committees. Do people do post-docs in your line of research? Go to Europe or Australia for a year and see how you like it.

    I’m in the same postion as you, but I’m looking at two or three years of post-doc work as a way to build up a body of research and publications. In this part of the world plenty of post-docs supervise graduate students, too.

    Good luck with it.

  • heh, see also “pompous homey degree” (in google, of course)

    Best wishes in your future endeavors; you will land in the right spot. Regards,
    James

  • Dori

    Go live in Israel for a while
    Tel-Aviv has no law (yet) against selling alcohol after 2am and there’s: sushi, great beaches and the airport is near by…
    Good Luck!
    D

  • Steve

    I don’t think a “standard” slot in academia will fit you now or ever. You should probably seek out odd situations flying under the radar, created by and for iconoclasts who are trying do do something different than business as usual.

    Then again, maybe you could teach part time at a Community College or other teaching-centered setting, and spend part time getting lucrative research/consulting gigs from marketing or entertainment companies.

    Just a thought.

    Don’t ever give up your dreams.

    No surrender!

    -Steve

  • Thanks for your honest sharing. I am not sure whether your problem is paradigmatic, student-related (don’t expect ‘perfect’ students anywhere – the imperfect ones can be lost of fun) or ‘system’ i.e. tenure -related. Just read all the comments and I would say – if your decision is to come to Europe (not a homogeneous education system) – great!! We’d like to book you for our seminar series and you can come for a drink at The Crescent pub where Marx and Engels drank – but don’t delay – it’s under threat http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article2449989.ece
    Frances Bell, University of Salford.

  • Go to Europe, or Australia/NZ. The ‘market’ is much more ad hoc, and doesn’t involve the cattle auction of major disciplinary conventions/interviews. As a Brit, I can say that the MLA convention scared the life out of me. Outside North America, more people get doctorates without much (or any) teaching, and so the requirements aren’t as formalised. A two- or three-year postdoctoral research fellowship with a teaching component would suit you to the ground, I think.

    (Though it would be nice if the GooHoo billionaires considered endowing research fellowships in the Bay Area for the kind of work you’re doing.)

  • Woot! Congratulations. i’m with ya ^_^

  • Doug K

    Lots of interesting food for thought; thank you for this post! That said, it sounds kind of whiny. I am an academic now, and have just gone up for tenure this past month. I teach at a public liberal arts university, which of course focuses mostly on undergraduate teaching, but I also teach graduate courses. This would probably be a less than ideal place, given your proclivities, but it works for me.

    Why are you so unwilling to live outside of NY or LA? I’m a gay man living in the rural south, and I enjoy both sushi and international travel. Add to that the fact that my discipline is one that is taught at only ca. 70 universities nationwide, so I have a lot fewer geographic options than you probably do. Yet I have thrived here.

    I can also speak to the IRB issues, to some degree. Ours is much less formalized than at my graduate school. My dissertation was qualitative, and I had a hard time getting through the IRB. At my university, I serve on the IRB and things are much more flexible. I still sense concerns about ethnography and action research, but interestingly in many cases it comes from qualitative researchers themselves! Your post provides food for thought, though, especially when we think about formalizing or over-reaching in terms of research oversight. Thanks for that.

  • Brave decision, danah, and well thought out too. I just have to respond to the people who are upset about your comment about unengaged students – ls wrote that it “seems a bit disrespectful to colleagues to think that you shouldn’t have to deal with the football players or the hungover kids – someone has to teach them” – having had similar experiences to danah about the number of students who bother to do the reading or are willing to engage at a deeper level than sharing anecdotes about Facebook or WoW, I really don’t see why “someone has to teach them”. To be honest, I think that if a student isn’t interested in a class, they shouldn’t be taking it. Why on earth not do something else instead of waste their time and money – and the time of their fellow students and professors.

    I’ve often thought of alternatives to academia, and may well explore them. I’m in Europe (a mid-sized university in Norway) and there are certainly some things that are better here – there is clearly more time for research than in most US tenure-track positions (50% research is the standard in Norway) and there seems to be somewhat less bureaucracy and meetings, but there is more and more of it the longer you’re at the university. There is huge pressure to apply for grants and each grant application takes a LOT of time to organise with collaborators and budgets and bureaucratic EU details and forms and of course the research plan – and then less than 10% get funded, which seems such an utter waste of time. We could be doing research instead of applying for endless grants… The tenure process is different. You either get a permanent job, in which case you’re tenured straight away, or you’re stuck with temporary jobs (three year research projects, one year or six month teaching contracts) endlessly until you finally get a permanent job when you’re in your forties, if you’re lucky – or you get no job. If you’re lucky and get the job early (as I did) this is great but it sucks for people doing the temporary jobs endlessly.

    I have to say though that the vast numbers of students who really don’t want to be at university at all are what have got me down the most. There are, as danah says, great students who are wonderful to work with, but more than half of every class I’ve taught really seems like they’d be happier just skipping a university education. They don’t do the reading, they don’t show up for class or they’re late, they have no curiosity about the topics we’re studying. That makes teaching very disheartening.

    On the other hand, I’ve now got a year’s sabbatical (with full pay), which is amazing and a glorious chance to do research exactly as I please – and that’s not a privilege I’d have in many jobs outside of academia. I can do consulting and write popular as well as academic books as a part of my job – that’s also rather wonderful.

    So I’ll be an academic for a while longer, at any rate.

    Good luck with your plans, danah, I’m quite sure you’ll find something good!

  • Eric

    We just need to get you a genius grant next year.

  • Take some time for yourself first… However, the tenure process isn’t all bad either. Keep in mind that in end, you have about as much job security as possible in the 21st Century, along with solid benefits, and you also get to work with a steady stream of fresh bright minds… Something that tends to keep you bright as your own light dims. Best Wishes!

  • “You have 7 years to publish X articles in the *right* journals in the *right* way. ”

    I was once given this spiel by an institution whose physical structure was literally falling apart. Instead of shoring up the walls (literally), they spent their time writing uninformed articles about projects that died way before the articles ever saw the light of day.

    That said, if you enjoy research, you can actually find a number of interesting topics to explore. Everyone has opinions. Part of research is seeing if your opinions can be validated using standard methods of analysis.

  • “You have 7 years to publish X articles in the *right* journals in the *right* way. ”

    I was once given this spiel by an institution whose physical structure was literally falling apart. Instead of shoring up the walls (literally), they spent their time writing uninformed articles about projects that died way before the articles ever saw the light of day.

    That said, if you enjoy research, you can actually find a number of interesting topics to explore. Everyone has opinions. Part of research is seeing if your opinions can be validated using standard methods of analysis.

  • Is – I find your statement “it also makes me concerned that there’s a presumption that professors are entitled to teach students who are genuinely engaged” a bit bothersome. I don’t understand why professors who are trained to be good researchers (not good teachers) are expected to operate as babysitters for 18-22 year olds. College is not compulsory and there’s no reason why students should be permitted to show up, not care, and expect good grades. That’s not the point of college nor is it the reason why people choose to be a professor as a career path. If being a professor means being a babysitter for adults, I’m definitely not interested in that job.

  • Ken

    Hear, hear. I have often struggled with the point of academia, myself. So much of what we are asked (or expected) to do seems designed to limit our effectiveness.

    However, while I’m not big on babysitting either, I am more than willing to help students find a way to find their own way. But I wholeheartedly agree that the dominant model of higher ed is particularly lame in that regard.

  • idontknow butiwantto

    I wish we could meet. Many times in the blog, i had to say hey that is how i feel! and spent all the time shaking my head (I agree! I agree!). I am so sorry that you will not be staying in San Francisco(I study at SIMS, Berkeley).

  • Consider me a kindred spirit. I had my own reckoning in 1998, when I was in my last year of a Ph.D. graduate program in Physics. I wholly enjoyed teaching, even to several of the students who ‘just needed that good grade to get into Physical Therapy’ or whatnot, and were not very interested in physics. I considered it a challenge to make my subject interesting, and to give them a solid foundation that they could use in everyday life going forward.

    I, too, left acedamia, and I’ve been gone since ’99. The one thing I really miss is the ability to just go to someone’s office and just talk about some new idea that’s on my mind (and have the reverse happen as well). I still have the inclination to teach, and I find myself doing it on a daily basis, just not in the classroom. Maybe someday if I get up the gumption, I’ll see what I could do at a local liberal arts college, maybe teach at night, just to scratch that itch. 🙂

  • I’m interested in this statement: “I do not believe you can do true ethnography under an IRB and it depresses me to think about all of the data that I’ve collected that I cannot use in my dissertation because it didn’t fit into an IRB-approved protocol.”

    Could you elaborate a bit? Or rant about IRB in another entry? I ask because while my experience with IRB has been incredibly frustrating because of their lack of competence and understanding of social science research, I don’t see a particular barrier against having “true” ethnographic research approved through IRB as opposed to anything else.

    Thanks for sharing your thought process around these hard decisions. It is actually very comforting.

  • Ouch. What-comes-after has been weighing heavy on my mind lately. This post brings catharsis but not much relief. Those are the things that worry me.

    On the tangent, I’m interested in this tension about teaching unengaged students. I wonder if students don’t break down neatly into “engaged” and “unengaged”. I suspect there’s a big middle of “students who would and want to be engaged” but are worn down by years of sit-there-and-listen, hoop-jump-ing and cram-and-regurgitate. Some of the brightest minds are the ones that check out under that kind of regimen. There’s something slightly radical about trying to bring students out of their defensive armour, whoever you figure is to blame for it being there. Exhausting, but radical.

  • GJ

    I read your blog on a day when I’m feeling particularly raw. This is my fourth year at a less prestigious institution. I chose this job because I was limited in where I could move because of family. It’s a teaching institution, and yes, the students as a whole are less intellectually engaged than at research institutions. I’ve been trying to balance good teaching, good research, good writing. And my blues today are because I feel as if I’m failing at all areas. Take your time finding your place. Be an independent scholar if you can figure out how to pay for the midnight sushi runs.

  • Alexis de Tocqueville

    I think you are too brilliant to settle for academia. It’s much more likely that academics will spend their lives writing and talking about you. Why don’t you just keep doing what you do best: thinking and respond to the world around you. Forget about “tenure-track positions” or “publishing x number of articles in y years.” That’s just another version of the same rat-race that corporate America sells to our future. You’re better than academia, better than industry, better than categories, really.

  • Hi danah,

    I just saw your presentation at AOIR- really great presentation. If you reconsider, you might want to take a look at this position at Teachers College, Columbia University: http://www.tc.edu/dean/pdf/ccte.pdf. Only graduate students and in NYC.

    Cheers,
    Anthony

  • Aleks

    Interesting thoughts. I’ve had some success as a grad student (even though I was at a smaller institution). I was never particularly keen on teaching (perhaps because of my experience trying to teach at a R2 institution ;).

    Still, I loved research, and I would make this a career. I hated bureaucracy and funding and paper-writing formalities.

    So I took a compromise, I went as a postdoc to a R1 institution, just to see. Being a postdoc, you have a lighter workload than being an assistant professor, and while there’s not much money, there’s enough to have an alright life with a bit more freedom.

    But after about 6 months of looking at it up close, I’ve decided I’m not going to pursue it further.

    Universities were great before the Internet. With Internet, there’s no more point. Indeed, there are great scholars at universities, but it’s correlation, not causation.

  • As a first semester PhD student, it’s encouraging to read this post today, to look up your bio, and to see that you did end up living in a big city and doing both industry and academic research. Thanks for being an inspiration and for showing us that it is possible to survive and to not follow just one-track after the PhD.