Public Humanities: Preparing to Carry my Degree Outside the University
As a MA student not planning to continue on into the world of academia, I am working on curating my skills and experiences into a package that has some sort of exigency outside of these university walls. Ideally, when I leave graduate school, I will get some sort of job in the editing and publishing world—or, at the least, a job that can act as a bridge into that world. So, this year I am working on building an editing portfolio and acquiring the skills to back it up. In an effort to do so, I participated in an Editing Independent Study last semester, have done some freelancing work, and am one of the acting Editorial Assistants for the Henry James Review (a really great gig if you think you might be into editing) for this academic year. This is all just about as straightforward as it sounds, but is absolutely providing the type of practical experience that (I think) is necessary for taking a degree out into the world.
This is graduate school, though, so I’m also (trying) to do some type of theoretical work to complement the practical experiences I am gathering. At this point in my time, like the rest of my second-year comrades, this more focused theoretical work is the meat and potatoes of what will become my Culminating Project. For this project, I am working from three main texts: Vilem Flusser’s Does Writing Have a Future, Into the Universe of Technical Images (also Flusser), and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Ways of Curating. I am working through these texts and thinking not just about the ways we write, but how we write online and how—or if—we can do so in truly critically productive ways. There are a lot of interesting questions that surface from these texts, but what I am most interested in for my project is Flusser’s conception of the author-publisher relationship, in which the author writes not to his audience but to his transmitter (the publisher). And, furthermore, how this relationship and these individual roles become less critical as they morph into automated functionaries in digital spaces. What we risk in these digital spaces—aside from becoming mere functionaries—is also a loss of actual critical, purposeful writing and the understanding of why we really write, create, or publish in the first place. That being said, what does it really mean to publish online? And, if Flusser was seeing signs of the “informatic revolution” in 1987, where does that leave us today? The future is digital—and the digital is here—so we must ask ourselves: does writing have a future online? And if so, where/how do we curate space for critical-creative engagement in a world of listicles, automated censorship, tl;dr, and “wastebasket” journalism? The end product of this CP will be rendered in some sort of experiencing, digital format (perhaps a podcast) and will attempt to reflect a curated space that at least begins to take steps toward this critical-creative engagement Flusser is calling for. My overall hope is that I can combine both the knowledge of theory and practice I am working to understand and develop a well-rounded portfolio for the real world. Here’s to hoping!
Kristin Hatten, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, is a 2nd-year student in the MA program. She currently serves as a M.A. Student Liaison for the English Graduate Organization.