I am currently in the process of publishing my first two papers and preparing my dissertation — I have been against this academic publication model since entering my PhD program (why I chose a PhD program is another discussion).
Faculty and administrators always ask why I blog, tweet, participate in online chats, and video record my interviews and ethnographic observations. Its all because I believe other media output and methods of distribution (beyond academic publications and books) are the present and future of knowledge and content. Higher ed is woefully behind in the production and distribution of content (knowledge) when compared to other sectors of society.
Looks like the uber powerful Modern Language Association is coming around to my point of view. From Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Education:
So much has changed, he said, but dissertation norms haven’t, to the detriment of English and other language programs. “Are we writing books for the 19th century or preparing people to work in the 21st?” he asked.
Leaders of the MLA — in several sessions and discussions here — indicated that they are afraid that too many dissertations are indeed governed by out-of-date conventions, leading to the production of “proto-books” that may do little to promote scholarship and may not even be advancing the careers of graduate students. During the process, the graduate students accumulate debt and frustrations. Russell A. Berman, a professor of comparative literature and German studies at Stanford University, used his presidential address at the MLA to call for departments to find ways to cut “time to degree” for doctorates in half.
And at a standing-room-only session, leaders of a task force studying possible changes in dissertation requirements discussed some of the ideas under consideration. There was a strong sense that the traditional model of producing a several-hundred-page literary analysis dominates English and other language doctoral programs — even though many people feel that the genre is overused and frequently ineffective. People also talked about the value of digital projects, of a series of essays, or public scholarship. Others talked about ways to change the student-committee dynamic in ways that might expedite dissertation completion.
“We are at a defining moment in higher education,” said Kathleen Woodward, director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington. “We absolutely have to think outside the box that the dissertation is a book or a book-in-progress.”
I will continue to hop through the hoops of the PhD (its too late for me), but will come out armed with multiple output, assets, and skill sets beyond the minimum outdated methods and content required of a 19th century business model. (#bmgen)