It’s Thanksgiving break, which, for those of us who are still in the coursework stage of their graduate careers, means seminar paper season. Should we really have left starting these until break when we knew we’d barely have energy for turkey and pie, let alone actual scholarship? Of course. But when else would we have found the time?!
I’d no doubt discover an extra hour of productivity each week if I didn’t moan “but I don’t have any time!” on a regular basis. After all, why am I even drafting a blog post when I have a pile of Victorian novels sitting on the bedroom floor that should be bulging with orange tabs by now? However, dear readers, my promise of monthly blog posts will not be rescinded upon while I still have the capability of motion in these weary digits. When I noted down ideas for blog posts this month, I pre-empted the very topic that would be uppermost in my mind by the end of the month: that timey-wimey stuff. Earlier in November, I allocated most of a day to focus on my work in the digital humanities. I had a very productive meeting with the Scholars’ Collaborative in which I figured out much of what I need to accomplish—particularly in organizing and labeling items—for the John Temple Papers online exhibition. I cannot wait for Christmas break so I can begin uploading items and, most importantly, work on an epic spreadsheet to collect and standardize all the metadata. It’s key for me to keep myself to this promise of vacation progress because the semesters remain busy times and I plan to work on my conference paper for Digital Diversity 2015 during a Professional Development seminar in the spring.
In discussing my plans for this seminar, I was continually reminded of the necessity of “translating” DH work into conventional units of scholarly success, like the all-important peer-reviewed journal article (hopefully, the end result of my conference paper!). Ironically, this issue had already arisen when I spent time after my meeting on how to utilize Omeka at an event held by UConn as part of the Conversations in Digital Scholarship series. During this event, guests from Northeastern University showcased the projects currently being built there, including the Early Caribbean Digital Archive, the TAPAS project, and Our Marathon. One of the speakers, Jim McGrath, focused on the issue of graduate student labor, particularly when graduate students are working on faculty-led projects, and noted that digital work can tend to slow down our time to completion rates. As I continue to volunteer with the Graduate Employee Union here at UConn, our energies are partly focused on making the work of graduate employees visible to the university. (My suggestion for leaving all our grading outside the President’s office hasn’t yet been entirely shot down.) Jim drew my attention to #GradDH as a way of making our involvement immediately obvious in the Twittersphere. I would have leapt at the opportunity to use this hashtag, except… wait… oh no, I’m not on Twitter. My justification? The time commitment. My plan? Get on there before I head onto the job market. I was sent an article from the Guardian earlier this week on how to “make the most of your time” as a graduate student, which included maintaining a Twitter presence as well as involvement in professional activities like conferences. Academia is full of such demands upon our time, and they are truly valuable: it’s perhaps sad but true that attending the Victorian Institute’s Annual Conference last year may have been one of the best weekends of my life, and certainly of my career. But do I get a time out? Do I get some breathing space as a baby PhD student? Do I get some slack considering my salary and funding barely cover a jet setting, conference attending lifestyle?
Regardless of the stress I put myself under, academia continues to confront many of these issues: as the Modern Language Association asks departments to reduce the time it takes to complete a PhD while also encouraging departments to ensure students are confident in digital aspects of their field; as UConn resist the right of graduate employees to take sick leave or reasonable parental leave; as we all feel the clock ticking down to the end of 2014. I’d love to hear from others working in academia on their relationship with time: how do we make the most of it, find it, safeguard it?