Cluster hires in digital humanities

Thanks to Michael I have found out about two different cluster hires in the area of digital humanities/new media:

  • UI’s next cluster hires will be digital public humanities | Iowa Higher Education. The University of Iowa is hiring a cluster of 6 positions over 2 years in “digital public humanities.” These will be partly funded by the Provost and partly by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This is their second cluster.
  • Georgia State University has a Second Century Initiative that targets areas for cluster hiring. Faculty and deans submit thematic proposals that are then evaluated. “New Media” is the theme of one of the eight winning proposals. There are 4 positions around New Media including New Media and Documentary Investigation, Interactive Media Design, Digital Humanities and Digital Music Technology.

There are a number of interesting facets to these cluster hires:

  • Universities are no longer hiring just one digital humanities person to get things going – they are hiring clusters of related positions. As the digital humanities and new media fields evolve it is becoming clear that no one person can cover the entire field. This is a sign of maturity and the explosive interdisciplinarity of the digital. Further, it is now clear that a university can’t expect to do digital humanities at a leadership level with just one person.
  • These positions look like they will go into traditional departments while still staying linked in an interdisciplinary thematic area. Much could be said about the advantages and disadvantages of this model (how exactly do you keep the hires from spinning back into their discipline in order to get tenure?), but politically it is much easier to sell to departments in times of stress. This way departments get some renewal, even if the person hired is for a new interdisciplinary area. Ideally the person also acts as a catalyst in the department linking them into the thematic area.
  • Digital humanities is being integrated into new media, electronic music, and interactive media design. This makes sense since the digital humanities has always had a constructive and creative side. It has been a field that is about the poesis – the making – of multimedia works as much as about the critique of cyberculture. In our practices and need for infrastructure we have more in common with visual artists, composers, and new media designers. The Multimedia program I help develop at McMaster took exactly this approach and we were a richer unit for it.