In this invigorating presentation, Holdstein (one of the originators of the first group of Computers and Writing conferences) talked about the state of the "field" (computers and writing) such as it is. Her presentation focused on the fact that many of us who are interested in computers and writing spend a lot of our energy bringing our departments "up to speed," while also trying our best to be good, continually publishing and conference/committee attending academics -- only to be rewarded with a slap on the back, a polite brief thank-you for all our work, followed by "Sorry, no tenure," then a year or so to clean up and move on somewhere else. This was a constant refrain at the conference.
Only a few of us (and believe me, we felt like a very lucky bunch) were in tenure-track positions. Even fewer of us had received tenure as a result of our work. Many of the other people I met at the conference felt overworked in their dual (and often conflicting) roles as departmental technology geeks (usually meaning they are responsible for helping everyone with every possible computer problem), and as tenure-seeking faculty who have to be devoted to the increasingly demanding cycle of conference presentations and the obscure, difficult to obtain, academic publication.
When the topic of tenure, or support from within one's own department came up in conversation, the participants of the discussion either immediately became bitter, or they changed the subject. Holdstein addressed this problem head on and said, in essence, "We've come a long way, but we've still got a long way to go. And we need to maintain our self respect at all times because no one else is going to give us the help that we really need." Her entire presentation will be available through the Computers and Writing Conference Web site sometime in the next few weeks. Check it out.
Holdstein gave a lively presentation full of many hard-won "truths" about how we need to deal with and work within traditional English departments that are slowly, but certainly, changing their minds about the usefulness (and appropriateness) of computers in the instruction of writing and literature.
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