This morning a couple of weird thoughts began to criss-cross in my mind that linked ‘punk’ academics, jam bands, and Theodore Adorno. In the end, I began to see the political edge of the digital humanities in opposing what Adorno and Horkheimer call the “culture industry.”
To start off, I was reading Adorno and Horkheimer’s “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as mass deception” essay and thinking about ways for humanist academics to fight the totalizing power of late capital and the culture industries in the age of new media. Not too heavy, huh?
Then I noticed a great link on twitter about an archive of electroacoustic music being distributed via torrent. I replied that etree.org is another great site that is distributing music via torrent for all sorts of bands in the ‘jam music’ scene, most notably Phish but also Dave Matthews, String Cheese Incident, etc. All of these bands have a liberal taping policy that allows fans to tape their live performances and the distribute them non-commercially. (Another example of this is the Live Music archive over at archive.org, also run by etree.org)
The combination of academia and music reminded me of once hearing about the Do-It-Yourself culture of ‘punk academics.’ Now, I don’t really know that much about punk academics-I did spend most of my teen years listening to punk bands like NOFX, the Descendents, and the Dead Kennedy’s-but thinking about them alongside the open access taping policy of bands like Phish prompts this question:
Don’t we need some ‘jam academics’?
How is/should/could digital technology change the Ph.D. program in the humanities?
Tanya Roth’s great Hacking the Academy post on “Hacking the Dissertation” pushed me to think through how one might hack graduate training. Roth has seen the light on the other side of ADB (all but dissertation) and she does a good job rethinking the dissertation process. I, however, have just passed through two years of course work and I am now staring down the barrel of four exam lists and comprehensive exams in October.
From this position in the middle of my own specific degree program in American Religious Cultures in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory, I want to offer a few modest suggestions for hacking the Ph.D. degree. For most of these suggestions I rely a lot on my own experiences in my own program/university so I’m hoping to hear more from people other places.