Descending from the Ivory Tower – Digital Humanities Beyond Academia

As I already stated in my very first blogpost, I am a first generation Digital Humanist. I started this masters program an academic year ago, in 2015. In a month or so from now, I hope to graduate for the third and final time. I will be thrown under the bus – I mean into the job market – by February. How nice it would be, to stay safely hidden in the Ivory Tower of academia, not having to face whether or not I am truly qualified for the real world. It reminds me of a comment one of my professors once made about the similarity between Italian and Belgian students, remaining under the care of their parents until graduation. I tested myself already, I am perfectly capable of living abroad and taking care of myself, that is, with financial aid and Skype nearby. Now is the time to let it go, to become truly independent. But will I be independent from academia as well?

Stéfan Sinclair puts my internal debate into words in his blogpost on Digital Craft and Humanistic Perspectives Beyond Academia:

Don’t count on an academic job as a reward for your travails (in other words, don’t consider me as a model) and don’t count on your studies to prepare you for easy access to non-academic jobs.
(Sinclair, 2013)

Where do we stand as future masters in Digital Humanities? Do we stick to the tricky search of finding a job as a humanist, albeit some extra capabilities, or do we use our newly found digital confidence to demand a job in the promising world of IT? Is there a middle ground? Is there someting inbetween academia and the outside?

Even for those who do get the change to work on a PhD, possibilities for their academic employment increasingly drop, since the number of tenure track jobs available rapidly decreases for humanities scholars. Another option, discussed by Katarina Rogers, is that of alternative academics, or AltAc:

People with advanced humanities degrees who find stimulating careers in and around the academy but outside the tenure track.
(Rogers, 2015)

Some of those jobs outside the academy can exist in libraries, museums, archives, humanities centres and labs, presses, and so on (Rogers, 2015). In order for students and academics alike to prepare for a job out of the ivory tower, existing programs need to prepare their students adequately for an ever changing job market and society. The Digital Humanities are setting a good example since many of its implicit skills such as “collaboration, project management, and technological fluency” gain importance both within the academy and outside (Rogers, 2015). It is not necessarily about the specific job or career, but

People that identify with the term [alternative academic] tend to see their work through the lens of academic training, and incorporate scholarly methods into the way that work is done.
(Rogers, 2015)

That, together with all the reasons for why the humanities matter, will guide me through the maze. Furthermore, I also believe that the digital in Digital Humanities, increases my opportunities in the current society. Hopefully others will see the importance of the humanities, along with the promising but ever critical digital humanities.


Sinclair, Stéphan. “Digital Craft and Humanistic Perspectives Beyond Academia.” 2013.

Rogers, Katina. “Humanities Unbound: Supporting Careers and Scholarship Beyond the Tenure Track.” Digital Humanities Quarterly, 9(1), 2015.