The 15 minutes a day when I skim Facebook, I usually only catch the titles of things that look vaguely interesting before scrolling on. A recent title stuck with me, so I finally made the effort to go back and read the article. Debbie Chachra’s Why I Am Not a Maker is worth a read, although my current state of mind took her ideas in a different direction.
I’ve been doing some professional soul-searching lately, which is a good practice generally I think, and I came to a realization – there is a unnamed third category in the work mode of the contemporary digital scholar. The Hack/Yack binary precludes those of us who aren’t particularly interested in (or good at) the deep intellectualization of digital academic work, and/or aren’t particularly skilled in (or have aptitude for) codestuffs and programmar syntaxes. The thread of Chachra’s piece that unspooled my desire to blog is simple: those that don’t make, build, and should be recognized as imminently as valuable. What she calls education and caregiving, I’ll call Buildability.
The thing I like about “building” as my mode of work is that it doesn’t need to drill down to the microsope or zoom out to the mesosphere; building can be always, also the plan, the structure itself, and the process in between. You can build a brand, character, and consensus all at once.
Community engagement. Program development. Initiative coordinator. Implementer-in-residence. I have finally realized I care more about facilitating the physical and mental space and organizational “vibez” for a discussion than about the philosophical addressability of texts.* I will go to town evaluating, testing and playing with digital research tools, if in the end it means that a sense of enjoyment and fun stays with those who showed up. I’ll rouse every rabble on a listserv, if one or two people are inspired to reimagine how librarians should “publish.” I’d always rather grab a bite with a professor or grad student than “assess their information needs.” I am a builder of: teams, spirits, communities, organizational culture, workflows, independence, good times, realities, project plans, innovative outreach, modules, models, #digischolbandnames, #n00brarians, #foodtei, collegiality, and more.
“Isn’t this just semantic mumbo jumbo?” “Aren’t you just poking fun at an age-old debate in credentialing and credit?” Y’all, this is a weird, tough time where we are exploring new ways of working, and that means interrogating/problemitizing our “labor” from every angle. (See what I did there, with the academicese? Yeah, I survived grad school in a humanities discipline.) I hope to see more discussion on the dangerous? line we’re walking by exchanging the monograph (product) for the website (product) without duly examining, acknowledging, and evaluating the Buildability (process) and the effort (people). There is a whole lotta building going on that facilitates all the hacking and ALLLLLLLLLL the yacking. As we all dig deep to understand the valuation of multifaceted digital work, lets remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day… but it sure as shit was built.
*This is not to disparage or devalue either hacking or yacking, just to acknowledge that I’m not particularly good at it, I appreciate and respect those that are, and I hope we are moving toward an academe that appreciates and respects the solid middle of these two extremes.