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LINGUIST List 23.630

Tue Feb 07 2012

FYI: Linguists Outside Academia: A New Group

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        1.     Dave Sayers , Linguists Outside Academia: A New Group

Message 1: Linguists Outside Academia: A New Group
Date: 06-Feb-2012
From: Dave Sayers <dave.sayerscantab.net>
Subject: Linguists Outside Academia: A New Group
E-mail this message to a friend

Now this is the story all about how,
my life got flipped turned upside down,
and I'd like to take a minute just sit right there,
I'll tell you how I became the moderator of a new group called Linguists
Outside Academia.

That's right, I just parodied the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to introduce a
new academic group that I've made. That, my friends, is how I roll.

So, like, here's how it happened...

1. I realised that my chances of finding academic employment any time
soon were slim to nil at best; and rather than simply wither alone, I
wanted to share my misery with others. A problem shared is, after all, a
problem halved (unless you're the one who the problem is being
shared with, in which case you've just gained half a problem, but let's
leave that to one side).

2. I thought, hey, surely there are other people like me out there,
jobless people with PhDs, still publishing and presenting their research
for some reason, but without the tiniest chance of getting even the
lowliest fixed-term part-time adjunct academic post with no prospects
whatsoever attached to it. Not even an email notifying me that I'd been
rejected! Er, I mean, notifying them that they'd been rejected...

3. I sent a nice email to a number of learned societies (email
subscription lists) asking whether there existed any sort of group,
association, sub-group, knitting circle, etc., for linguists like me, doing
research but outside of academic settings. In order to create the
impression that I'm not entirely self-absorbed, I also included a second
relevant category of people, those doing research for non-academic

4. I received quite literally some responses. A few people pointed me to
organisations like BAAL, but while these sorts of organisations do
accommodate people outside academia (to varying degrees), that's not
really what they're all about. Other responses were from people like
me, people who share my pain! *sniff* There are like-minded rolling
stones out there after all. In fact, these responses soon became the
majority. More and more of my fellow academic stragglers and outcasts
contacted me, calling out from scattered locations in the wilderness of
the academic badlands. Bleary-eyed, running short on opportunity but
not on determination, weary from beating the path to countless
unobtainable jobs, speaking to numerous empty conference audiences,
born back ceaselessly into utter obscurity, they spoke, through the
dark shadows and foggy haze, to me....

5. All these people said they definitely wanted to be part of whatever
group I was setting up. Hmm. At first I politely pointed out that I hadn't
actually offered to make any such thing; all I did was ask if it already
existed. After a while I realised that I had, of course, inadvertently
volunteered myself. Perhaps I wanted this all along. Perhaps my thirst
for fame and influence has come to this: staking out my niche in
academic cyberspace, and becoming master of all I survey, king of my
particular hill. So be it.

6. I approached the good people at www.jiscmail.ac.uk, asking if I could
create an email list for linguists doing research outside academia. I
explained that the prospective members of such a group were
research-active, so this would fit jiscmail's criterion of relevance to
academia. But they said no! Meanies. Not only that, they even tried to
hawk some second-rate paid alternative on me, www.mailtalk.ac.uk,
which they said could be mine for the low low price of £120 a year!!
£120?? What do they think this is, the 1990s?? Well, after harrumphing
and shaking my fists at my computer screen for quite some time, I
decided I didn't need their help anyway.

7. After considering a number of options, it came down to either a
Google Group, or a knitting circle. It was a tough decision, but in the
end I went for a Google Group -- much to the disappointment of my
grandmother, for whom the knitting circle held out the first hope that
the two of us could finally share a leisure pursuit. Ho hum...

So, here it is -- and congratulations to all those who have made it
through this rambling opus of a message (which I will soon be adding to
my list of publications):


Linguists Outside Academia is a Google Group, but you don't need a
Gmail address to join (almost all our signups have been Gmail
addresses). Any old email address will do, and it's much like registering
for any other website. Your email address will act as a username for
Google Groups, and you'll pick a separate password. For example, if
your email address is dr.nobodynowhere.edu, then your Google
Group username will also be dr.nobodynowhere.edu, and you'll pick
a password separate from the one you use to log into your emails
at mail.nowhere.edu.

Allow me also to introduce my co-moderator listed on the site, Richard
Littauer, who not only responded at point #4 above, but also offered to
help. The fool!

And since opening the Group, we've gained a third moderator, Anna
Belew, who is currently working for LINGUIST List.

In the introductory blurb I've also widened the target group to include
those on unstable university teaching contracts -- after an email from a
friend currently in that situation, who felt almost as peripheral to
linguistic academia as me. Now, from where I'm sitting, he looks like the
proverbial man who sweats gold and is upset he doesn't sneeze
diamonds, such is my relative obscurity; but I have heard similar tales
of woe about people in those sorts of jobs feeling excluded, and far be
it from me to exclude people from a group designed for people who feel
excluded. So they can come along too, but only if they feel sufficiently
marginalised. There will be a test.

Similar appeals have come from end-stage postgraduates. Well, if
you're peering into the abyss beyond grad school, then you're probably
feeling the beginnings of the quivering abject terror that the originally
intended members feel as a daily routine. So, join us and share in the
chilly bewilderment of wallowing in the quagmire of unemployability.

To kick things off and entice people in with the promise of useful
information, I've written down the sum total of my knowledge about
eking out some sort of professional profile whilst pretending to be an
academic. I realise that by saying ''sum total'' I've given the lie to the
idea that there will be further useful information. Who knows, maybe I'll
think of something more. Hopefully though, the group will soon be busy
with useful tips from others. And that's the point of this really, for the
dispersed and obscure diaspora of linguistic nobodies to help each
other with a sense of shared purpose, common destiny, mutual
irrelevance, and collective destitution.

Please pass on the good word of this group as far and wide as you can
-- and forgive me for taking up your time with such seemingly endless,
circuitous, periphrastic circumlocution. If anything, this has certainly not
been a lesson in perspicuity. My apologies also for cross-posting this
message to a frankly offensive number of email lists. You know what
they say though, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Speaking of which, this old chestnut is oddly pertinent:

Thanks all, hope to see you in the new group soon. Byeeee!!


Dr. Dave Sayers
Honorary Research Fellow
College of Arts & Humanities
and Language Research Centre
Swansea University

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

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