Walking the walk
You may have caught the news over Facebook or Twitter late this past week: I accepted an offer from the Rhetoric Society of America to become their inaugural Director of Electronic Resources (DER). First, I want to thank everyone who congratulated me over email, FB, Twitter, etc. I appreciate all the positive feedback and good wishes.
By the time we got to the point of the offer, it wasn’t a difficult decision at all. I really like how RSA has framed the position, imagining it as on an organizational par with a journal editorship, an ex officio board membership, etc. And there were several things, I think, that recommended me for the position–my familiarity with most things digital as well as the fact that I’m tenured/established, the support that SU was willing to provide me upon accepting the gig, and the fact that I have a good working relationship with the person who’ll be running the conference in 2014. All of those will make the position a manageable one for me.
I did spend some time this summer really thinking carefully about whether or not I wanted to dip my toe back into the pool of organizational service, though. After last year’s surgery, my health and energy levels are still somewhat precarious. I feel pretty solid now, but it takes less to incapacitate me than it used to, and taking on extra duties was something I really had to think about. I’m also in the process of getting my next major project off the ground, so that was another factor I had to take into consideration. I’m not always the greatest at long-term planning, as I have the bad habit of extrapolating my short-term free time unrealistically, without remembering the other commitments I’ve made.
I think one of the things that pushed me into applying and accepting the position, though, was that I still believe that there are a lot of changes that could take place within our professional organizations, many of which are related to the work I do in rhetoric and technology. I’m more than happy to write about those changes on my blog, and do with some frequency, but there’s also a degree to which I feel like I should be doing what I can to implement them. Some of them are small and gradual, while others will be fairly major.
I like the fact that I’ll have a chance to do this work in a context like RSA, an organization with a richer history than I think most of us truly know but one that may be a little more agile than the Big 2 (NCTE/CCCC & MLA). RSA’s been growing quite a bit over the past few years, in terms of the size of the conference, the creation of local affiliates, and efforts at internationalization (did you know that there’s an RSE?). It’s also in a fairly unique position as a well-established organization with both leadership and membership drawn from English and Communications, a relationship that varies a lot from institution to institution. All of those factors put RSA in an interesting position, one that (to me, at least) is ripe for the kind of work that the DER is meant to accomplish.
There are a lot of possible first steps, but I’m starting right now with social media (follow RSA at @rhetsoc!), with the idea that those structures will take some time to develop and take hold. They’ll also function as a loose framework for a lot of the other developing that we’ll end up doing, I suspect. And I expect that I’ll be posting updates here periodically, asking for feedback on site features, wishlisting, etc.
So yeah, prepare to be directed, you electronic resources.