AHA Survival Guide: 2014 Edition

tags: AHA 2014



David Austin Walsh is the editor of the History News Network. Follow him on Twitter @davidastinwalsh.

The 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association opens tomorrow in Washington, D.C. Here's a survival guide to the AHA 2014, much of it shamelessly recycled from my list from last year:

Download the AHA app for your mobile device.

Check #AHA2014 religiously on Twitter. (And while you're at it, contribute to the Twitter discussion -- maybe even join #Twitterstorians in tweeting the conference!)

Plan out your schedule! There will be so many interesting sessions, both directly relevant to your research/teaching/interests and not-so-relevant-but-still-important-and-fascinating, that you'll need to weigh which ones you'll have time for. It'll help to plan things out in advance!

If you're presenting for the first time, follow Linda Kerber's advice. And, for the love of God, remember that people are shelling out good money to attend the conference -- and it's not like most grad students are swimming in green. Make it at least partway worthwhile for them and DON'T JUST READ YOUR PAPER.

Go to the plenary. Yes, it's at 8:00pm this year, but at least it finishes by 9:30! Overpriced drinks in Adams Morgan can wait for a little while. Besides, the topic -- examining the "other" great civil wars of the 1860s (China, Mexico, and Syria) -- should prove to be interesting.

Go to at least one affiliated society session. An AHA meeting is more than just the AHA. There are literally dozens of affiliated societies -- from the Conference on Latin American History to the American Catholic Historical Association to the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History -- who are hosting their own sessions. Again, for a full list, visit the AHA website.

Talk to at least one "unimportant" person.

Go on at least one tour. AHA guides will be hosting a number of local history tours, including a behind-the-scenes look at the National Museum of American History.

Talk to local AHA volunteers about local history. Every year the AHA volunteer staff draws from undergrads and grad students from local universities -- and there are a lot of universities in the DC area: American, Catholic, Gaulladet, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, Trinity Washington, and UDC are the four-year schools in the District of Columbia alone.

Now for the uniquely 2014 issues. There's a lot buzzing this year -- fitting, given the conference theme of "Disagreement, Debate, Discussion." Here's a taste:

Digital History. The AHA is outdoing itself this year with digital history-centric sessions, and the discussion is going far beyond the "what is digital history?" of years past (though rest assured, there are introductory panels for neophytes). There are sessions dedicated to digital dissertations, digital archives, crowdsourced research, digital publishing, digital historiography, and -- of course -- there's the "unconference" of THATcamp 2014, this year happening on Sunday, January 5.

MOOCs. 2012 was dubbed "the year of the MOOC" by the New York Times. 2013 is the year that, as Slate's Tressie McMillan Cotten writes, "The MOOC met reality." Massive online open courses were billed as the next big thing in higher education, but throughout 2013 MOOCs saw a massive hype backlash. Faculty and students at San Jose State University successfully pushed back against an effort to replace undergraduate courses with MOOCs. On Friday, Jonathan Rees -- one of the academy's fiercest critics of MOOCs; Philip Zelikow and Jeremy Adelman -- two "superprofessors" who have led popular history MOOCs; and Rees's colleague at Colorado State Pueblo Ann Little will square off in a session entitled "How Should Historians Respond to MOOCs?"

Jobs, Adjuncts, Social Media, Rage and Power. The Twittersphere is buzzing over a feud between Rebecca Schuman, a higher ed. writer for Slate and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Claire Potter, who blogs as the Chronicle's "Tenured Radical." Schuman called out the UC Riverside English department on her blog for scheduling interviews with applicants for an English Lit tenure-track position a mere five days before the Modern Language Association conference in Chicago. Potter hit back with a post about social media and professional ethics, chiding Schuman for her "rage," and the whole thing degenerated from there. As of this writing, they've made up, but the issues they've raised will continue to be debated.


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