“Research and Creative Activity”

Clancy Ratliff's picture
We all talk about how we want our online work, particularly our work with "new media" -- as in audio and video -- to count in our tenure cases and annual reviews for our institutions. Perhaps this work, especially if it isn't peer reviewed, doesn't always translate as research, or at least we're not always able to convince our reviewers that it's research. I can't remember if we've already discussed this before, but how about making a case for media compositions as creative activity? My first tenure-track job had as its categories for annual review, tenure, and promotion "Teaching," "Service," and "Research and Creative Activity" (not in that order, of course). My current institution has this as well. What do you think? Does your institution reward creative activity for professors who aren't in strictly creative designated positions, like creative writing, art, or music? Might your department respond to your media work better if it were framed as creative activity? I'm thinking the places that are more likely to be amenable to this kind of thing are second-tier research institutions, like the two at which I've worked. These are also the universities that tend to reward publication outside of your primary research area, the one you were hired for. More to the point, is this something MediaCommons ought to think about when we write statements about our review process which are aimed toward tenure and promotion committees?


I am aware of one recent-ish

I am aware of one recent-ish case in which an assistant professor of Acting/Directing in a Theatre Department at Large Square State University started a fairly sophisticated magazine style website about the profession and craft of acting. At the time of the 3 year review, the profs contract was not renewed. Though the buzz suggested that the contract termination was for mostly reasons of “fit” (aka personality conflicts/etc), the prof’s work on the website was determined to count neither as research nor creative activity. The rationale given was that the website didn’t count as research because the writing was not peer reviewed, and it didn’t count as creative output because the website did not advance the prof’s status as an actor/director in the field. It seems to me that the structure for assessing creative output at most institutions is as antiquated and conventionally hierarchical as scholarly publishing, if not more so.

Jason Mittell's picture

I'm skeptical of this angle.

I’m skeptical of this angle. Within film/media studies, creative work for film/videomakers is typically judged within systems of peer review, such as festival appearances, awards, grants, exhibitions, etc. To call a web-based publication ‘creative work’ would seem to require similar systems of authentication, which are rare for online media (somehow I don’t think getting a Bloggie would count!).

Clancy Ratliff's picture

Obviously not just any

Obviously not just any web-based publication would count, but I stand by my original point and intent. What about something like The Machine Is Us/ing Us? Is that not an awfully creative video, even if it hasn’t won an award at a prestigious film festival? I think something like that may not be such a great fit for research, but it is certainly creative activity.

Jason Mittell's picture

I guess I'd see work like

I guess I’d see work like “The Machine” and such videos as more research-driven than creative - it’s using the medium of video to express an argument. Personally I’d like to see definitions of scholarship expand to include video work, rather than placing research-driven videos under the rubric of creative work, as for most institutions, creative work is less valued than published research.