It’s a common question posed to students of the UCF T&T Ph.D. Program. The misinterpretations of our family and friends are often quite humorous. One student’s mother thinks she only programs cell phone apps. Often, misunderstandings of the program stem from these extremely narrow assumptions about our fields of research, spurring comments ranging from, “Oh, you hate books now?” to “So you think the internet will save us all, huh?” to “Exactly how is technology ruining society?” I once had to correct a Modeling & Simulation postdoc before he began to ask specific questions about my research in “Sex & Technology”—I have since learned to overemphasize the initial “T” in “Texts.”
While discussing our program of study is an easy Thanksgiving conversation topic, it can also be frustrating to work so hard for a degree that few people have even heard of. The unique nature of the T&T degree poses extra challenges for the job search. Ph.D.’s in English or even Digital Media don’t need to explain their particular degree program in cover letters or introductory email to perspective employers. My favorite aspect of T&T, the fact that students are able—and expected—to tailor the program to fit their own scholarly interests can become a drawback. The T&T job-seeker must define the program well and explain its similarities to whatever traditional degree the job posting requests while also demonstrating that the differences of the T&T degree are advantageous.
So, what is T&T and how can it best be described to potential employers? The department website describes the program as “part of a growing interdisciplinary field combining scholarly study, creative production, and assessment of digital media texts. The curriculum emphasizes theory and practice in new media supplemented by historical grounding in pre-digital media studies.”
The choice of “texts” over the more specific terms “writing” or “communication” is a clear asset. The T&T student has a unique understanding of the term “text” that is not defined solely as writing but also extends to images, music, video games, webpages, and more. This can provide a fresh perspective for nearly any corporation or traditional field of study.
Interdisciplinarity, too, is marketable—universities now appear to lament the rigid department structure without being able to completely eliminate it (yet), and corporations never really bought into the value of single-subject expertise anyway, favoring employees who are knowledgeable about many topics and possess a variety of practical skills. Understanding the theories and practices of a variety of scholarly fields provides the T&T student with a robust toolkit of knowledge and skills with which to tackle any problem.
The combination of “scholarly study, creative production, and assessment of digital media texts,” is also desirable to future employers. More traditional degree programs are not typically expected to produce graduates who are strong scholars and producers and critical evaluators of technology. We are the complete package employers seek. We are able researchers, developers, and critics; we are versed in both theory and practice; we deftly navigate early and emerging media.
So, what is Texts and Technology?
- “An interdisciplinary approach to the intersection of texts and technology from cultural, historical, and communicative perspectives” (T&T Brochure).
- A combination of “cultural studies, technical writing, and new media studies” that furthers “students’ practical and theoretical understanding of various digital media” (T&T Brochure).
- An extension of “the traditional strengths of English studies, such as textual analysis and interpretation, attention to cultural and historical contexts, and awareness of the specificity of media, to emergent forms of video, audio, and multimedia texts” (T&T Brochure).
- An interdisciplinary program that studies the influence of technology on humanity and the influence of humanity on technology.
- A necessary link between programmers and consumers, as many social justice issues are often lost in the design process.
- An awesome degree.