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10/17/2022

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TT

I am only a junior person too, so take my view with a grain of salt. My impression is that most people view those sorts of publications in pop-culture volumes as public facing work. Obviously there is still some difference between (say) The Ethics of Middle Earth vs. something like an op-ed. But I think for the purposes of counting publications, most people think that they fall in the same category, i.e., public-facing work that is not strictly speaking research. In addition to this being the view that I think most people on hiring committees etc hold, I also think that this view is correct about the categorization of such pieces.

Idle speculations

I'm a grad student and certainly haven't served on a hiring committee, so this is just my speculation. But I think that the value (or disvalue) of a piece in a pop culture volume could depend on the number of pop culture pieces you've written as a proportion of your total research output.

Let's say you're nearing the end of your PhD at a top program and you have an eye on jobs at R1 institutions. If you've published only 1 or 2 papers before, then publishing even a single pop culture piece would take up a high proportion of your total publications, and maybe wouldn't paint a picture of a student who's committed to producing world-leading research. Conversely, if you've published 20 papers and you're thinking of publishing your first pop culture piece, I can't imagine this piece making much of a difference to the narrative presented by your publication history.

Karl

My general impression with hiring committees (I can't speak for tenure committees or professional volume editors) is that if all you have are pop-culture pieces, it looks like you don't have much real philosophy in you and it counts against you. If you have published enough serious work and somewhere in the mix is a piece of pop culture philosophy, it shows that in addition to your serious side, you are "relatable" or something like that and it works for you. (The correct ratio of serious to pop-culture work depends on the subjective decision of the hiring committee member.)
That being said, there are some, ahem, stuffy, schools (you know who they are) that take themselves very seriously and may look askance at someone who deigned to publicly talk seriously about TV dragons.

Michel

To my mind, they don't count for much, but they do count for something. Some of them are useful teachings texts in intro-level classes, for example. In terms of publication value, I think of them as somewhere between an editorial/invited blog post and a normal contribution to a collection. So, you probably wouldn't want your piece to be your main/only/weightiest publication, but as long as it isn't, and as long as it's a good, fun contribution, then I'd think of it as a nice little piece of garnish on your CV.

FWIW, I'm writing one myself right now, and I'm having a blast doing so. I don't know how many people buy them (I suspect they're mostly gifts for nerdy teens), and I don't know how many of those nerdy teens actually read any of the book (not many?), but I think they nevertheless serve a useful function in terms of outreach and public education.

ABD

I'm a grad student so I don't know much about this from the hiring/tenure side of things, but I'm familiar with some folks who regularly publish this type of stuff or present it at venues like the Popular Culture Association conference (a very fun conference, btw!) Many of these scholars have tenure-track employment. It could be worth Googling some of the contributors to pop volumes to get a sense of the types of institutions where this work might be valued.

Trevor Hedberg

I was told back when I was a grad student that these kinds of publications would probably help me for teaching-oriented positions but hurt me with regard to research positions. My experience in the profession roughly accords with that. These kinds of publications don't carry all that much weight to those evaluating applications for research positions -- they might actually hurt your chances by giving the impression that you aren't "serious" about your research. However, they may look good to administrators and faculty as less research-focused places who want to increase department and/or university visibility. It really just depends. I definitely think there are a couple of jobs where a greater quantity of "public" philosophy or other philosophical work aimed at a broader audience would have helped me.

Bill Vanderburgh

As a search chair and T&P member, I can confirm the general views expressed here. Publications like pop culture articles are not nothing, but insofar as they are not refereed publications in academic journals, they don't count as research publications and therefore are of minimal value in a search and of almost no value in T&P except as an example of public service. Junior people might consider "cutting their teeth" with something like this as a first publication, but it would probably be better to spend the time on an article aimed at a journal.

anonymous associate professor

at my R1 I think these publications unfortunately typically count against people. (Though: if it's the only thing you've published, it will REALLY count against you; if it's one of many, it will hardly count against you, but I do think people will use it as fuel against you if they don't like your candidacy.)

What a great profession we work in

As a grad student with absolutely no skin in this game (not planning on going on the academic job market and have no pop-culture or public facing pieces), I still have to say: shame on those narrow-minded people who would actively count such pieces *against* a candidate.

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