Moeller, Ryan; Cargile Cook, Kelli; & Ball, Cheryl. (2009). Political economy and sustaining the unstable: New faculty and research in English studies. In Danielle DeVoss, Heidi McKee, & Dickie Selfe (Eds.), Technological ecologies and sustainability: Methods, modes, and assessment. Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press. http://ccdigitalpress.org/tes/01_moeller_ball_cargile_cook.pdf
In this chapter, we present political economy analysis (PEA) as a methodology for understanding and working within the often-shifting techno-ecologies of an academic department. As a case study, we document the shift in an English department at a Carnegie Research University (High Research Activity) in the western United States brought about by the hiring of two junior faculty members with specializations in new media and technology. PEA methods allow us to focus on the material conditions that prompted the new hires (i.e., a new Ph.D. program in the Theory and Practice of Professional Communication) and those brought about by their arrival (e.g., changes in new faculty startup packages, the necessity of funded research to the sustainability of the entire department, and renewed pedagogical and economic attention paid to the department’s computer labs). After we discuss PEA, we present a series of interwoven narratives that analyze and consider our experiences through the PEA lens. We conclude with a list of recommendations—for job candidates, hiring committees, faculty, and administrators—that will help departments, we hope, better anticipate, support, and sustain the work of new technology specialist hires.