Professional Development

#THATCamp: an unconference

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 10:23 pm

Speaking of conferences that have a lasting impact: I had the good fortune to attend THATCamp over the weekend. THATCamp stands for The Humanities and Technology Camp which essentially means the topics focus on digital humanities. The event is an unconference. The unconference is a really neat format if you’re comfortable with ambiguity. Participants had to send in an application and somewhere between 75-100 were accepted. Everyone who goes has to submit a proposal ahead of time, and the first event of the camp is to place your proposal on a timeslot and then everyone goes and votes on the things you want to attend. They make room assignments based on popularity of sessions, and then everyone gets to it. I had a really good time at the conference, and this model was quite refreshing.

Getting Instructions

I went with Ann Cunningham from Education and David Phillips from Humanities. David has a digital humanities project he’s working on, and both Ann and I have an interest in the role of instructional design in the digital humanities. I had the added interest in the role of the library in digital humanities. It was really nice to attend a conference with academic faculty, and we had a great time. We had plenty of opportunities to discuss future collaboration ideas, so hopefully something really good will come of that!

David, Ann, and I did a session on Exploring the Combination of Techniques of Instructional Design, the Humanities, and Digital Media in an Archival Format. We were interested in learning more about how other institutions approach this, and the 30,000 foot view of digital humanities practice. We had a really good conversation ranging from the role of CMSs to special collections to what departments should have positions supporting this type of work.

I attended sessions on digital pedagogy, digital humanities & special collections, research hacks, and dissertation hacks. I went in trying to attend a mix of things I knew about and could contribute to (pedagogy, dh & libraries, research hacks), as well as attending sessions where I’d learn more (dh & special collections, dissertation hacks which ended up being about the process as well as ebooks). In addition to this, many sessions took group notes in google docs, and you can see them here:Alternative Academic Careers, Digital Humanities in Higher Education, Digital Tool Show-and-Tell, Games, Messy DH, Sexy Good Web Design, and Envisioning Librarian/Scholar Collaborations. I particularly encourage you to check out the librarian/scholar collaboration one. I really wanted to attend it, and almost did, but figured I’d continue the librarian/scholar collaboration I was already working on by attending a session with both David and Ann instead. I followed along on twitter and in the google doc, though, and it was really, really revealing.

Most of my big take aways from the event were:

  • Librarians and scholars are trying to understand how to work with each other and what roles they play in each others’ professional work. Outreach from us would be a good thing!
  • Many librarians interested in digital humanities but not working in special collections are interested in learning more about special collections and archives in order to support digital humanities better. Special collections/archives folks: this sounds like an article/presentation opportunity! :)
  • Many scholars take photos of archives materials to do their research. These photos are typically never published and are for personal use. As someone who frequently takes photos of paper for my personal archive, I wonder if a station with good lighting would be a really useful service.
  • Instructional Design is core to the student side of digital humanities. Many digital humanist have a grasp of good practice, but not the theoretical understanding or in-depth knowledge necessary to take it to another level. I have found an article/presentation opportunity for myself! :)
  • It’s clear that librarianship needs a voice in this realm. We know a lot about metadata, information architecture, preservation, access. These are all core to what people are doing in digital humanities, but just as many are doing good teaching without a really deep understanding of instructional design that could take it to another level, many are doing a good job with this type of work without the deep knowledge we have that could take it to another level. This is an opportunity for all of us: in our work, publishing, and presenting, to share our expertise with the digital humanities community.

I came back ready to do some things and come up with some ideas! And as several people can attest, I’m anxious to share what I learned. Let me know if you want to chat!

4 Responses to “#THATCamp: an unconference”

  1. Fascinating-I’m stoked about the idea of DH and SC!

    I”m very interested in pursuing this idea at ZSR.

  2. I’m so glad you you, David and Ann could go as a team. They came back just as excited as you!

  3. Thanks for opening your experience up for us. I am especially interested to learn more about what may lie behind this observation and discuss possibilities:
    Many librarians interested in digital humanities but not working in special collections are interested in learning more about special collections and archives in order to support digital humanities better. Special collections/archives folks: this sounds like an article/presentation opportunity! :)

  4. Thanks all!

    Katherine, I enjoyed chatting with you about this earlier. Let me know if you’d like to chat further!


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