Technology and International Scholarly Partnerships Across the Digital Divide

As a THATCamp newbie, rather than propose a session I would like to discuss with other participants some questions and issues related to content produced online by international networks of scholars and practitioners. I have some experience in this area as an academic involved in various Africa-related digital projects, including the Africa Past and Present podcast (see my recent journal article here), the Overcoming Apartheid web curriculum, and the Football Scholars Forum. Generally, I am interested in knowledge production and circulation; costs and accessibility; and the challenges posed by “digital imperialism.” A bit more specifically, how can technology generate and enhance international scholarly collaborations in the humanities and social sciences? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Skype, Zotero, WordPress and other tools to create and disseminate knowledge in and about the Global South? What are the principles and/or models more likely to bring about long-term sustainable access to information resources in mutually beneficial ways across the digital divide?



Launching a Center/Initiative + Archaeology and DH – Ethan’s Mixed Bag of Topics

In typical fashion, I can’t contain myself to one topic.  So, here are a couple of ideas.  Also, be sure to check out the Just Playing Around session that Brian Croxall and I co-proposed

I proposed this first session last year, and there was a fair amount of interest in it….so, I’m offering it up again

Launching (and sustain) a DH Initiative/Center/Research Group/SiG

There are a lot of people self organizing into groups (formal or informal) at institutions in order to collaborate, connect, and GTD.  Being the Associate Director of MATRIX: The Center for the Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online and Director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative at Michigan State University, I’ve got some experience in this domain – and would love to talk with people who are thinking about launching something at their institution, and give them some thoughts from my perspective (what worked, what didn’t, what I’ve had to do, etc, etc, etc).  Likewise, I would love to talk with others who’ve successfully launched something at their institution.

Archaeology & DH: Two Great Tastes That Should Taste Great Together (so why the hell don’t they)?

Everyone in DH is talking about “the big tent” as a metaphor for constructing the boundaries of DH (who is in, who is out – who is a digital humanist, and who is not).  In the meantime (and to continue the metaphor), archaeologists (specifically anthropological archaeologists) are so far away from the “tent” that they don’t even know it exists.  Why is this?  You would think that archaeology and DH would be natural (and very happy) bedfellows.  Many of the disciplines that self identify as being part of DH (history, classics, etc.) articulate very nicely with archaeology (and have done so for many years).  On top of that, archaeology has long been invested in a wide variety of digital practices (since as early as 1954).  So, what is the problem?  As someone who has a foot in both of these worlds (and who things and writes about these questions a lot), I think there are a few fruitful things to talk about:

  • Why is there a separation between archaeology and DH?
  • What can DH learn/gain from archaeology (there is quite a bit, actually). This is probably the most important point here.
  • For the DH’ers, how can you work with archaeology and archeologists (lets call this the “The DH Handbook of Archaeology and Archaeologists”)?

Twitter/Meta “Session” — THATCamp/DH Jargon

There’s been a lot of good, honest, appropriate posts about folks new to DH getting involved. Some responses have been focused on emphasizing the ‘friendliness’ of DH, but I have to say that to someone new to the area I don’t think that’s very convincing.

Latest example I know if is @madwomanlaugh‘s “A Glossary of Digital Humanities“.

So, I propose gathering people around a twitter hashtag two-fer: #thatcamp #jargon. Let’s get some folks who are willing to commit to following that pair of tags, and respond to questions directed at them asking questions.

A “hashtag” is something that happened in Twitter as a way to filter content. Similar to tags you are familiar with from Flickr or blogs, a hashtag is just a term preceded by a “#” hash or pound sign to signal that it is meant as one of those kinds of tags. It’s a way to include the same idea into the limited text of a Tweet. You just type along, and precede your tags with a #

So, who’s willing to join me in following the pair of hashtags, #thatcamp #jargon, and respond to questions about terms or ideas that seem confounding to people attenting THATCamp, and offer them various responses in an effort to give an introduction?

It runs the risk of too much information — if a lot of people respond to a tweeted question like

What is TEI? #thatcamp #jargon

The asker could be overwhelmed with responses. Hopefully, better that than exclusion based on knowledge not shared?

There will be gaps, and it’s an imperfect approach, but I think it might be helpful.

And yep! This is a twitter-centric approach to the issue. That’s because Twitter really is the most accessible broadcast mechanism we have, and clients offer the tools to help us focus on that pair of tags (e.g., a column in TweetDeck).

Any terms / ideas / technologies there unfamiliar? Please, join Twitter, and tweet a question about it including the hashtags #thatcamp #jargon !







Suggestions for someone who feels a bit intimidated….

I am very excited about attending ThatCamp, but I must admit I am feeling waaaay out of my league. I know enough about computers to get through life, but aside from that I am lost. Any suggestions on how to approach this ThatCamp? After reading some of the participants bios I think that maybe I should just prepare myself to feel really, really overwhelmed. Oy. Should I be scared?? Should I bring my kazoo for acoustic night? Should I drink profusely? Any and all advice/sympathy is greatly appreciated.

How the Sausage is Made: Transparency in Scholarly Research Online

Does the public care about how scholarship is produced in your discipline and should they? In my own field, for example, the public has a voracious appetite for history but very rarely does this public pick up a history journal or academic monograph rather than military history or a presidential biography. This session would cover the forms available for scholars to present their ongoing research online and the stakes in doing so. My own feeling is that the UP monograph will remain key to promotion in research institutions, so perhaps developing engaging and scholarly forms to present ‘how the sausage is made’ can present another route to better engage with the public or our students.

One obvious form is the scholarly blog. Dan Cohen has come up with The Blessay:  “a manifestation of the convergence of journalism and scholarship in mid-length forms online.” Tim Carmody has pointed to an audience: para-academic, post-collegiate white-collar workers and artists, with occasional breakthroughs either all the way to a ‘high academic’ or to a ‘mass culture’ audience.” I like best Chad Black’s post, “Eighty Square Blocks of Data”. I think this example blends scholarly musings and presentation of material in a way that could draw in a diverse audience.

Are there other forms? Are we limited to the text and uploaded media that we can put on a blog or are there ways of plugging in our audiences to databases or digital repositories such as or ? How does one cultivate an audience? How do we think strategically about putting our thoughts and materials out there in a way that won’t haunt us when we shop a manuscript and the publisher realizes much of the content is already online and freely available? How do we start to make the sausage publicly and in a way that engages new audiences? Should we be trying to get people to watch us make sausuage, or is the process inherently undesirable to be viewed? Finally, I think this session could build on last year’s “What can we learn from journalism” session where we discussed producing short-form arguments with new media.

From anecdote to data: alternative academics and career preparation

A few weeks ago, I set up this registry of alternative academics, which gives a glimpse into the wide variety of paths taken by people with advanced graduate training in the humanities. Later this summer, I’ll be launching a formal, confidential survey that will help identify perceived gaps in career preparation, and by extension, opportunities for rethinking graduate methods courses (more info here and here).

How about a session to discuss the project? We could talk about broad-brush issues related to the #altac conversation, as well as particularities about the database and survey. I’d especially like to brainstorm participation strategies to ensure that the survey generates as much useful data as possible from a wide range of respondents.

little bit’a coding, little bit’a conversation

This last year, I moved all my course sites to static sites generated with hyde, a python site generator inspired by ruby’s jekyll. Together with Twitter’s bootstrap framework, one can make a pretty attractive and functional site, publishable through a simple git or hg push. Even better, if we can figure out what to do with pdfs that need to be password protected, one could move the course site to github, making them totally forkable. So, a session on static site generators could make for some fun hacking.

On the conversation front, and piggy-backing on some of the ideas in Trevor’s proposal, I’m interested in the way that digital work and objects of study can open new paths to understanding the long ago past. In many ways, the period we find ourselves in has close analogues to issues early modernists deal with frequently: 1. dispersed networks of power; 2. virtual presences; 3. spectrums of identity; 4. imprecise orthography; 5. textual protocols and mediations; 6. revolutionary transformation of communications infrastructure; etc. How do the two periods, broadly considered, open new ways of understanding each other?

I propose an anti-session on Messing Around Or Maybe Building Something Kinda Neat

At past THATCamps, I’ve had the most fun when I’ve ditched the official sessions (as “official” as THATCamp sessions can be) to do some organized messing around. Last year, it took the form of sitting down with a couple of my One Week | One Tool buddies and hacking away at Anthologize for a few hours.

So, in the spirit of goofing off semi-aimlessly, maybe we could:

  • Pick a free software project with a public bug tracker (Omeka? WordPress? Anthologize? etc) and submit some patches/pull requests.
  • If there are folks who have wanted to get started contributing to free software projects but haven’t had the right setup, I could help them set up dev environments, and maybe we could talk a bit about the culture of open source development.
  • We could pick some small project and roll our own One Afternoon | One Tool

The spirit here is that I work alone most of the time, so it would be fun to do some co-working with smart and cool people. Also, messing around is inherently the bomb.

Anyone up for Busboys and Poets on Friday night?

Hey all,

I really want to go to Busboys and Poets on Friday night for post-THATCamp hangs. Who wants to come with? I know this competes with Amanda French’s awesome acoustic jam session, but maybe there will be enough people for both?

From the site:

About Busboys and Poets

Busboys and Poets is a community gathering place. First established in 2005, Busboys and Poets was created by owner Anas “Andy” Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist and restaurateur. After opening the flagship location at 14th and V Streets, NW (Washington, DC), the neighboring residents and the progressive community embraced Busboys, especially activists opposed to the Iraq War. Busboys and Poets is now located in four distinctive neighborhoods in the Washington Metropolitan area and is a community resource for artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers.

Why the name?

The name Busboys and Poets refers to American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1920s, prior to gaining recognition as a poet.