Some THATCamper stats

Just thought I’d share a few factoids about the people who are coming to THATCamp CHNM 2012. Executive summary: our THATCamp has a slightly higher proportion of women (41%) than THATCamps overall (35%), a much lower proportion of people who’ve never been to a THATCamp (49%) than THATCamps overall (80%), and a somewhat higher proportion of academics at all ranks (though I do think the numbers from the text string fields are iffy). See for yourself:


Gender (N=146)
Women: 60 (41%)
Men: 86 (59%)
(numbers taken from folks’ selection of a t-shirt size)

Newb vs. non-newb (N=142)
Has never been to a THATCamp: 70 (49%)
Has been to a THATCamp once before: 26 (18%)
Has been to more than one THATCamp: 46 (33%)

Title (N=158)
Some kind of professor (*Prof*): 28 (18%)
Some kind of grad student (*Grad*” or *Doctoral* or *PhD*): 32 (20%)
Some kind of librarian (*Libr*): 7 (5%)
Other: 91 (58%)
(text strings always a bit sketchy to count, of course)

Organization (N=158)
From a university or college (*Univ* or *College*): 79 (50%)
Other: 79 (50%)
From GMU and/or CHNM (*Mason* or *GMU* or *Center for History* or *CHNM*): 31 (20%)
(same caveat about counting text strings; there’s probably quite a few more people who’re affiliated with higher ed)

We’ve got the same data for some (between 20% and 60%, depending on the field) of the 3200+ users on, so we can put it in a larger context.


Gender (N=1847)
Women: 642 (35%)
Men: 1205 (65%)

Newb vs. non-newb (N=624)
Has never been to a THATCamp: 501 (80%)
Has been to a THATCamp once before: 64 (10%)
Has been to more than one THATCamp: 59 (10%)

Title (N=1469)
Some kind of professor (*Prof*): 317 (22%)
Some kind of grad student (*Grad*” or *Doctoral* or *PhD*: 368 (25%)
Some kind of librarian (*Libr*): 161 (11%)
Other: 623 (42%)

Organization (N=1321)
From a university or college (*Univ* or *College*): 517 (39%)
Other: 804 (61%)
(same caveat about the higher ed contingent likely being larger: some people probably put the name of their research institute or unit instead of the name of their university or college)

Shoulda asked “awesomeness quotient.” I bet we’d have scored pretty high relative to other THATCamps there. 🙂

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.


So Patrick and I have been conspiring a bit to have a sort of hackathon at THATCamp, and you’ll see that there’s time and space reserved for it on the schedule — basically all weekend in CHNM itself on the fourth floor of Research Hall, in the same space the CHNM developers use every day — long tables and lots and lots of whiteboards — plus the lounge area — sofas, soft chairs, and coffee tables. Everyone’s also welcome to use this as a co-working space to code whatever they like, whether for the hackathon or no (and there’s a WII with MarioKart, which you’re also welcome to use).

On Friday at 9:30am, Patrick will introduce one or more datasets for the hackathon, but you can also just work on whatever you like. We’ll be having a lightning round demo (3 minutes apiece) on Sunday from 12:00-12:30, and everyone who participates in the demo will get a small prize for participating. There won’t be any official judging; any competition among the participants will be strictly subtextual. Even beginner folks who want to use this as a practice session to mess around with Omeka or ViewShare or Weka are welcome to participate.

You are all encouraged to build things either individually or in groups, for example by having a coder and a designer team up to put together an awesome new visualization on some data.

To recap the chief features of the Hackathon:


CHNM, 4th floor of Research Hall.

Intro at 9:30am by Patrick, coding all weekend, demos from 12:00-12:30 on Sunday.

We’ll suggest a couple of datasets for you to work with, but you can also build something all on your own.

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.

Things I’d love to discuss

Using GIT
I “get” GIT–I see the utility–I see the logic–I see why it’s great. But I’d love some discussion on how to start using it, what are some preferred GIT clients, and what the best-GIT-practices are. If this conversation could be combined with a western-twanged series of puns on the word “git,” that would be ideal.

Digital Scholarly Editions
This is my main DH interest at the moment. I would love to talk about:

  • Issues of encoding
  • What software platforms people are using (Islandora, Omeka, by-hand?)
  • Excellent, and execrable, examples of digital scholarly editions
  • Issues of copyright (i.e. “Do ALL digital editions have to be out of copyright???”)
  • What kinds of scholarly apparatus do digital editions facilitate that were harder or impossible in paper editions?
  • Multi-media digital editions

Working without institutional infrastructure
AKA, when you’re more alt than ac 🙂
For the many of us who are still on the hunt for the permanent position, how do we think about the issues of our digital work differently? For example, in a workshop I was once in, someone said: “This is what you’ll need to tell your design team…” What about when we ARE our team? What are the dangers of developing digital tools, editions, creations of any kind on resources provided by a university where you are only a temporary employee? How do we access resources? How do our grant applications differ? How do we access the support systems we need to make our work…work?

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.


Digital Thingy-ness: Putting Materiality, Mediality, and Objects at the heart of the Digital Humanities

Edit: Feel free to keep editing this google doc. Feel free to continue this discussion on twitter via #thingyness

Studying digital media is one of the big themes in definitions of the digital humanities, but I get the sense that a lot of folks in the area aren’t particularly well versed in work on objects, digital or otherwise. In particular, some of the work on materiality and mediality that goes on in New Media Studies. Aside from that it sees like there is just a ton of work out there in a range of fields that ends up focusing on the properties of objects, how those objects fit together and the way that people interact with them. Off the top of my head I am thinking about everything from nuroscience, to material culture, to archaeology, environmental history, to actor network theory.

I suggest that we take a session at THATCamp to pull together an annotated bibliography, a must read list if you will, of works on thingyness that folks interested in the digital humanities but who also want to study digital things can look at . I’ve pulled together a starter list of works from some different fields that I think fit here. I have also included what about these works makes them candidates for this conversation and list.

Please feel free to start this session now by contributing additional subjects and works that you think are must reads in the comments. Or, try and do some synthesizing.

New Media Studies: Some great studies on the materiality and mediality of various new media objects:

  • Galloway, A. R. (2006). Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization:  TCP/IP and DNS define some of the key properties of the internet, we can and should analyze the material properties these protocols as humanists.
  • Kirschenbaum, M. G. (2008). Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination: Great stuff on hard drives and the matarality of digital objects. Turns out that the digital is far less ephemeral than we thought it was and that there are some really exciting potential modes for analysis when we start thinking like computer forensics folks.
  • Manovich, L. (2002). The Language of New Media: Much of digital media involves the interaction of a database and an algorithm. Here is what happens when we put those properties center stage in our discussion of new media.

Platform Studies: Focusing on the interplay between the digital and the material and how they converge as platforms that constrain and shape what we create on those platforms

  • Montfort, N., & Bogost, I. (2009). Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System: Great study of how the Atari shaped and was shaped by expressive ideals.

Actor Network Theory: Consideration of the relationships between people and things.

  • Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory: Wherein Knives have innate knifiy-ness that makes them good for cutting.

Distributed Cognition:  Help’s us understand the extent to which the things we use are a part of thinking and being.

  • Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the Wild: The go to example for how a complicated system, like a ship, acts as a single cognitive unit made up of sub units.
  • Wertsch, J. V. (1998). Mind as Action: A great book growing out of the vygotskyan tradition of thinking of actors as situated in an environment with tools.

Neuroscience: Sure, some FMRI researchers think they can answer all of lifes questions, but you have to admit they have found out some amazing stuff.

  • Damasio, A. R. (1995). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain: Mind body problem turns out to really be a non-problem.
  • Dehaene, S. (2010). Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read: You will love neurological recycling, turns out that our biologically evolved capabilities for facial recognition get recycled in the development of writing systems. The suggestion here is that cultural tools evolve in a interplay between how we recycle various biologically evolved capabilities.

Embodyment: Our bodies are things too, much of our understanding of the world is grounded in how we use our bodies as tools for thought and action

  • Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. Basic Books: You have ten fingers we use base ten number systems. For Lakoff things this is not a coincidence.
  • Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension: Wherein we learn that almost every kind of cognitive act, even things like object rotation, can be externalized in our use of tools and that humans are hardwired as cyborg tool users.

Object Oriented Philosophy: We can even think about putting objects center stage as the basis of an ontology.

  • Harman, G. (2011) The Quadruple Object: A full blown object oriented Philosophy.

Media Studies:  Old media changed how we think about things too.

  • Kittler, F. (1999). Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. (G. Winthrop-Young & M. Wutz, Trans.) Stanford University Press: Turns out that when the Gramaphone appeared it may have changed how people think about memory and the mind. This thing where new media change us is not so much a property of these media as it may be a property of media in general.

So what should we add? Think in terms of texts and in terms of areas of interest. Oh, and feel free to take a stab at how you think about tying these things together.