THATCamp thoughts from newbie

I thoroughly enjoyed my first THATCamp. I was a bit nervous, since I am from the LIS rather than the AH community, I do not have mad coding skills, and I assumed I would be on the older side. Well, I would now recommend a THATCamp to anyone. I felt like I was part of a community that had a common interest in learning and sharing. Even the workshops were not “teacher to student”, but peer to peer. There was no pressure at THATCamp to be an expert, all contributions were valued and respected, and you could just observe if you wanted to, but there was no barrier to participation either. At other conferences the formal sessions are usually sparsely attended because the real networking is happening in the hallways and bars, whereas at THATCamp the hallways were deserted during sessions, and the session rooms were buzzing. I participated in conversations about linked data, digital humanities project support, the role of libraries, and comics (about which I knew nothing). I took workshops on WordPress plugins, hybrid mobile design, and ViewShare. I ate far too many of the delectable Panera pastries I have been deliberately avoiding at home. I played a decoding game with the mysterious AgentQueue. I walked away with new friends, some great teaching ides for my digital libraries class, a bunch of new people to follow on Twitter, a t-shirt, many session Google Docs for further exploration, and a determination to turn my friends on to THATCamp New England and CHNM next year. Thanks to all the hard working folk who put this together, and to the sponsors.

Building a DH Culture from the Ground

So my proposal is late-breaking, but here ’tis: I’m currently moving to a new institution where I will help start a new DH center. I’d like to think collaboratively—well, about how that happens. I want to get at this question, however, not by talking about getting grants or picking a pithy acronym for the center’s name. Instead, I’d like to jump off Stephen Ramsay’s recent post, Centers are People, and think about how one begins building the kinds of communities where “a bunch of people…[are] committed to the bold and revolutionary project of talking to one another about their common interests.” I’d especially like to think about how to draw in those people on campus who are interested in DH but don’t yet know it: that history professor with a personal archive she’d love to make public, that librarian crafting the library’s ebook strategy, or that computer science undergrad with an odd side interest in Renaissance poetry. Topics might include:

1.) organizing and effectively promoting DH events to the wider college or university
2.) creating and fostering hacker-friendly spaces on campus
3.) building on-campus partnerships between departments, libraries, &c. &c.
4.) seeding DH incursions into the curriculum

This topic may well tie into hmprescott’s “More Disruptive Pedagogy: Thoughts on Teaching an Un-course” proposal or Kimon Keramidas’s “Of courses, curriculum, networks, and unconferences”.

Death To Footnotes!

What are the bars to comprehension of text?  Which can be surmounted?  Different question– which ought to be surmounted?

My partners and I have created an iPad app-based platform that we think gives readers a window in to daunting literary texts, presenting various supplements to their reading in a staged and staggered fashion that allows the reader to overcome personal bars to comprehension at their discretion, without the insistent and invasive attack on the text mounted by footnotes.  We create high quality graphic adaptations of the text (that is, we make comic books) layered with an easy to access reader’s guide that provides greater elucidation of the text in a conversational style that sounds like the smartest guy/gal in the bar.  The reader’s guide text is further hyperlinked out to various web resources for obtaining more information, at the reader’s discretion.  Layered beneath the reader’s guide is a discussion area where reader’s can ask specific questions, advance theories, and, of course, argue.

We have started with adaptations of three difficult literary works– James Joyce’s Ulysses, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and a mash up of the Iliad, combining Homer with Shakespeare and various pieces of archeological scholarship.  The platform was used in a classroom environment for the first time last month, but we have received a number of comments from users that makes us think our little experiment might be working.

I’d like to discuss ways that visuals and self-directed learning resources can be used as an aid to comprehension, and where the line gets crossed in which the resource replaces the thing it was supposed to be supplementing.


Little Data, Big Learning: Fostering Experiential Pedagogy

What is the experience of reading? How can we leverage DH-inflected pedagogy to help students situate their own processes of reading, writing, and learning? In such a tendrillate approach to textual analysis, what tools can help students navigate through a cycle of experience and reflection that underscores the materiality of reading experience?

In this session, my hope is that we can explore the intersection of learning, experience, and DH to begin to sketch what a digital environmental humanities pedagogy might look like.

I began building an assignment during DHSI that asks students to use close reading of a passage as an entry to larger analytical and written projects (zipped Prezi available here through the course’s webpage), but it’s just a first stab at a much larger issue–how can DH pedagogical approaches help us to ground student scholarship in first-hand experience with primary materials? Encoding text, annotating sentences, parsing paragraphs for word frequency–all of these are valuable approaches, which, if used carefully, can bring our students to textual analysis as a fundamental building block of humanities scholarship.

Attention to the labour of reading and the experience of the text can only enrich the connections scholars can make by looking at these narrower street views in the context of an ever-evolving map of the world.

Digital Journalism and Digital Humanities, United

As I blogged a few months ago, it has become increasingly clear that digital humanities has a kindred spirit in digital journalism—perhaps a stronger potential relationship than humanities computing and computer science. We have discovered the same needs in terms of tools and infrastructure, and find ourselves engaging the public with similar genres of online writing and communication.

Just some of the products of digital journalism we could discuss or adopt at THATCamp: the 20 open source Knight Apps, which include DocumentCloud; what’s coming out of Mozilla OpenNews; and the developer challenges and tool reviews from Duke’s Reporters’ Lab.

Of courses, curriculum, networks, and unconferences

Had a couple of thoughts for session ideas that will hopefully line up well with people’s interests:

First, I would like to talk to folks about how they are building digital work into pedagogy at a course level (I guess this kind of goes along with Mark’s post on blogging but encompasses more than just blogging) and also at a curricular level. I think we can all benefit from learning how to create assignments that fit the concepts, tools, and strategies of digital humanities into courses in a way that does not overwhelm students and professors but are also challenging and provoking.  I would also like to expand those ideas out of the classroom and talk about the development of digital methodologies within broader curriucula, which involves consensus and where real change occurs only after advocacy, collaboration, and sometimes compromise. I’d love to share our experiences at the BGC in both courses and curricula, where we have made big steps relatively quickly due to a number of factors including size, administrative, support, and resources, but am eager to hear from others at other institutions who are influencing curricular shifts and establishing stability for digital programs (seems like what Ethan is talking about as well). I think it is particularly important to talk about strategies at both the course and curricular level because accessible and enticing projects along with collected and pointed advocacy together can convince digital stragglers or technologically resistant people at institutions to consider  digital practice in their work,

A second thing I would like to talk about is establishing regional coalitions to organize and focus digital work in geographic areas. At DH 2011 I got together with people from Columbia, Fordham, and the NYPL and we decided that it would be beneficial for our institutions to share information and knowledge and work collaboratively on projects rather than all recreate the wheel over and over again on different digital projects. Our group has expanded out to over forty members from more than a dozen institutions and met a number of times, but we are looking to organize more concretely and takes some steps forward to really get organized. These kind of regional organization have the potential to provide valuable hubs for knowledge, practice, and even funds, but there are obstacles and questions about organizing in this manner. I’d like to have a conversation with people who have either created such explicit connections (have things like this happend in DC? NC? Cal? etc.) and discuss ways in which we can make those initiatives more fruitful and collaboration more easily achievable. Also, if you are from the NY area let me know as we are always looking for willing collaborators.

Lastly, I’d like to propose a session for people interested in running their own THATCamps attended by both past and future organizers. We had a successful THATCamp Museums NYC last month and I am eager to share our experiences with interested parties. Amanda, would of course love to have you at this.

One more–methods, workflows, and general productivity hacking

Having recently retooled my DevonThink setup yet again, I’m finding that I’m still dissatisfied. My regular everyday worktools include:

I’m happy to talk about what I love and hate about each of these, for example, I love Bookends’ integration with Mellel and hate how clunky it is. I love almost everything aout WordPress except actually composing posts. I want DevonThink and Omnifocus to TALK to each other. And more… I’d love for other folks to talk about how they do their workflows.  And to tell me why using Oxygen is such an uphill battle? In addition, I just upgraded my OSX to Lion and am curious if anyone has found awesome things that Lion can do that they want to share.

P.S. Other things I’d love to talk about include Islandora, teaching oneself to code, learning to work with the command-line after being a GUI person forever, and and and… they go on. Okay, calling this post “one more” might have been misleading…

DH and Libraries

This session is becoming a THATCamp tradition so, while I’ll propose it, I am doing so merely as the representative of a movement.

University libraries have always been a hub of activity for scholars working on projects. Increasingly those projects are digital and libraries are looking for ways to support that work. Whether you are a librarian or a scholar, this session is a good way to share problems, solutions and dreams.

This conversation can take several paths; what tools are needed in libraries? what skills do librarians need? what kinds of opportunities exist for graduate students in terms of both training and career options?

I’m keeping this short on purpose so others can expand it in the comments section.

General Discussion: Public Scholars Unite!

I’m working on a project to bring more scholars on Asia into social media and public discourse with the Association of Asian Studies. I’d like to start a discussion about what it takes for historians, anthropologists, political scientists — all kinds of scholars, really — to begin writing and communicating for mass consumption. I’m looking for ideas, good examples of what works and what doesn’t, and a deeper discussion about the role of scholars’ work in how the broader public thinks about the world.

A bit about me — I’m a journalist who keeps one foot in academia and one in mass media. I’ve co-edited a book about everyday lives in China with stories by journalists and scholars, and edited an online magazine published at UCLA that also helped get scholars writing for broader audiences. This is my first time at THATCamp and I’m really looking forward to the weekend.

(You can read more about the project, called Asia Beat, in a short proposal we wrote for the Knight News Challenge and more about me on my website.)

Idea: The Submit Bit

One thing I’ve noticed in all the many THATCamps I’ve been to over the past three years (I should really count sometime, but at least a dozen) is that there’s less “less yack, more hack” than there used to be. The default session at a THATCamp, in fact, is a discussion. As I often say, though, I’m a humanist, so for me, a good discussion *is* a good, productive outcome. And the “yack” you get at traditional non-un-conferences is so often bad yack, the “sage on the stage” kind of yack, whereas at THATCamp we actually get to talk to one another, which frankly I love. My other hoary THATCamp chestnut is “an unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture,” and if I didn’t love seminars I’d never have earned my PhD.

Nevertheless, I do sometimes wonder how we could bring back the emphasis on productivity, and I have an idea about that that we could try out here. I’ve scheduled in a half-hour demonstration (aka “demo”) session on Sunday for people to show off what they’ve built in the hackathon, but here’s the idea: we make that longer, say an hour at least, and open it up to anyone who’s produced something, anything, this weekend — including a blog post, a web site, a wiki, a bibliography, what have you. Could also be open to people who’ve expanded on existing resources (added a bunch of entries to the DiRT wiki or the Digital Humanities Glossary, for instance). I’m basically thinking of it as another round of Dork Shorts (2-minute lightning talks), but limited to things done this weekend at THATCamp. I came up with a cutesy name for it: “The Submit Bit.” As in, the bit where people submit what they did this week for public admiration. If it works, we could include it in the THATCamp documentation as a way to increase the emphasis on productivity.

I know not everyone’s staying through Sunday, but folks could send me a link to their thing (via email or a comment on this post) and I could show it for them. We could rejigger the Sunday schedule so that there’s one 90-minute slot for breakout sessions in the morning from 10-11:30 and then an hour for demos in front of all THATCamp from 11:30-12:30 before we wrap up. Or do a 10-11 breakout ssessions and then The Submit Bit from 11-12 and wrap up early around 12:15.

What do you think?