I was lucky enough to attend THATCamp Prime at the Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University this past weekend. For those who don’t know, THATCamp is an unconference on Digital Humanities, started three years ago by the CHNM that has now spawned a whole slew of local meetings. (For more, see this report in The Chronicle.) An unconference is essentially a user generated conference with no set schedule of panels, no formal papers, no powerpoint presentations, and no ego posturing. It is, to say the least, refreshing. And, in the case of THATCamp, it offers the possibility for interesting communication amongst the various constituencies of the Digital Humanities world- digital historians, new media studies people, text miners, hackers, museum curators, literary types, edtech, directors of big projects, funders, and more. In addition to varying constituencies, THATCamp includes a mix of experience levels, from digital beginners through people with serious chops. Given this mix, it would be easy to imagine some knee-jerk hierarchies emerging. As a relative digital-newbie, I never felt that at all. For my first experience at an unconference, it was great to see THATCamp live up to its ground rules: Fun, Productive, Collegial. Certainly, the fun part included meeting a ton of people I’ve “known” through twitter for a long time, as well as meeting some totally new people.
Here’s my original submission when I applied to the conference:
What I would like to discuss are integrated approaches to the research, writing, and digital presentation of research projects that are primarily archival. I’m at the beginning of a new book project, the first in which my goals have included start to finish digital applications, and I’m thinking through the process of how to integrate the collection of archival materials, the transcription and analysis of manuscripts (in this case 18th c. sex and murder criminal trials), the construction of databases, the curation of research materials online, and the combination of long-form monograph and web-based historical presentation. This work, as I said, is primarily archival, in a form where digital forms of the documentation do not yet exist.
And here you can find the blog post I put up the week before we all met. And, while I didn’t get all of my own questions answered through the course of the weekend, I certainly feel much more prepared to tackle them myself. That’s one of the great things about user-generated conferences, they engage both the DIY, but do so within the context of community.
Finally, I’ll mention that Tom Scheinfeldt and Dan Cohen posited putting together a crowd-sourced book on hacking the academy in one week. The idea was hatched in response to the successful crowdsourced 48hr magazine, though hopefully without the subsequent legal action. The One-Week-One-Book project is already underway, and accepting submissions via tweet or blogpost through the end of the week. Check out it’s website for more information. I’m brewing something as I type that will hopefully be included, and I’m interested to see what the final product will look like.
Thanks very much for this review. We hope to put on an ThatCamp here in Melbourne later in the year. It is a good concept for expanding the DH field.
Mark your calendar for THATCamp New Mexico at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, October 2-3.
Stumbled on THATCamp NM before I saw your comment. Looking forward to it.