THATCamp 2010

It was a very Digital Humanities weekend for me: Friday was an Omeka workshop and the Rosenzweig forum; Saturday and Sunday was THATCamp (Prime).

This was my second THATCamp, and of course I had a great time. Made new connections and new friends, got to know others better. It really is like a weekend summercamp for geeky grownups. The benefit of a coming a second time was that I was a little less overwhelmed and have a slightly more thoughtful reaction than last year’s OMG!SoAwesome!

I respect the “More Hack, Less Yak” directive, but I think there are some things which are well worth Yaking about (should that have 2 ks?). I didn’t propose a session for my blog post (tl;dr is “academics/faculty need to engage with non-acads because everyone will benefit”), but maybe next year I will (provided, of course, that I make it next year). After this THATCamp, I think it’s worth spending a session yaking about a mental, not digital, hack.

The was the following exchange on twitter this morning, around 11am:

candace_nast: RT @joguldi: i’d find most of these #thatcamp sessions more fun if there were other scholars/artists/independent practitioners
magpie: @candace_nast @joguldi: do you mean from other disciplines, non-acad or non-faculty (asks the museo at #thatcamp)
joguldi: @magpie @candace_nast i like nonfaculty. i like artists. i like scholars from other disciplines. i am SO over endless bitching abt how-to
candace_nast: @magpie @joguldi in my case, non-acad. Since finishing MA I have little time to play -worried abt losing this connection to DH
candace_nast: @magpie @joguldi also non-fac not attending #thatcamp at all. Travel bursaries for non-acad folks would help
magpie: @joguldi @candace_nast I think part of the problem at thatcamp is that non-fac don’t attend the very fac/acad sessions

After this, Brian Croxall asked me which sessions I thought were most faculty focused. In terms of ones I wouldn’t attend, there was Courseware Sucks and the ones about Teaching Digital Humanities. There was, however, a sort of academy creep at THATCamp. Not surprising given that so many of the attendees are graduate students and/or faculty, but over and over it became apparent in the conversations that people were thinking of students as the audience.

I don’t fault those coming from the academy for thinking in the teacher/student classroom format. It’s their world, and it’s their daily challenge. However, my situation is different; when you’re a non-profit org, a museum, or even a librarian, you don’t have a guaranteed captive audience. You get people visiting your site, or downloading your app, but there has to be a reason they want to look, to download, to browse, to stay. Certain challenges are the same, and some are different. Some a very different.

I don’t think there should be a separate THATCamp, or even tons of separate sessions. What I do think is that it would be nice to have more museos, local history folk, etc showing up and speaking out in sessions. I believe that we can all learn from each other, because the exciting ways that professors engage their students can probably be at least partly adapted to museums and visitors, and the excellent tool that a local historical society uses to share geolocated oral histories could serve as a model for a geography class in their own community. The challenge for THATCamps everywhere is making sure that everyone feels invited to attend and to speak.

edited to add: I meant to say that the other problem is that there are So Many Cool Things happening all at the same time at THATCamp, and you inevitably have to miss out on things you’d like. If I make it to next year’s TCPrime, or if we have TC Central VA, I will make an effort to attend the faculty-ful sessions to be the voice of non-ac and transferable skills.

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7 comments

  1. How about inviting people from the cultural heritage sites community to invade? It would take care of Jo’s concerns and also mine.

    1. I think that could be fantastic! We’ve had some visits at my museum from international cultural heritage staff – sharing more info on the web would be awesome.

  2. odiornea · · Reply

    I read this exchange earlier and actually had some difficulty deciphering it. One thing Jo’s comment brought up for me (and please forgive any mis-interpretation) was a form of independent work/scholarship with which I encountered in the context of Feminist/Women’s Studies in the mid to late 90’s.

    At Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies conferences (which are admittedly dominated by social and political scientists), there has been an attempt to bridge the gap between academics (those in the academy) and activists (those in the non-profit sector). I have seen this bridge in discourse filled by independent scholars, those who work on piecemeal grant projects, unaffiliated with specific institutions (at least for extended periods), which might engage in multi-media art projects for a specific need audience or hands on work with local communities.

    Many of these individuals also find the time to contribute to theoretical scholarship, often through non-traditional publications and formats. With new grant funding opportunities, open publication formats, and exciting new questions about social engagement and outreach in the digital humanities, it does seem a bit odd that there are few scholar/social activists on the independent model in attendance at meetings like THATCamp.

    1. I’m really intrigued by the path of the independent scholar – wondering how it would fit in some of the disciplines which come to THATCamps (lit, history, archaeo., libraries, etc).

      One barrier might be simply that THATCamps are so multi-discipline, and aren’t attracting as many independent scholars?

      I suspect that many of those who do attend end up just going to other sessions and not the faculty-focused ones (not sure how long it will be up, but this is the schedule: http://thatcamp.org/schedule/).

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Megan Brett, Sherman Dorn. Sherman Dorn said: @samplereality see @magpie blog http://bit.ly/bKDeYp for a way to invite friendly gate crashing […]

  4. Thanks for the post. We’re also concerned about reaching out to cultural heritage professionals, but we have had trouble attracting applications from those communities. One thing that may help: very shortly we will be announcing a fellowship program for librarians (like the one our Mellon grant is funding for grad students and early career faculty) and we are working on a parallel program for museum professionals.

    Great to see you at THATCamp.

    Tom

    1. It was great fun to be at THATCamp – thanks for hosting it.
      I don’t know if this is done on academic lists, but there are mailing lists for NCHP, AASLH, etc; could announcements about THATCamps go out on those? The H-Net/NCPH Public History discussion list has conference/cfp emails going out once a week.

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