THATCamp CHNM 2010 The Humanities and Technology Camp Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:12:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 THATCamp Prime Collaborative Documents Mon, 24 May 2010 18:23:34 +0000

A number of THATCamp sessions generated collaboratively written notes, syllabi, and brainstorming documents, most frequently using Google Documents. Here’s a list of these collaborative, shared documents. Let me know what’s missing!

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THATCamp Prime evaluation Mon, 24 May 2010 14:39:28 +0000

Thanks so much, all, for your participation in THATCamp this year. I personally had a great time, especially at the Data Liberation session. I’m so looking forward to the manifesto: you have no idea.

We do certainly plan to have THATCamp again next year, of course, and of course all those who are planning their own THATCamps would also be interested in your responses to the following two questions: What worked? What could use work? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail us at

New session: The THATCamp Movement Sat, 22 May 2010 18:45:23 +0000

Jon Voss (@lookbackmaps on Twitter) asked at the end of the THATCamp Organizing / BootCamp session if we could have an extra session tomorrow on “The THATCamp Movement.” In this one, we’ll talk about the general ethos and principles of THATCamp, including issues such as how it relates to digital humanities. I’ll get Jon to comment on this post, too, to expand on what he has in mind.

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THATCamp on Flickr Sat, 22 May 2010 13:30:49 +0000

For any shutterbugs here, there is a THATCamp group on flickr – please feel free to contribute!

Visualizing Subjectivity Sat, 22 May 2010 05:25:17 +0000

There’s been a number of posts on visualizations already, so I will add my own perspective to those who came before. Two of my chief interests in this conference are how you can make visualizations more  interactive and how we can streamline or design for multiple languages and publishing platforms at once.

A lot of digital humanities projects try to create tools and standards in processing of their respective data, whether it be a historically focused multimedia site or a literary criticism databank. Many of these projects rely on multiple stages of processing — crowdsourcing or digitization, geospatial and relational databases, logic and data mining, interface and presentation for the application of still more algorithms and application of new sources. This allows for both competition and reinvention of the wheel in many cases. When is the wheel not good enough, and when will a framework like ruby on rails become available with sufficient flexibility to allow digital humanists control over their projects without necessarily working from scratch or related but generic open source platforms?

Visualization and standards remain a topic of interest to me: Hugh Cayless proposes that we take a serious look at how new design patterns could help digital humanists develop future projects with the best practices . Visualization proposals by Daniel Chamberlain and Cornelius Puschmann suggest we should look at the new frontiers of visualization as well as re-evaluating existing applications.

When I originally submitted, I had an idea of introducing one platform’s new features and how they could impact textual scholarship and visualization. Here’s a quote from my original proposal:

Research in the digital humanities has increasingly become dependent on software visualization techniques and interface design in both the presentation and analysis of its subjects.

Adobe has released another version of AIR and the Text Layout Framework, both important contributions to the digital humanities. The second allows for a more sophisticated and clean presentation of textual data and the first allows a closer native interface with other programs and frameworks which can accomplish tasks that Flash cannot.

I’d like to start a conversation about the menagerie of visualization and processing technologies; how the ease of interface design in AIR could be tied to the powerful, expressive programming of LISP or PROLOG. The Digital Humanities is in part dependent on the strength, flexibility and appropriateness of the programming tools it uses. If the tools involve the nebulous potency of cloud computing or the proven algorithms of artificial intelligence, the idea of combining multiple platforms together and making them play well remains a direction the field is headed. AIR’s native support and its graphics-oriented language, ActionScript, provide one means of realizing this.

This sounds like quite an argument for Adobe Flash, but with platforms such as the iPad recently blackballing Adobe’s technology, we are forced to resort to multi-pronged approaches, possibly developing for multiple platforms simultaneously. The iPad has already been the source of a number of successful academic projects like the International Children’s Library released as apps and as web sites.

I’m less interested in the debate of facts such as the current legal or policy stance Adobe or Apple has taken to their respective technologies, and more interested in pragmatic solutions taking those restrictions into account.

As I understand it, the digital humanities has the potential to become a meta-discipline for the humanities and scholarship in general, where its domain incorporates, along with new media projects and data curation activities, the advancement of scholarship in many related disciplines. An excellent example of this is the sort of progressive projects like Hacking Academia which seek alternatives to the ports of existing publishing systems.

Though not a part of my original scope, I am also very interested in new approaches to game development and ways of engaging readers/players/students through games.

More Twitter Visualizations Sat, 22 May 2010 00:10:21 +0000

Since I’m on California time and wide awake, figured I’d add to the great Twitter visualizations posted by @coffee001.  The first visualization shows the relationships between Twitterer/THATCampers coming this weekend.  As this is the third THATCamp at CHNM, I’m not surprised by the density, but you can also see a lot of nodes on the periphery as the network continues to expand. Note that red lines are reciprocal “follows,” blue lines are one-way.

In-network relationships for THATCamp attendees as of May 18, 2010

The second and third visualizations are before and after the Great Lakes THATCamp in March. You can see how the events increase the density of the networks.

In-network relationships prior to first Great Lakes THATCamp, March, 2010

In-network relationships several weeks after the first Great Lakes THATCamp, April 2010

Remixing Academia Sat, 22 May 2010 04:07:32 +0000

If it’s nearly midnight before the conference starts, does that make me a procrastinator? Ever so long ago, when I first submitted my application, I wanted to talk about the movement from paid to free content and the influence of the remix on everything from popular media (Glee adapting the fanvid; Lady Gaga promoting a 13 year old boy who sings like her) to academic spaces. To quote my application:

While Harold Bloom spoke of an anxiety of influence, we now seem to be in a state of acceptance of influence: the remix is everywhere. Fan-fiction, fan-video, fan-games and even fan-music designate that influence and wear it proudly. A vast amount of content is placed out in digital spaces with no expectation of profit–so why is it created? What can we come to understand about creators who build out of passion and don’t seek to replace their creative forefathers but to extend their creations? When paid content producers are dying, with newspapers already buried in the public eye and virtual worlds and sites existing solely on the freely created content of their contributors, what is the future for content creation? Who will be telling the stories of the next ten years and will the idea of paying for content die with this rising generation?

I’m particularly interested in how these transformations in culture will influence academic practices within and outside the classroom: projects like Hacking the Academy and open journals are at the forefront of restructuring academic publishing, but they face a number of hurdles in traditional models of authorship and authority. I find the “mass collaboration” nature of some of this work very exciting, but what do they portend for the future of the single-author manuscript and the works that are traditionally valued in the quest for tenure?

At the same time, we have students who need to become active participants in this changing economy of ideas: as Brian Croxall already mentioned in his post, the practices of online collaboration and shared production are entering the classroom and in my view are perhaps some of the most valuable and transferable skills we can impart to our students. How do we bring them into these spaces of shared content while still encouraging the formation of an original voice and perspective?

One of my own major areas of emphasis is game studies, as I teach in a program where game and simulation design is at the forefront. Some of the same ideas that are changing publishing and social media are informing a transformation there–a world controlled by the designer or “author”  is too limiting, and the need of player to have input and control over his or her experience of the world is similar to the need we have for our students to be active contributors to the academic discourse taking place in newly opened venues, such as blogs, twitter and new media projects. How will the future of such academic spaces be reflected in the battles over litigation that will soon mark futuristic poster-children such as Second Life? These are the questions I’m interested in.

What THATCampers have been tweeting about (pre-camp) Fri, 21 May 2010 23:06:33 +0000

I thought I’d try out a few scripts I’ve hacked together on the #thatcamp hashtag to give you a very rough impression of what people have been tweeting prior to the event itself. My collection consists of about 500 tweets that cover the time span from circa the 14th of May up to tonight. Since they’re tagged with #thatcamp, my little corpus also includes conversations from people elsewhere (e.g. THATCamp Paris). I’ll do a similar analysis once the camp is over and hopefully I’ll be able to refine it with ideas from my fellow campers.

Tweets over time (roughly 14th of May to 22nd)

Most active twitterers

Most @-messaged users

Most retweeted users

Frequent words (rough)

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Late to the Stage: Performing Queries Sat, 22 May 2010 01:54:22 +0000

Hi all. Competing for the distinction of being last to post my interests. I share the self-identification as a “digital humanities newbie”, though I am more likely to characterize my career as evolving rather than changing. Music performer > music educator > ethnomusicologist > Southeast Asia area studies librarian > curator of musical instruments > curator of a dance ethnography archive.

For the past 18 months, I have been engaged daily with a brilliant faculty of performing artists and their students (undergrads and grads) who are now being challenged in a changing academic environment and curriculum that encourages a very humanistic approach and reflection upon their art. As I am embedded in the academic department (as opposed to being cordoned off in the library), I am in a unique position to play a significant role in their information resources and access needs and, in return, to learn from them.

And what I have encountered are a group of scholars and students who are extraordinarily fluent in the vocabulary of movement (across many dance disciplines, somatics, etc.) but experience significant barriers to information creation, retrieval, and regeneration simply because traditional modes are not their primary language. And so, as I begin my own PhD program in the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at ASU (and continue in my position of archive curator in the School of Dance), I am interested in exploring the potential for other modes of information query and access. This could be movement-based, music-based (and one can think in very broad terms about the spatial and temporal here), or any combination thereof.

There are existent tools and efforts in dance scholarship (dance and movement notation systems, choreographic software, clear dance grammars, explorations of “writing about movement”, projects such as Synchronous Objects ), which could seemingly be paired with tools such as motion capture and the fine work that most of you are engaged in. I just want to connect the dots. And THATCamp seems the perfect place to start.

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Humanist Readable Documentation Fri, 21 May 2010 18:47:12 +0000

Technical diagrams are wonderfully compact ways of conveying information about extremely complex systems. But they only work for people who have been trained to read them. If you design a database for a historian, and then hand him or her a basic E-R or UML diagram, you will end up explaining the diagram’s nomenclature before you can talk about the database (and oftentimes you run out of time before getting back to the research question underlying the database). This removes the major advantage of technical diagrams and can also create an unnecessary divide between the technical and non-technical members of a digital humanities development team.

I have become fascinated by how documenting a project (either in development or after release) can build community. I’m not just talking about user generated documentation (ala wikis), but rather the feeling created by a diagram or README file that really takes the time to explain how the software works and why it works the way it does. There is a generosity and even warmth that comes from thoughtful, helpful documentation, just as inadequate documentation can make someone feel stupid, slighted, or unwanted as a user/developer.

As one possible solution, I have written a database schema visualization/annotation tool called DAVILA.  It is written in Processing with the toxiclibs physics library and released under GPLv3. DAVILA takes in the database’s schema and a pipe separated customization file and uses them to produce an interactive, color-coded, annotated diagram similar in format to UML.  I wrote the program to help me describe my dissertation database, but also in the hopes that it could spark a larger conversation on how to make technical diagrams accessible to non-technical people.  The project page is

Ronda Grizzle has already posted about the importance of generating basic documentation for maintenance of projects.  Perhaps those of us interested in issues of documentation could put our heads together and come up with some principles for documenting a project from start to finish.

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Zen Scavenger Hunt Fri, 21 May 2010 18:39:46 +0000

This is a more playful session idea, but no less serious than anything else proposed: I’d like to hold a Zen Scavenger Hunt at some point during THATCamp.

I got the idea of a Zen Scavenger Hunt from ARG designer Jane McGonigal. A Zen Scavenger Hunt is essentially a reversed-engineered scavenger hunt. We form teams and each team goes out and finds ten or or so items and only afterward do they receive the list of the items they’re supposed to be scavenging for. The teams then have to improvise a series of hacks and demonstrations to prove that their items perfectly match the list.

How this might play out: perhaps sometime Saturday afternoon we form teams; then between the last formal session on Saturday and the first one on Sunday, the teams go out and find their items. Then sometime on Sunday the list is revealed and the teams defend their finds.

How does a Zen Scavenger Hunt relate to the digital humanities? It’s playful, process-oriented, and some locative media/GPS/geocaching could even be incorporated. And the list itself, well that will be comprised of various items relevant to the humanities…

The (in)adequacies of markup Fri, 21 May 2010 17:47:43 +0000

(Last minute session idea)

This discussion comes around every few years, most recently on the Humanist list, starting here and continuing for many posts. The essence of it is an argument over whether embedding markup (à la TEI XML) in texts is a theoretically sound way of digitally publishing texts or whether “standoff” markup that points at parts of a (probably plain text) document would be better.

Anyway, if there are any text hackers out there interested in looking at the state of play in document markup and seeing whether we can come to any useful conclusions or hack something together or make plans to hack something together, let me know.

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One Week, One Book: Hacking the Academy Fri, 21 May 2010 16:20:23 +0000

Tom Scheinfeldt and I have been brewing a proposal for an edited book entitled Hacking the Academy. Let’s write it together, starting at THATCamp. And let’s do it in one week.

Can an algorithm edit a journal? Can a library exist without books? Can students build and manage their own learning management platforms? Can a conference be held without a program? Can Twitter replace a scholarly society?

As recently as the mid-2000s, questions like these would have been unthinkable. But today serious scholars are asking whether the institutions of the academy as they have existed for decades, even centuries, aren’t becoming obsolete. Every aspect of scholarly infrastructure is being questioned, and even more importantly, being <em>hacked</em>. Sympathetic scholars of traditionally disparate disciplines are cancelling their association memberships and building their own networks on Facebook and Twitter. Journals are being compiled automatically from self-published blog posts. Newly-minted Ph.D.’s are foregoing the tenure track for alternative academic careers that blur the lines between research, teaching, and service. Graduate students are looking beyond the categories of the traditional C.V. and building expansive professional identities and popular followings through social media. Educational technologists are “punking” established technology vendors by rolling their own open source infrastructure.

“Hacking the Academy” will both explore and contribute to ongoing efforts to rebuild scholarly infrastructure for a new millenium. Contributors can write on these topics, which will form chapters:

  • Lectures and classrooms
  • Scholarly societies
  • Conferences and meetings
  • Journals
  • Books and monographs
  • Tenure and academic employment
  • Scholarly Identity and the CV
  • Departments and disciplines
  • Educational technology
  • Libraries

In keeping with the spirit of hacking, the book will itself be an exercise in reimagining the edited volume. Any blog post, video response, or other media created for the volume and tweeted (or tagged) with the hashtag #hackacad will be aggregated at (submissions should use a secondary tag — #class #society #conf #journal #book #tenure #cv #dept #edtech #library — to designate chapters). The best pieces will go into the published volume (we are currently in talks with a publisher to do an open access version of this final volume). The volume will also include responses such as blog comments and tweets to individual pieces. If you’ve already written something that you would like included, that’s fine too, just be sure to tweet or tag it (or email us the link to where it’s posted).

You have until midnight on May 28, 2010. Ready, set, go!

UPDATE: [5/23/10] 48 hours in, we have 65 contributions to the book. There’s a running list of contributions.

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Analogizing the Sciences Fri, 21 May 2010 14:20:18 +0000

One of the recurring themes of digital humanities—its methods, its modes of publication, its standards for tenure and promotion, its position within the academy, its disciplinary development, its future—is analogy to the sciences. I just made one such analogy myself (to 18th century electrical research) in a recent blog post.

I’d like to take a session at this year’s THATCamp to interrogate these analogies a little. Just how appropriate and useful are analogies between digital humanities and the sciences? Which analogies work and which ones don’t? How far can we take them? What practical work can they do for us?

This session will obviously be of interest to campers with academic backgrounds in history of science and technology and science and technology studies. But I would also like to invite anyone with an interest in popular science or science fiction and especially anyone with a working background in science and engineering themselves to join us.

See you all tomorrow!

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Digital Literacy for the Dumbest Generation Fri, 21 May 2010 13:43:51 +0000

The scholarship done by the digital humanities community demonstrates that inquiry enabled by modes of research, dissemination, design, preservation, and communication that rely on algorithms, software, and or the internet network for processing data deepen and advance knowledge in the humanities. Marc Baeurlein argues that undergraduates now and undergraduates to come soon are “the least curious and intellectual generation in national history.”  Dubbing them “the dumbest generation” and “mentally agile” but “culturally ignorant,” Bauerlein decrees that The Web hasn’t made them better writers and readers, sharper interpreters and more discerning critics, more knowledgeable citizens and tasteful consumers” (Bauerlein, The Dumbest Generation 110). Baeurlein complains that undergraduates are passive consumers of “information,” that they convert history, philosophy, literature, civics, and fine art into information,” information that becomes, quite simply, “material to retrieve and pass along” (“Online Literacy”). In contrast, Wendell Piez and other digital humanities scholars insist that when we study “how digital media are encoded (being symbolic constructs arranged to work within algorithmic, machine-mediated processes that are themselves a form of cultural production) and how they encode culture in words, colors, sounds, images, and instrumentation,” we are “far from having no more need for literacy;” in fact, the cultural work done by and through digital media requires that students “raise it to ever higher levels.”
So, why isn’t there more discussion within the DH conference and publications about this essential aspect of undergraduate study?

That undergraduate studies are not well discussed within the DH community is part and parcel with the fact that it is a field that engages a wide range of disciplinary perspectives and it is a field that is represented by programs of study that are inflected by, but not necessarily called, Digital Humanities.  Already, I have created an online list of undergraduate programs generated through an informal survey conducted on Twitter, the Humanist Discussion List, and @ palms (my blog) see
The fact that the list already includes a broad range of programs encompassing information science, digital cultures, new media, and computer science reflects the difficult nature of training an undergraduate student in the “methodological commons” (McCarty 131) of the digital humanities, but it also reflects the provocative nature of describing what that curriculum might look like. What is important to teach these students? What is the core knowledge base needed? Who gets to decide?

When discussing current models, it is equally important to make transparent the institutional and infrastructural issues that are specific to certain colleges or universitie, large or small. What works for one institution will not necessarily work for another. By the same token, simply providing examples of existing programs would belie the extent to which scholars and administrators shape these programs (whether they grant degrees, certificates, or nothing at all) according to the needs of their specific communities.

In order to make these matters transparent and broaden discussion about the broad range of issues that underpin the formation of an undergraduate curriculum, I want to discuss UNDERGRADUATE DIGITAL HUMANITIES at THATcamp.

Oh, and I am disseminating a survey to the digital humanities community (Please take it! at asking basic questions concerning how an undergraduate program inflected by the digital humanities has been and might be developed within a variety of university settings. These questions are based on previous conversations (Hockey 2001; Unsworth, Butler 2001), but this previous work has focused primarily on graduate (or post-graduate) work.

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Teaching Students Transferable Skills Fri, 21 May 2010 13:06:05 +0000

It’s no secret that the humanities are in a crisis in higher education. Those who are leaving graduate school are faced with one of the worst job markets in more than a decade. Many of those who are lucky enough to find a job will be working as lecturers or adjuncts at inequitable wages. Those securely ensconced on the tenure track face smaller budgets, dwindling enrollment, and charges of irrelevancy. Undergraduate students are entering an equally difficult employment environment, lacking skills that prepare them for specific work opportunities.

And so forth. Because it’s no secret that the humanities are always in crisis. (In fact, soon there will likely be a crisis for those who like to observe that the humanities have always been in crisis as they realize that their own genre of writing has also always already been in crisis. Watch for the Downfall parody soon.)

Having dispensed with the standard alarmism on the state of the humanities, I think it is still worth noting that we’re in a tough employment market. My own #jobmarket experience bears out the difficulty of such a search. But I’ve been lucky enough in this past semester to have had several interviews and job offers. Interestingly, all of these interviews have been for positions that Bethany Nowviskie and others have taken to calling #alt-ac: alternative academic careers. (See also Tom Scheinfeldt‘s 2008 post on “A Third Way.”) These #alt-ac job interviews weren’t concerned so much with my dissertation research. Instead, they were interested in how I use emerging technologies. This knowledge and skill set (which to be honest isn’t all that amazing compared to most of my fellow THATCampers) was developed in a rather haphazard way throughout my graduate school career, as I found myself in different fellowships or simply following my own inclinations. But no matter how I acquired these skills, it’s what got me the job. It’s what allowed several different employers to visualize me as making an impact on their organizations, despite my Ph.D. In other words, what I suddenly found myself equipped with was a set of transferable skills.

What I’d like to discuss at THATCamp is how we can go about teaching humanities students–both undergraduate and graduate–more transferable skills. This isn’t to say that the skills we traditionally teach humanists–critical thinking, analysis, clear and effective writing, etc.–are not transferable. Rather I want the “more” in my previous statement to be understood quantitatively rather than qualitatively. If we’re teaching X number of skills right now, X+5 might be more useful. That’s certainly been my experience.

One of the ways that I’ve worked to teach my students transferable skills is by the sorts of assignments I create. These assignments give students working with emerging tools (and some that have already emerged) such as wikis, Google Wave, Twitter, Zotero, browser-based social gaming, online timelines, and simple GIS tools. Each of these projects asks students to engage in work that is part of a standard humanities education–reading, writing, discussion, and more–with the goal of making an effective argument about the text under consideration. But while they’re polishing those skills, they are also learning to use new and different tools. For example, my timeline assignment asks students to populate the timeline’s data in a simple Google Docs spreadsheet. They learn how to do simple historical research, but they also gain experience working with a useful online tool and and learn what it means to work within the constraints of a database. In short, they do traditional humanities work, learn how it can be informed by new information technologies, and get a crash-course in those technologies.

I’m going to guess that the idea of teaching students transferable skills won’t be a hard sell at THATCamp, but I’d be intrigued to have a discussion for best practices for doing so. Moreover, what skills should we be teaching? Is my emphasis on Web 2.0 tools enough? Should we be teaching humanities students programming languages, as Stephen Ramsay and others do? How can we best integrate these skills into traditional humanities curricula?

At the last, then, I’d like to take the question one step further than Dave Lester does when he asks in his THATCamp post, “What if digital humanities centers were more like hackerspaces?” I’d like to know to what degree we can transform humanities classrooms–or humanities departments themselves–into hackerspaces?

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Modest Proposals from a Digital Novice Fri, 21 May 2010 11:54:14 +0000

I’m a digital humanities newbie. There, I said it. I’m plenty of yack with hardly any hack. That is, while I can envision-and happily yack about-various projects that I’d like to pursue, I’ve less ability to get my ideas underway. But I’m learning (dabbling with Omeka to start), and that’s why I wanted to be part of THATCamp. I’m also here in my dual roles as an American Studies grad student and a mid-career professional. My checkered past has been spent as a writer and editor in the arts, museum, medical device technology, advertising & marketing and publishing fields.  

I’m interested in how digital technologies can transform my teaching and scholarship and, given my past and hopefully future work with museums, am interested in its public humanities aspects as well. Since I already described my proposals for that camp in my comments on Rob Nelson and Dave Parry’s  entries, I will, with apologies, re-offer those summaries in slightly altered form below. But, really, I’m here to learn, brainstorm and be inspired. It’s self-guided retraining as I wait for DSPOADHCFMCSOU to launch!  

Digital Pedagogy: Having just concluded an undergraduate seminar (From P.T. Barnum to Second Life: American Identities in the Museum) that incorporated digital humanities in modest ways, I’m keen to join in discussions about the challenges and possibilities that new technologies present for teaching. One of my THATCamp proposals involves adapting or developing an annotation tool for collaborative critical reading. Existing software such as Comment Press or Adobe Buzzword provide some but not all the features that I envision for this project. The aim is to leverage the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing by fostering critical reading skills that encourage students to examine how scholars structure and develop their arguments and, in turn, to think more critically about their own writing. The difference between this idea and, say, having students blog about what they are reading is that the tool would make students’ observations about the text-and the text itself-visible in the same shared space, inviting close re-examination of the text. And what might this look like if visualizations were possible, too? What might that offer?

Project Brainstorm: My other THATCamp topic concerns my still-in-proposal-stage dissertation on the wartime work of U.S. museums.  It is my hope that integrating digital humanities into this project will not only augment the types of analysis that can be pursued but will also expand the ways in which the research problems themselves are formulated—and the arguments made. That said, I’m having difficulty conceiving of what this might be in part because I’m new to this enterprise of digital humanities. So I would love to talk about the larger issues of digital scholarship and brainstorm ideas. I’m keen to learn more about Matthew Slaats’  and Daniel Chamberlain’s entries, for example.

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Creative data visualizations Fri, 21 May 2010 07:10:26 +0000

I want to have conversations about dozens of the ideas already put on the table, but a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately are ways in which we might think about how data visualizations might circulate beyond academic boundaries.  By this I mean that while we should think long and hard about the data we choose to visualize and we should think reflexively about the role of humanistic inquiry as we move toward graphic representations, we might also consider how creative and thoughtful visualizations might be deployed as forms of public scholarship.

The best visualizations (and infographics) present a complex set of information in a creative form that respects the complexity of the issues while expressing an argument at the same time.  Even as infographics are circulating through mainstream media outlets and are increasingly trending as social media phenomenon, data visualization efforts are a key aspect of a number of innovative scholarly projects.  I would like to press a little bit on the idea that creative visualizations – which might well be a collaborative effort between scholars, coders, and designers (and scholar-coders, coder-designers, etc.) – might allow critical work to circulate in quite public ways.

At the same time, while we should certainly develop and expand our individual and collective repertoire in this realm, we should also consider the role of data visualization in teaching digital visual fluency skills to our students.  While a fair amount of creativity and technical skill is needed to create some types of visualizations, students can begin with more manageable, off-the-shelf visualization tools and still begin to learn how to effectively decode their ideological and technological foundations.

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OpenStreetMap for Mapping of Historical Sites Fri, 21 May 2010 03:47:56 +0000

OpenStreetMap is a wiki style map of the entire world.  It has a flexible key/value tagging system that allows the data in it to evolve relatively easily.  This flexibility has allowed it to be used in everything from disaster response to micro-mapping of locations such as zoos and parks.  There are lots of examples of historical sites mapped within OSM.  One local to the Washington D.C. area is Arlington National Cemetery.

In other areas there have been efforts to create maps from OpenStreetMap data towns at various snapshots in time.  This is done by utilizing begin and end date tags for buildings.  That way if you render a map for the year 1840 for example only those buildings standing during that time while be displayed.  Frankie Roberto has an interesting series of slides showing this idea of start and end attributes in OpenStreetMap.

When I asked on one of the OSM community mailing lists for examples of sites of historical significance in OpenStreetMap I received many responses.  I’m interested in discussing this application of the project as well as potentially others of interest to the digital humanities.

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soft circuits Fri, 21 May 2010 00:14:19 +0000

Hey, nerds. I’m going to bring some leftover supplies from Hacking Wearables and E-Textiles, the soft-circuits workshop that Bill Turkel and I recently hosted at Great Lakes THATCamp. Participants combined traditional (often gendered) techniques and materials — like embroidery stitches and grosgrain ribbon — with conductive thread, coin-cell batteries, LEDs, and interactive switches to create toys and wearable art. We also tinkered a little bit with sensors and the programmable Lilypad Arduino.

Stacey's Pigg Cheryl modded her THATCamp shirt Stéfan's light-up finger puppet Nancy's counting glove

It takes a while to get even a small project off the ground, so I don’t suggest we hold an actual session and start modding our THATCamp t-shirts, or designing finger puppets, circuit pigs, and light-up counting gloves (pics above) — but I will have some small example projects on hand and a 3-minute slideshow that demonstrates how to sew a basic circuit. If you’re interested, grab me at lunch or on a break. I can quickly show you how to turn a regular LED into a sewable bead with which you can create a “self-meriting merit badge” like the ones below.

self-meriting merit badge2 by nowviskie, on Flickr" href=""> self-meriting merit badge #<a href=2" width="180" height="240" />

I’m happy to cut a length of conductive thread for anybody who asks, and to hand out LEDs (while supplies last!). Even if you’re not especially artsy-craftsy, you might want to snag some conductive thread for your gloves next winter. A couple of quick stitches, and you’ll be able to use a touch-screen even in the coldest weather!

If you’d like to get a better sense of the theory and practice of wearable electronics, check out our Zotero group — where you’ll also find some smart pedagogy articles.

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Mostly Hack… Thu, 20 May 2010 17:46:16 +0000

About a month ago I started hacking around with the Zotero RSS feeds to see if we might be able to use them in in our application development. The idea was that I would develop a library to allow users to collect and manage citations in one of the best citation tools out there, and then integrate the citation reference in to some yet-to-be-developed application. To that end, I whipped up a quick Ruby library, and released it as a gem. PHP also has a Zotero library maintained by Jeremy Boggs. Both of these libraries allow developers to start integrating Zotero into applications in new ways.

So here’s the pitch…let’s get together and expand these libraries and/or build something cool out of them. As an example, for the Ruby library, I would like to implement a COinS decorator for Zotero items. This would allow you to store the item id in a Model (I’ve started an acts_as_citable plugin for this) and then generate COinS in a view with item.to_coins. PHP uses a slightly different idiom, but you could imagine a getCoins() function that would produce the same result.

Anyone up for an old-fashioned hackfest along these lines?

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A Contextual Engagement Thu, 20 May 2010 11:47:26 +0000

Over the last few months I have been contemplating McKenzie Wark’s idea of  telesthesia (perception at a distance).  In his writing he describes a third nature where each of us “no longer has roots; we have aerials. We no longer have origins; we have terminals.”  Our “terrain is organized with vectoral rather than social relations, freeing itself from the necessity of spatial contiguity.” This creates an ever increasing abstract world, a post modern world, that we now must negotiate and contend with. Global and local are linked, but we do not have the tools or the ability to truly comprehend how each effects the other. I see the digital humanities as an attempt to re-situate and organize information according to this new landscape. It is a breaking-down of the boundaries between disciplines, allowing for a remapping/recontextualization of information that connects our “terminals.”

Over the past several years I have been working on several projects that work within these frameworks. In 2009, I collaborated with the Children’s Media Project in Poughkeepsie, NY to created an augmented reality game entitled Walking History.  Working with students and several Humanities scholars, we negotiated and collected  narratives that have come to define this post-industrial city. These were then situated onto a map to locate them with in the urban landscape. As a player of the game you physically traversed the streets of the city while being provided an alternative layer of information using a mobile device. This provided for a broader, lived understanding of place.

Also in 2009, I created the Hyde Park Visual History Project. The objective of this effort was to create a dynamic relationship between the place, people and the visual culture of that area. Over a two year period, I worked with institutions and individuals to create a collection of images, video and sound that documented the landscape and activities of Hyde Park, NY.   Once establish the media was then used to develop multiple interactive installations that played between representation and reality. Video of a couple’s 1952 wedding was projected onto their former home, images of a hamlet were shown on the library that houses them, and the entire collection was shown at historic drive-in theatre playing on relationships between cinematic and reality landscapes. Software made the media reactive to the environment and people’s movements, thus establishing a way of understanding the unique relationships built between each.

Finally, I have been working to produce VR technology as a means to further conceptualize both object and space.  While not a new technology, the ability of this media to provide visual access to a distant place or fragile object creates the opportunity for a lived experience.  No longer does a the concept of a place have to be understood only in text or the flatness of an image, it can be twisted, turned and placed within a Google map to provide further context.

ARGs, Archives, and Digital Scholarship Wed, 19 May 2010 22:51:50 +0000

You know how when you have an assignment for students to post regularly to a blog throughout the semester, there’s always a couple who wait until the last minute to post a bunch of comments to make it look like they’ve been posting all along? Apparently, I am that student. I’ve spent most of the day reading everyone else’s proposals, trying to find the best way to frame my own proposal within that context, so here goes:

I’m interested in Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), and lately I’ve been especially interested in saying things about ARGs in scholarly and pedagogical contexts that do more than explain what ARGs are and why anyone should care. As a textual scholar (technically), I’m trying to find ways to stabilize and document an ARG as a text; this is difficult because the artifacts which comprise an ARG experience might be as diverse as an email, a twitter update, TV commercial, or a personal conversation with someone who turns out to be a character in a fictional universe. For most of these things, Zotero is pretty good at capturing the data and metadata, and in a recent semester, I had students build ARGHives as Zotero collections. This worked pretty well on the input side, but not so great on the output side, wherein lies the problem I’m trying to get at. Since ARGs are temporally constrained, a Zotero-powered ARGHive is useful only for those who were in the right place at the right time to have experienced it. ARGHives aren’t good at conveying the text of an ARG to everyone else, and this is a problem for ARG scholarship. (The imaginary ideal for an ARGhive would have to be some kind of reality emulator, and that doesn’t make sense.)

When I write some deep, scholarly thoughts about a novel or a videogame, I address that to a community that can assess the value of my deep thoughts by reading them against the text in question. Not so with ARGs, where the textuality that matters comes to bear within the diverse experiences of a specific community of players.

Lest it sound too much like I’m just crowdsourcing my own research project for public, I should clarify that this problem has implications, I think, for many of the threads already emerging in session proposals. When Rob Nelson writes about arguing digitally, when Alex Jarvis looks to whatever comes after paper as a design problem, and when Dave Parry implies that collaboration is a key characteristic of digital sophistication (both for pedagogy and scholarship), it occurs to me that what’s at stake in all of these is the terms through which we negotiate digital authority. (And I’d probably add a number of other posts into this mix, especially.)

Now, by raising the question of authority (and, implicitly, identity), I don’t necessarily want to go all ontological. (“Less yak,” after all.) Rather, I want to suggest that ARGs are a good case study in textuality because participation in an ARG consistents (usually) in players’ negotiating textual authority through examining various texts to determine what’s significant and what’s ephemeral. So if we can have a conversation about best practices in transmedia scholarship (and in that conversation, I’d probably argue that such scholarship should itself probably be at least transmodal in some way), we’d be dealing with an automatically self-reflective archive that makes meaning in an inherently digital way — by identifying differences between randomness and pattern.

This also hints at what I think a truly digital scholarship might start to look like. In my own digital-scholarly project,, I’m so far just putting a dissertation (which is comprised of words, images, and some animation) onto a website. The only thing “digital” about it is that it’s stored in a MySQL database, hosted on a web server somewhere, and that I access it through my computer thanks to the magic of a series of protocols.

This post is already way too long, so I’ll just close by acknowledging that many (if not all) of the hurdles I’m raising here about ARGs are likely well-trodden by my fellow campers who identify themselves as digital historians. That is, from an archival point of view, creating a historical narrative by putting an event into context is different than putting a document into that context — I’m sure that’s a conversation that already exists, and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out in the weirdly textual realm of ARGs.

TL:DRARGs are neat. I want to have a session hashing out how to deal with them in scholarly ways. This has interesting implications for what we mean by terms like “digital scholarship.” Alternatively, I’d be very happy bringing an ARG/transmedia angle to any number of sessions already proposed.

Also, Drupal.

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Playing With the Past: Pick One of Three Wed, 19 May 2010 20:31:27 +0000

I know there are at least a handful of other folks interested in games and playful thinking in history and the humanities more broadly, so I thought I would stick a post up here to start a conversation and see what kind of session we could pull together. Here are three quick ideas for playing with the past sessions. Chime in with your thoughts and suggestions.

1. Share A Game Play Time:
One option would be to just make some time to play some humanities games together. If a few people suggest a few games we should have plenty to play with, and I think they would prompt some great conversations about the power of the medium. If we went this way, I would share Argument Wars.  (If other folks don’t have other game ideas to share I can dig some more up)

2. Mini Humanities Game Jam:
In a game design jam the objective would be to break into groups and work up a playable prototype for a game on a provided topic in less than an hour. (For constraints on this see Raph Koster’s blog) We could try that, or we could try something more like tiltfactor’s grow a game workshop, where groups draw cards for different components of games and then put together short pitches for their games (See this overview for rules, and we could use the Flash version of the Grow-A-Game cards). I would lean toward the tiltfactor approach, with the caveat that we could swap out the challenges or goals for history or humanities learning objectives.

3. Prototyping Some Barely Games Into Digital Incarnations
Rob MacDougall recently blogged about some really cool “barely games” that playfully get at some critical elements in historical thinking.  It would be relatively easy to work up plans for “digitizing” these simple game/exercises and putting them up online.

I’m personally most inclined to the third option, but I would be up for jumping into the other two as well. So, who is in?

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DH centers as hackerspaces Wed, 19 May 2010 19:22:18 +0000

What if digital humanities centers were more like hackerspaces, where students/faculty/staff could learn skills, socialize, and collaborate on projects in an informal setting? If not DH centers themselves, what if there was a space on your campus where Computer Science grad students hung out to hack on code with undergrads from English? I’m talking about a place where you could learn how to use a soldering iron, or learn about the wonders of Emacs. Think about the work at these hackerspaces as R&D, entirely participant-driven, and something closer to NiCHE’s Hacking as a Way of Knowing workshop, rather than the grant-funded model of DH that people more commonly associate with centers. Spontaneous. Non-hierarchical. Open. Fun. A hackerspace at a university could be a place where everyday is an unconference, there’s no staff, and skunkworks projects are fostered.

Over the past several years, local hackerspaces have taken hold in cities across the world from Baltimore to Berlin, from San Francisco to New York. There are already a handful of hackerspaces on college campuses like BUILDS at Boston University or MITERS at MIT. What’s next in the evolution of these spaces for tinkering and what can their relationship with digital humanities be?

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All Courseware Sucks Wed, 19 May 2010 16:58:26 +0000

Really.  All of it.  I think Blackboard is one of the most poorly designed systems ever built for the Web, and I’m rarely challenged on that opinion.  Problem is, even the good ones (Moodle, Sakai) suck.

But why do they suck?

In general, these systems are too heavy, too buggy, require way too much administration, and suffer from the most extreme form of featuritis imaginable.  They try to be all things to all people while pursuing desktop metaphors that remain awkward on the Web.  They commit the abominable freshman mistake of thinking that since “teachers are used to paper gradebooks” we should have e-GradeBooks ™ that work just like the paper ones.  They can’t decide whether the electronic classroom should be like a social network, or a room, or like Twitter (and so they end up being like 4Chan).  Students hate it, teachers hate it, administrators hate it.  It’s a bloody disaster.

I propose that we discuss — and if possible sketch out — some solutions to this morass.  Maybe that involves coming up with some very thin portal software that hooks up existing services.  Maybe we design a highly minimalist courseware system as a foil to systems like Blackboard.  Maybe we design a few of them for different kinds of teaching situations (large Chem lecture, small grad seminar, etc.).  Maybe we develop highly nuanced arguments for why “courseware,” as such, shouldn’t exist.

Now, we want to be clear about what’s not working with these systems, but this can very quickly descend into an angry mob of people eager to vent about Blackboard.   Perhaps we can think about limiting or constraining that discussion (using some clever mechanism) so that we can get it all out on the table without getting overwhelmed.  Whatever we do, I’d like to get some concrete suggestions and even schematic designs for Courseware That Does Not Suck.

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HTML5 Wed, 19 May 2010 16:16:04 +0000

Since I’ve been tinkering around with HTML5 on my own theme, and reading debates over it the last few months, I’d like to propose a session on HTML5. There are quite a few things we can discuss, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Features of HTML5, including new tags and tag attributes, offline web applications, Geolocation, et cetera.
  • Implementing HTML5 now; Design and development considerations for using HTML5, including browser support of certain features.
  • HTML5 in the context of the Apple/Adobe argument over Flash.
  • Potential impact of HTML5 on digital humanities work; How do standards bodies for technologies and languages affect our work and, conversely, how might digital humanities as a field begin to influence the development of standards such as HTML5?

I imagine we could hack out some code and examples, too. Any other ideas for this?

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Dude, I Just Colleagued My Dean Wed, 19 May 2010 14:46:31 +0000
CC licensed photo by

CC licensed photo by

What role should social networking play within online academic environments? Should faculty members, administrators, and students be able to friend one another on campus-wide blogging platforms? Is the term “friend,” used as either a noun or a verb, insufficiently serious for the august members of the academy? Or is friending so firmly established that any other term will sound hopelessly contrived?

These are not idle questions. As Project Director of The CUNY Academic Commons, an academic social network that connects the twenty-three campuses of The City University of New York system, I am trying to gauge the comfort-level of my local scholarly community with these issues. Our site uses uses BuddyPress, a set of plugins for WordPress Multi-User, to enable a social network that includes friend-based connections between members. So far, at least, we haven’t altered the default language of friending on BuddyPress, but that doesn’t mean we won’t or shouldn’t.

When we first unveiled the Commons to the CUNY community at the December 2009 CUNY IT Conference, one audience member expressed discomfort with the idea of friending colleagues. This prospective member of our site found the “friend” terminology a bit inappropriate to the academic sphere; more than that, though, he felt uncomfortable with the intimacy that friendship implied. He didn’t want to “friend” his Provost or receive a friendship request from a grad student working in his office. He just wanted to work with them.

So, one question I have is whether some term besides “friend” would be more appropriate for a work environment, even an informal one that includes social ventures like CUNY Pie. Would everyone be happier if we were colleaguing one another on our academic networks?

Of course, friending — the bi-directional, mutually affirmed confirmation of a relationship — is not the only model for connection in a social network. Twitter utilizes an asymmetrical “follow” system in which one user can follow, or subscribe to, the updates of one another without both members agreeing to a shared relationship. Similarly, sites like Flickr and Delicious allow users to add others to their networks without requiring a mutual decision by both members. LinkedIn, meanwhile, allows members to mark one another as colleagues, co-workers, or classmates. goes both ways: in addition to designating others on the site as colleagues, members can “follow” the work of other scholars.

On the Commons, we’ve been so busy developing the site that we haven’t really initiated this discussion among our users. Some conversation began over on Boone Gorges’s blog, where Boone and I began to hash out these issues in a post that really had little to do with the conversation that followed (+1 to me for hijacking the comment thread).

Obviously, individual academic communities may have different answers to these questions, but I figure that as long as we have some of the best minds in the Digital Humanities and Emerging Media gathered together in one place this weekend, we might as well take a crack at them, too.

So: will you be my friend colleague some-other-term-that-expresses-a-vague-and-perhaps-specious-connection? I hope so, because a request is already on its way.

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The Future of Interdisciplinary Digital Cultural Heritage Curriculum (oh yeah, and games as well) Wed, 19 May 2010 14:31:08 +0000

Well, it looks like there is a good number of campers (Julie, Jeff, Dave – just to name a few…and I know that Beth has a lot to say about mentorship) interested in teaching/curriculum (self paced, open access, formal, etc, etc).  My original proposals is in that domain as well.  Here is what I originally submitted:

We are beginning to see an increasing number of university programs and classes intended to equip students in the myriad disciplines that constitute the field of cultural heritage with both the practical and theoretical skills necessary to creatively apply information and communication technologies to historical and cultural heritage materials

The worry I have with many of these programs (or classes) is that they are very discipline specific. As one would expect, they are mostly populated by students from the department in which the program lives (students who are steeped in the epistemology of that specific discipline). The result is that the student’s outlook on digital cultural heritage might be insular, and lacking much of the vibrant interdisciplinarity of cultural heritage.

It is in this context, informed by my own efforts at Michigan State University, that I would like to engage in a discussion with other cultural heritage professions (academics, archivists, museum professionals, archaeologists, etc.) as to how we might go about constructing digital oriented curricula that embrace the interdisciplinary nature of cultural heritage and encourages cross disciplinary collaboration among future cultural heritage professionals.

If such a curriculum existed, what would it look like? What theory & practice would it investigate? What tools & platforms would it explore? How would it be taught?  Who would teach it?  Are there best practices and general models that can be developed which would serve to prepare students (either graduate or undergraduate) for a broad range of settings (public service, private sector, or academia)? Is such a curriculum even possible? It is these questions (and more) that I would like to explore with other interested THATCamp attendees.

blah, blah, blah…I know…this might seem to be a lot of yak, and not a lot of hack.  However, if you turn it on its side and look at it slightly different, its also about hacking curriculum, the domain of cultural heritage, models of content, identity, and interdisciplinarity.

There are a couple of important things that bear added (or emphasizing):

  • How do we create a culture of technological ingenuity (where students build stuff – especially stuff that might live outside of their comfort zone) in such a curriculum?
  • How do we create a culture of collaboration in such a curriculum? (this certainly falls into the domain of David’s proposal)
  • How do we create a culture of interdiscplinarity in such a curriculum?

(oh yeah, and games as well)

While I didn’t “formally” propose it, I would love to talk to people about serious games (meaningful play, playful interaction…whatever you would like to call it).  I’m PI on the NEH ODH funded Red Land/Black Land: Teaching Ancient Egyptian History Through Game-Based Learning project, co-founder of the Serious Game MA program at MSU, co-founder of the undergrad game design and development specialization at MSU, and a pretty big gamer myself – so I’ve got a fair amount of experience in the domain.  It bears mentioning that I’m not just interested in digital games…I’m also really interested in non-digital games as well (tabletop games, boardgames, collectible card games, collectible miniature games, etc.) for learning (mostly cultural heritage learning).  So, if there are people interested in exploring games (any aspect – best practices, approaches, nuts & bolts…whatever), I’m game (game…get it? har har har)

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Project "Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained" Wed, 19 May 2010 12:07:31 +0000

Since “DSPOADHCFMCSOU” doesn’t spell anything useful, I’m using “Project Retrain” as the working title for this project.

Some of you may recall a tweet by me a few weeks ago, in which I “announced” a new project and called for volunteers. Despite not saying anything else about that project besides its lengthy title, many people said “I’m in!” or “that sounds grant-worthy”—all pretty darn fine responses for something as yet undescribed. So, I figured the best place to describe it (in brief) would be here, because what I’d like to do at THATCamp is gather all the folks I’d be asking for help/input anyway and brainstorm (or flat out plan) parts of this project.

NOTE: This may seem to go against the more hack, less yak directive, but I want to walk away from THATCamp with a loosely constructed advisory team, an outline of first phase content and actions, milestones, and a general action plan. That’s pretty hacky although there’s yakky to get there. And if this doesn’t happen in a session of any sort, I will track people down in the hallways. You’ve been warned.

My initial thoughts…

Self-paced: the idea is to create modules (more on that under “DH Curriculum”) that contain a series of topics organized into bite-sized lessons; here I’m thinking of the scope of content within the Sams Teach Yourself “in 24 hours” series, which I have plenty of experience writing, that tries to ensure the content of each lesson can be digested within an hour (although time for end-of-lesson exercises can take longer).

So, for argument’s sake, let’s say one of the modules is “Basic Web Site Construction”. A topic might be: “Setting Up a Web Server (hosted version)”. The bite-sized lessons might be: what to look for in a hosting provider, understanding client-server communication, exploring your control panel, finding an FTP client, uploading your first file. If the topic is “Setting Up a Web Server (geek version)”, the bite-sized lessons might start with installing XAMPP and moving forward with that. Also under “Basic Web Site Construction” would include initial forays into (X)HTML, CSS, and so on.

I think you get the idea of the granularity of the content. I have a ton of my own content I can repurpose, and there’s open access content to be had, or crowdsourced (hint: you’re the crowd). While the topics within the modules would be linear, the modules themselves would not necessarily be linear (and you could be working on more than one module at a time) although I do have this idea wherein completion of X number of modules would prepare a person to attend Y scholarly institute or apply for Z grant (e.g. “you’ve completed basic text encoding and it’s almost summertime? great! think about attending DHSI or an NEH-funded workshop for the next step”).

Open Access: by this I mean pulling together existing open access and Creative Commons-licensed content in order to mashup new “courses” as well as making those new courses open access. While there would be a registration process and the content would be “locked down” to those registered, registration would be free. The account business would have to do with tracking progress, assigning mentors, and so on.

DH Curriculum: the goal isn’t at all to say “this is what you need to know in order to call yourself a DH scholar” but instead “you want to learn about some core technologies that might find their way into your scholarly work, or to know more about the tools others are using so that you can have conversations with them? here’s some stuff you can learn.” I see this content ranging from basic web technology to document encoding to textual analysis tools to library systems to social media to pedagogical best practices with technology to project management to infinity and beyond.

Mid-Career Scholars: why “mid-career”? Obviously this isn’t a requirement—anyone who wants to learn stuff is welcome. But I want to focus on the “retrain” or “ramp up the skills” or “insert something else here” aspect for scholars who find themselves wanting to take the time to learn more in a structured sort of way, but who are too far out from their PhD date to qualify for post-doctoral study/research opportunities. Deciding to start this project came from conversations from two important people—an old friend and my diss chair—who both are midway through their careers and know where they want to go (in general) with technology in their scholarship but do not know the paths to follow or the right questions to ask in order to get there. They both came to me and asked me to teach them stuff. I figured if I’m going to do it for them, might as well do something larger for everyone. Then I thought about what could start to change in academia at large if just ten (ten!) mid-career scholars otherwise unaffiliated with DH-ish things turned toward this path each year by working through the material. How would hiring committees start to change? T&P committees? Heck, even just conference panels?

Ok, so…I’m moving forward with this, somehow and some way, and obviously I’d like all of you to come along for the ride. I have some ideas for how this project could intersect with existing projects (I’m looking at you, nowviskie et al). I actually have more of a plan than it looks here—I’d just like people to round out the team. I see THATCamp as a place to gather the team. I hear that worked last year for ProfHacker.

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what have you done for us lately? Wed, 19 May 2010 01:08:30 +0000

Okay, professional societies, large and small — what have you done for us lately? Are you ready to do more of what the digital humanities crowd needs? Less of what we don’t? (And, um, what is that, precisely?)

Because I’m in thorough agreement with the THATCamp mantra of “more hack, less yak,” I’m not actually proposing the following as a session — instead, I just want to put this concept out there with an open invitation to all of you, to corner me between sessions and share your views. I’m volunteering to take them back to the following groups:

  • the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH), the primary professional society for the digital humanities;
  • the program committee for the annual Digital Humanities conference;
  • the Information Technology Committee of the Modern Language Association (MLA);
  • NINES & 18th-Connect, established peer-reviewing bodies for 19th- and 18th-century electronic scholarship;
  • the Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI), which is well-positioned to liaise with professional societies (and publishers and libraries and centers and institutes) around issues that matter to THATCampers.

I’m currently Vice President of the first organization (and a member of its outreach and mentorship committees), Vice Chair of the second group, an incoming member of the third, Senior Advisor to the fourth (for my sins as developer emerita), and Associate Director of the fifth. That’s a lot of administriva and service activity for a gal who hates to waste time — so I’m highly motivated to hear from the people these groups should be serving — that’s you — about how to serve you better and make what we do immediately meaningful to your lives as digital humanists.

There will actually be a few people at THATCamp who are involved in these organizations. I’m not naming names — although they’re free to self-identify in the comments section. I will, however, be quite cheerful about dragging my colleagues into any discussions you initiate. (Fair warning!)

Basically, I’m volunteering to be a walking suggestion box. Professional societies, by and large, can do better. How, exactly? You tell me.

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Digital Storytelling: Balancing Content and Skill Wed, 19 May 2010 00:55:01 +0000

A thought-provoking digital storytelling (DST) session at last year’s THATcamp inspired me to teach a graduate Digital Storytelling class this spring at Mason (thanks to all the participants at last year’s session!).

Teaching digital storytelling raises a number of pedagogical and technical issues, so in addition to the excellent questions posed by Kenneth Warren (Collecting the Digital Story: Omeka and the New Media Narrative), I would be interested in discussing the balance between teaching/evaluating content and technical skill in digital storytelling classes or classes that include a digital storytelling component.

What is digital storytelling (including a wide range from documentary format to interactive narrative development)? What happens when we tell a story digitally? How does digital storytelling work in the classroom? Does it change learning? How can it be used to teach/help students learn content in an engaging way? How can a one-semester course effectively teach digital storytelling, including technical skills and storytelling skills, while keeping a strong emphasis on content, research, historical accuracy? [or is the question “can a one-semester course. . . ?]

My goal for the class was to keep a strong focus on content, research, and narrative, but (of course) ideally without sacrificing technical quality. In addition, students came to the class with a range of skills (experienced filmmaker to absolute novice)–a challenge in many ways, but it also led to more collaboration and collegiality than I’ve seen in most graduate classes.

I started the course with many unanswered questions and ended the course with at least as many new questions. I look forward to the conversation!

Visualizing text: theory and practice Wed, 19 May 2010 00:52:14 +0000

Bad, bad me — of course I’ve been putting off writing up my ideas and thoughts for THATcamp almost to the latest possible moment. Waiting so long has one definitive advantage though: I get to point to some of the interesting suggestions that have already been posted here and (hopefully) add to them.

I’d like to both discuss and do text visualization. Charts, maps, infographics and other forms of visualization are becoming increasingly popular as we are faced with large quantities of textual data from a variety of sources. To linguists and literary scholars, visualizing texts can (among other things) be interesting to uncover things about language as such (corpus linguistics) and about individual texts and their authors (narratology, stylometrics, authorship attribution), while to a wide range of other disciplines the things that can be inferred from visualization (social change, spreading of cultural memes) beyond the text itself can be interesting.

What can we potentially visualize? This may seem to be a naive question, but I believe that only by trying out virtually everything we can think of (distribution of letters, words, word classes, n-grams, paragraphs, …; patterning of narrative strands, structure of dialog, occurrence of specific rhetorical devices; references to places, people, points in time…; emotive expressions, abstract verbs, dream sequences… you name it) can we reach conclusions about what (if anything!) these things might mean.

How can we visualize text? If we consider for a moment how we mostly visualize text today it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more we could be doing. Bar plots, line graphs and pie charts are largely instruments for quantification, yet very often quantitative relations between elements aren’t our only concern when studying text. Word clouds add plasticity, yet they eliminate the sequential patterning of a text and thus do not represent its rhetorical development from beginning to end. Trees and maps are interesting in this regard, but by and large we hardly utilize the full potential of visualization as a form of analysis, for example by using lines, shapes, color (!) and beyond that, movement (video) in a way that suits the kind of data we are dealing with.

What tools can we use to do visualization? I’m very interested in Processing and have played with it, also more extensively with R and NLTK/Python. Tools for rendering data, such as Google Chart Tools, igraph and RGraph are also interesting. Other, non-statistical tools are also an option: free hand drawing tools and web-based services like Many Eyes. Visualization doesn’t need to be restricted to computation/statistics. Stephanie Posavec‘s trees are a dynamic mix of automation and manual annotation and demonstrate that visualizations are rhetorically powerful interpretations themselves.

I hope that some of the abovementioned things connect to other THATcampers’ ideas, e.g. Lincoln Mullen’s post on mining scarce sources and Bill Ferster’s post on teaching using visualization.

Don’t get me started on the potential for teaching. Ultimately translating a text into another form is a unique kind of critical engagement: you’re uncovering, interpreting and making an argument all at once, both to the text in question and to yourself.

Anyway — anything from discussing theoretical issues of visualization to sharing code snippets would fit into this session and I’m looking forward to hearing other campers’ thoughts and experiences on the subject.

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Plays Well With Others Tue, 18 May 2010 20:39:34 +0000

Over the last year, the Scholars’ Lab has undertaken a project to build a tool for creating interlinked timelines and maps for interpretive expressions of the literary and historical contents of archival collections which we are calling Neatline. When the project was first envisioned, it was seen as a stand-alone tool scholars would use to produce geo-temporal visualizations of textual content. However, as we began the planning process, we thought this effort might not only reach a larger audience, but also contribute back to the larger community effort, if the tools were thought of as a suite of Omeka plugins. This follows a general turn the Scholars’ Lab has taken in how it approaches new projects, from the boutique, or one-off projects of the last decade, toward a more concerted effort to use  frameworks in which we build additional functionality as needed.

Having worked on several open-source projects, I know one the most difficult aspects of this style of code development is building a community of support around the software development effort. Perhaps one of the most engaging of the community efforts I’ve experienced has been in the Rails community with their Bug Mashes as new versions of the framework are being developed. The idea revolves around four general ways in which participants can participate:

  • Confirm a bug can be reproduced
  • If it cannot be reproduced, try to figure out what information would make it possible to reproduce
  • If can be reproduced, add the missing pieces: better instructions, a failing patch, and/or a patch that applies cleanly to the current source
  • Bring promising tickets to the attention of the Core team

Generally locations (usually programming shops that use Rails) sponsor a day where community members can gather and participate in the bug mashing, sometimes there’s even pizza and highly-caffeinated drinks. The goal beyond getting some good code written is to get more people introduced to some of the new features, encourage people to talk about the experience, and just have a day to geek out for a good cause.

So here’s the pitch, knowing there’s a concentration of software developers, users, and enthusiasts, could we organize a series of bug mashes that promote community involvement through documentation, patches, blog posts on usage, thoughts, etc. on some projects that are commonly used by digital humanists (not specifically this weekend, but some time in the future)? Chief on my mind lately has been some enhancements to Omeka since several of our current projects are tied to that framework, but are there projects that could benefit from this type of planned community involvement? Are there any perplexing coding issues we could could hack on while at THATCamp?

Citing a geospatial hootenanny Tue, 18 May 2010 17:48:54 +0000

I’m attending THATCamp with my colleagues from the University of Virginia Library’s Scholars’ Lab (please see their posts in this space for more about what we’re doing). I’ll be interested in discussing challenges in geospatial scholarship (particularly the encoding and processing of ambiguity and imprecision) and how open platforms for supporting it can help, as well as digital repository technology and how it can make our work better. In particular, I’m always ready to talk about Neatline, our NEH-funded project to create open, lightweight, and flexible tools for the creation of interlinked timelines and maps as interpretive expressions of the literary or historical content of archival collections. We’re using Omeka as a platform, creating plugins that provide rich capabilities to manipulate and exhibit geospatial information as part of a unified scholarly field.

On a related note, a continuing concern of mine has been the nature of citation and evidence in scholarly argument in non-text media. As we create and use new and very sophisticated forms of narrative and argument, how will our technologies of citation grow? Are we ready to ensure that the scholarly record as extended through hypermedia maintains its rigor? What role will metadata technologies play in this effort and how can those of us who work in libraries and archives help?

A. Soroka
Digital Research and Scholarship R & D
the University of Virginia Library

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Reimagining the National Register Nomination Form Tue, 18 May 2010 03:56:02 +0000

Distribution of NRHP listings in continental US, courtesy Wikipedia

I propose a discussion of the National Register of Historic Places nomination form to reimagine the potential of historical research and documentation in the context of abundance of digital tools for the investigation and presentation of architectural and social history. The National Register nomination form dates back to the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and continues to reflect the technical limitations and, arguably, the ideological assumptions of architectural history during the 1960s. The rise of vernacular architecture and cultural landscape studies have directly challenged the tradition of engaging buildings and neighborhoods with a curatorial approach based in an art history. Questions of style, significance, context, and integrity are now contested and complicated in ways that may be poorly reflected within the limits laid out in National Register Bulletin 16A “How to Complete The National Register Nomination Form.” Beyond the scholarly transformation of architectural and social history, the existing form has been disrupted by the transition from a culture of of scarcity to a culture of abundance described by Roy Rozenweig. The capacity to conduct full-text searches of manuscript census documents across hundreds of years with, browse dozens of digitized directories on the Internet Archive, download measured drawings or archival photos from a good portion of HABS/HAER, determine the extant status of buildings using Google Maps, create three-dimensional models with Photosynth, and manage nearly unlimited sources with Zotero must force a radical reconsideration of the process of object of local history research and documentation. None of this was possible in 1966. If we started from scratch today, what would the National Register nomination form look like?

I believe this question presents an opportunity to address engage with broader interests in linked data, social media, multimedia digital scholarship, geospatial data in the humanities, expanding scholarship to non-academic audiences, and the long-term preservation of digital work. To start here are a few specific examples of the limits and potential alternatives to the National Register nomination form,

  • The existing nomination form is largely textual, including a detailed written architectural descriptions. Could the supplementary documentation a National Register nomination include digital audio and video recordings of oral histories or historic events? 3D models of viewsheds? Datasets on demographic change at a block or neighborhood level?
  • The existing nomination form is clearly limited to a single author. How can attribution for collaborative authorship be addressed? Can a nomination be crowdsourced? How can alternate voices be integrated into the narrative? (CommentPress?)
  • The existing nomination form provides some structured data but it does not use a controlled vocabulary and fails to capture to dozens of references to building and architects found in the historic context of the nomination. Can  nominations be linked together with URIs that might represent architects, builders, owners, and buildings? (NC Architects & Builders?) Can unstructured natural language description be converted into semantic data? (OpenCalais?)
  • The existing nomination form provides a heading at the end of the form for a brief bibliography. Can RDF data be embedded in the nomination? Can references be linked directly to primary sources? (Document Cloud?)

While my proposal for THATCamp Columbus provided a number of examples for historic places databases, a few more inspirational examples include NYC Landmarks, PhilaPlace (also addressed in Mark Tebeau’s session from Columbus), Wikipedia Saves Public Art, and the Brooklyn Typology. Admittedly the National Register has started digitizing and sharing images on Flickr and expanding access to past National Register Nomination forms through the much improved NPS Focus database but basic issues with the format of the nomination still remain. This post is a bit of a departure from my initial proposal but I hope it clearly engages with my stated interest in non-academic and non-scholarly audiences (and is not too link heavy to read). I think there may be a few interesting intersections with the proposal from Megan Brett and I’m particularly curious for any suggestions from Chad Black, Priya Chhaya, Karin Dalziel, and Matt Thomas.

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documentation: what's in it for us? Tue, 18 May 2010 01:20:28 +0000

In pondering this proposal, I’ve come up with four basic types of documentation that I think are relevant to digital humanities projects.

  • supporting creation of scholarly output
  • supporting reporting to funding agencies or academic departments
  • allowing sharing one’s research methodology with other scholars
  • informing and educating system administrators about the system-level requirements of the software itself

All these types of documentation are important, but I think it’s time to start talking with each other about that last type. We all want the results of our work to survive and mature, and one of the best ways to insure longevity and sustainability is to properly document system-level requirements—software dependencies, negotiated service level agreements, database design, etc.. Improving our communication with our IT system administrators ensures that we can meet as equals, moving away from handshake deals and hopeful bribery with baked goods as a means to attempting get the support our projects require.

We’ve learned some hard lessons at UVa Library about the sort of documentation and process definition that are required for long-term support of our digital tools and interfaces, and I’d love to share these with anyone who’s interested. Just as importantly, I’d love to learn from other attendees experiences creating usable system documentation for their projects.

related to:  karindalziel’s  session proposal

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Sharing the work Tue, 18 May 2010 00:46:26 +0000

Here’s a bit from my THATCamp application:

Many of the tools of Web 2.0 and social media offer opportunities for collaboration, between institutions as well as individuals, yet the opportunities are not taken. Museums, archives, and universities could make use of tools like Google Wave, wikis, etc to share information. I would like to be part of a discussion the stumbling blocks that prevent collaboration, and possible solutions or routes which could be taken, even if they’re small steps. I’d also love to hear other people’s ideas for collaborative projects.

Here’s where I started from: I work in a historic house museum, and I have friends who are professors, grad students, librarians, and fellow museos. We have great conversations and a lot of our work overlaps. We share the info informally but there isn’t an officially sanctioned way for us to combine and collaborate and make the resulting information available to everyone.

My personal dream-project is some sort of shared wiki or webpage for all the Early American Republic sites and scholars in Virginia. There are so many overlaps in individuals and events; rather than every place recreating the wheel we could benefit from shared ideas.

I’d like to have a conversation about collaborations between different kinds of institutions, both ones which have worked and ones which failed (and the whys of both).  It would also be helpful to discuss strategies to encourage TPTB to engage in collaboration.

I may also join in the conversations proposed by Jeffrey McClurken and Chad Black, to raise the questions of where and how libraries and museums fit in to classrooms and academic scholarship.

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Digital Humanities Now 2.0 and New Models for Journals Mon, 17 May 2010 20:46:03 +0000

Some THATCamp attendees may know that last fall, with the help of Jeremy Boggs, I launched an experimental quasi-journal to highlight what digital humanists were reading and talking about: Digital Humanities Now. You can read my ideas behind DHNow here and see the (modest) technical infrastructure here. The basic idea was a crowdsourced journal of the community, by the community, for the community. No publisher or press needed, rolling and varied content (not just 8,000 word articles but pointers to new digital projects, debates, thoughtful blog posts, writing outside the academy as well as inside it), and room for interactivity.

I’ve now had six months to look at what DHNow‘s automated processes surfaced, and want to iterate DHNow forward so that it covers the digital humanities much better and functions more like a journal—that is, as a place for the best writing, projects, reviews, and commentary in our field. I would also like to see if the model behind it—taking a pool of content, applying a filter to show the “best of,” and publishing the results with the inclusion of comments from the community—might work beyond the digital humanities, or if we might find other models for journals to move past the same-old article/submission/editor/press model. There are other experiments in this vein, such as MediaCommons. Important to me in all of this is a recognition that we have to work as much on the demand side as the supply side.

Right now DHNow is strongly connected to links mentioned on Twitter by over 350 digital humanists, but I have been working to replace that system. On the “pool of content” piece, Sterling Fluharty and I have started to combine our large OPML files of digital humanities blogs; regardless of its use in DHNow it might be good to complete that project since a comprehensive listing would be broadly useful for the community. I’m thinking of replacing the filter mechanism ( with a modified version ThinkTank and/or an RSS aggregator, and I’ve also come to the (perhaps wrong) conclusion that some light human editing is necessary (and so I’m on the lookout for a rotating group of editors). Finally, in addition to the daily stream, I’d like to fix the best of the best at intervals more like a traditional journal, likely using ePub.

I propose this topic sheepishly because I don’t feel that THATCamp should be for pet projects like DHNow. But if others have found DHNow helpful and would like to collaborate to make it into something more useful for the community, let me know.

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Finding a Successor to Paper and Print Mon, 17 May 2010 19:59:56 +0000

I’m beginning to think traditional print may suffer from a case of poor design. Text itself has evolved with the medium that represents it, and with each evolution came an upgrade to the user interface. Digital text gives us another powerful evolution (hyper-linking, mass storage, and perfect indexing for starters) and with it should be a sufficiently powerful  upgrade to the user interface, one that no one has nailed down yet.

The benefits of digital text are obvious. Less money spent on physical books, less backs broken by those same books. Less obvious, are the the innovations which truly digital texts could allow. The current crop of e-readers  are dropping the ball when it comes to electronic text. In my eyes, the strangest of the lot is the near-ubiquitous iPad; beyond arguments regarding the application of purchasing books through Apple, the fact that they ask you to physically turn the pages of their digital books strikes me as fundamentally wrong (I understand that there is a mass-market to consider, but still).

My biggest issue with e-readers is not what they do wrong, but what they do not do. There is so much in the way of analysis, collaboration, class participation, and more that could be done with an digital text reader. What we need is a piece of software that runs on multiple devices, a standard for digital texts across platforms, and a new series of terms to deal with a post-paper work (for instance, how does one cite a selection when the text no longer uses pages?).  These are all issues I feel THATCamp is capable of discussing, and even attempting to correct.

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"Writing Space" Mon, 17 May 2010 18:08:58 +0000

As I did last year at THAT Camp, I will be creating a site-specific installation on the Video Wall (where we picked up all our food last year?)  This year’s piece is called “Writing Space,” and I look forward to everyone’s comments.

I imagine the Video Wall as a large writing space, and want to explore its compositional properties.  What does it mean to write on a surface divided into a grid of 16 squares?  What does it mean to “publish” in this fashion?  “Writing Space” is a text collage, fragments of text that, when juxtaposed in new ways, creates new meaning.  It is an example of my work with “mashup logic:” the mixing and juxtaposition of found objects recombined in novel ways.

Randomness is a key compositional element of the piece.  The text fragments—and the white space between them—appear in ever changing patterns and configurations.  Thus, the meaning of the text is constantly shifting as new juxtapositions form.  This installation/text will be different each time you view/read it over the course of THAT Camp.

So I am curious to know:  Is this an installation to look at or a text to be read?

Dave Staley

From Scratch Mon, 17 May 2010 17:48:44 +0000

What fundamental decisions need to be made at the beginning of a new project or book for historians working with traditional archival resources, but with an eye to digital dissemination?  There is an ongoing discussion in digital history about the extent to which lo digital can or should transform the definition of historical scholarship, so long dominated by the lone historian crafting the long-form monograph. Collaborative history, digital storytelling, new approaches to long-form narrative, moving beyond simple curation, new processes for peer review– digital history offers possibilities to transform professional historical practice.  I think that is an important long-term discussion. I would also add that based on my experience at an R1 state university, that discussion may still be a bit premature, as my colleagues need more basic groundwork. I have more immediate concerns in the proposal I offered this year, and they’re directed at that solitary scholar, and newly dissertating ABDs, sitting at a desk in front of a stack of dusty manuscripts.

I’d like to discuss up-front decisions we can make at the point of project conception, as well as during the research phase that will ease adaptation to digital forms later on. In many ways, this points to individual application of themes that Hugh Cayless mentioned in his post. How should the lone scholar deal with archival resources that are not currently digitized? Each step of the way between project conception and publication (in whatever form) carries with it questions like that with implications for later digital presentation. What of using a digital camera to collect manuscripts? During the transcription and note-taking phase should we utilize particular mark-up languages that will be more flexible later on? If so, does that have implications for best software applications for note taking and transcription? Should those two elements be separate? Is it worthwhile to teach ourselves an our grad students TEI? What of the development of databases of individuals, events, other data that constitute an important part of historical scholarship? What of textual analysis of small and large bodies of manuscripts? Ultimately, decisions on questions such as these have implications for the ease later digital dissemination of our work. At the beginning of a project (and particularly for graduate students writing dissertations), it can be difficult to forecast what the state of digital practices will be 2, 4, 6 years or more down the line when the project is finished.

A little about myself: I’m a colonial Latin Americanist who works primarily on gender, sexuality, and criminality in 18th-century Quito, Ecuador. I’ve recently put to bed my first book (from my dissertation), and am starting on a second. This time, I want open access to as much of my research material and process as possible. Beginning with my dissertation research, I decided that digital photographs were the most efficient means of collecting manuscripts for my research. I have a digitized archive now of more than 100,000 manuscript pages, all of which are hand-written and require transcription. I’ve been using some QDA software (TAMS Analyzer) to look at language in criminal sex prosecutions. I also have developed a FileMaker database of some 10,000 detainees from weekly jail census materials that include information on criminal offense, gender, ethnicity, presiding magistrates, etc. In my department and college, books are still about the only thing that matters. But, while I’ll write a monograph with these materials, I want as much of them as possible to be available to other scholars, to students, and to anyone else.

I suspect that for many outside of the academy (as well as many inside), the research work of academic historians remains a bit of a mystery. As an early step towards open access scholarship, and for pedagogical purposes, I think it would be great if historians put their project-specific research materials up on the web, accompanied by some commentary on research methodology. There is a long history of scholars turning over their papers to library special collections at the end of their careers. Imagine if we were doing that all along, and in the end turning over a mysql dump for library preservation.

Finally, as a side note– I’m also really looking forward to discussing teaching digital history as mentioned by Rob Nelson and Jeff McClurken.

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Cultivating Digital Skills and New Learning Spaces Mon, 17 May 2010 17:30:29 +0000

UPDATE: Rough notes from this session (co-led by Tanya Clement, Ethan Watrall, Brian Croxall, Jeff McClurken and many others) can be found at

My proposal seems to mesh well with some of the other teaching-related proposals already seen (Bill Ferster’s on visualization, Dave Parry’s on teaching collaborative learning, and the extra question Rob Nelson asks at the end of his post about what we should be teaching students in undergraduate DH classes).  I want to talk more broadly about what are the (digital) skills that we think people need to have today, as well as 5-10 years from now.   To some extent, we might build on Howard Rheingold and Cathy Davidson’s discussions of 21st-century literacies, but I think THATCampers can come up with more than just a list but also some ideas about how we might cultivate these skills among not just students, but faculty, cultural history institutions, and archivists.  DH seems like a natural fit, but are there things DHers miss or overemphasize about what will matter in the years to come?

A second major issue, perhaps worthy of a separate session if there’s interest, regards classroom design for the future:  What should the physical space for learning include looking forward?  What are our minimum expectations?  Does the physical classroom matter any more?  For how long and in what ways will/should it change?  I’m still mulling (see my post here for one exploration of these ideas), but this could well be something that goes beyond classrooms to something like “learning spaces of the future” that would combine the physical and intellectual space that classrooms, libraries, and museums occupy now and in the years to come.

Finally, I’d like to propose an ongoing conversation, if not a session.  [In fact I could see this being a theme of the discussions over coffee in the hallways between sessions, over lunch, or over stronger beverages later.]  I propose that we devote at least some of our time at THATCamp to the question of how to address a constant refrain for those of us trying to encourage our colleagues to embrace at least some of the technology that we use: “I’m not doing anything new until all technology works.”  In other words, this would be a discussion of how to innovate when the infrastructure isn’t working, OR how do we avoid changing printer cartridges when we want to be changing the academy/institution/museum/archive/library?

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Surveying the Digital Landscape Once Again Mon, 17 May 2010 16:35:21 +0000

This is how I started my proposal for THATCamp:

I admit that my first priority at ThatCamp is to learn rather than to present.

That said, there are several areas of particular interest to me. First, the infrastructure challenges of doing digital humanities outside of R1 universities. And more generally, the landscape for the pursuit or support of digital humanities scholarship. I’d like to learn more about both ends of the equation for digital humanities projects: how to create compelling new projects and second how to sustain projects for the long term.

Pretty vague perhaps. I come to that area of interest from two directions. First, I am helping to develop what we are calling the “South Jersey Center for Digital Humanities” at Richard Stockton College. The Center is part support group for Stockton faculty interested in digital projects, part publicity center for those projects. We are members of CenterNet — indeed, as far as I can tell, the only center at a SLAC that is a member. So I would be eager to discuss with my fellow liberal arts college colleagues what they think a “digital humanities center” should be and do in the small college environment. In discussing this, I think we could also follow up on Tanya Clements’ attempt to create a listing of undergraduate programs with digital emphasis and individual scholars doing digital projects.

At the same time, I am working on digital projects of my own. I am very interested in the issues Rob Nelson raised about the role of argument in digital scholarship. But I want to begin with a more pragmatic question that connects my role in South Jersey Digital to my role as a scholar doing digital work. What are the plusses and minuses of the various currently existing options for creating and hosting scholarly digital projects? I can imagine the following “publishers” of digital projects: self-created independent site on hosting service, site attached to a personal home page, site attached to the home page of an academic department, site attached to a digital humanities center, site attached to a college or university library electronic resources collection, site attached to a home page of a traditional academic professional society like the AHA, site at the home page of a non-university based research center like the National Humanities Center or NYPL, site attached to a funding organization, site attached to an emerging digital community like MediaCommons, site published by a digital imprint of a university press. Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s book Planned Obsolescence focuses on the latter two. But I would say that independent sites and sites attached to digital humanities center predominate among academic digital projects. Basically, if you are affiliated with a university that has a digital humanities center, you create and publish your projects there, if you don’t, you publish them as independent sites. Is that right? Can or should anything be done to change that?

Semi-related to the above… A while ago, I gently challenged Tom Scheinfeldt’s post about Soft Money by arguing that there was a pretty strict limit on how much digital work could be supported just on the basis of grant support. Soft support could congregate in a few powerhouse digital centers like George Mason, Virginia, Nebraska, Duke enough to keep them going. But if it does, what should the obligations of those centers be to the rest of us? Or, to pose the question more closely to how we did at the time: how many digital humanities centers do we really need and what can we do to build as many of the ones we need as possible?

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Building and designing projects for long term preservation Mon, 17 May 2010 15:50:19 +0000

Although I have attended THATCamp the two years previous to this, this is the first in which I am fully immersed in the day to day building and maintaining of websites.  Because of that, my view of what to talk about has become a bit more… pragmatic. Some days I manage to try to ask bigger questions about what we’re doing and why-but most days I am fixing broken things (hard) and trying to not break my own things (harder). Migrating old sites to new technologies also takes up a good deal of our time.

So, the session I proposed was on the life cycle of digital humanities projects- specifically how to design and develop for the eventual long term preservation of a project. Bethany Nowviskie is addressing this in part with her work on Graceful Degradation, but I am also interested in what we can do at the beginning of projects to make them easier to maintain indefinitely. I’m not sure exactly what this might mean. Some ideas: limiting the kinds of technologies used so that projects are easier to support; pre-building a planned HTML only version, to be deployed in case of a loss of technology. (Also of interest is Hugh Cayless’s session proposal). Some sites don’t have such easy answers, like older GIS sites that depend on a specific commercial server. Other aspects include documentation and commenting code (something we have lacked due to heavy workloads around here). I am curious how others in similar situations deal with this- are there standards in place, or do you decide on documentation and technologies on a project by project basis?

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Collecting the Digital Story: Omeka and the New Media Narrative Sun, 16 May 2010 14:19:17 +0000

This past academic year, about a dozen University of Richmond faculty re-conceptualized their courses to integrate digital storytelling as a learning activity to encourage students to become more engaged with course content.  An emphasis on reflection, revised narrative, and presenting through new media sought to make the curricula more personally relevant to the student, while challenging their abilities to analyze and critique.  Additionally, there was a need to introduce students to a variety of technology tools used to produce new media and increase their ITFluency.  The conceptual and technological framework of digital storytelling afforded that.

As of May 2010, almost 300 students had produced digital stories in courses throughout the humanities, social sciences and sciences, many of which existed on Youtube.  However, collecting and aggregating these exemplars of student learning and sustaining it in a community of practice had proved to be a challenge due to technological constraints and lack of infrastructure.  Thus, The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology at Richmond explored the possibilities of using Omeka to collect and organize these artifacts from students’ personal learning environments, ultimately creating an e-portfolio of exemplary digital stories to be used as both an archive and as a teaching tool.

I am interested in sharing our experiences with this project – from publishing with (and repurposing) Omeka to the issues that concern our faculty who incorporate new media production in their curricula.  Moreover, I would welcome any constructive feedback that could be offered to help strengthen our platforms usability, and would look forward to discussing best practices that encourage Humanities faculty to engage with narrative and new media.

The development version is located here:

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Design Patterns for DH Projects Fri, 14 May 2010 17:32:22 +0000

In my proposal, I listed 3 ideas:

1) I’ve recently started work on linked data for, using data harvested from different parts of the collection and an RDF triplestore that provides entry points to the data from many angles.  I’m very interested in tools and methods for doing this kind of work.
2) I’m co-PI on a project focused on linking text with digital images of text, and annotations, possible topics there include tools for working online with digital images, SVG, TEI facsimile, and/or transcription theory.
3) System design principles for digital humanities projects.  I’d like to talk about ways of modeling information and delivery systems so that they are loosely coupled, RESTful, sustainable, easier to archive, and easier to integrate with other projects.

After a bit of reflection, I think these are all going in the same general direction, which is probably closest to #3.  We’ve been doing online DH projects long enough that maybe we can start to distil useful patterns for representing types of data, handling the linkages between entities, formats and methods for encoding information, and interfaces for managing and interacting with information.

Can we come up with patterns for handling things like:

  • Images
  • Digitized manuscripts
  • Geographic visualizations
  • Data aggregation
  • Search interfaces
  • Browsing

    I’m not so much talking about the implementation details here as the affordances.  What ought you to be able to do with a project that exposes a lot of images, for example? I think the images should be available at high resolution, but should also be viewable in a browser in such a way that you can zoom, pan, and link to a particular view.  That’s what I mean by a design pattern.  Questions of “how” including toolsets, frameworks, and formats are interesting too, but those are often going to be dictated by the environment.

    A few more patterns/practices off the top of my head:

    • License with CC-BY
    • Make data available as a single download
    • Pay attention to URI design

    What do you think?

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    Chronicling America: They gave us an API. What do we do now? Fri, 14 May 2010 03:28:27 +0000

    Chronicling America is a brilliantly engineered digital collection of historically important material that, because of its API, and because of the understanding that “the Web is the API,” could be an exemplary part of an open digital infrastructure for American history. But for the API to matter the rest of us have to actually build on it. The scale of what is already digitized and accessible is enough to make it a major new resource for American history. So how do we follow through on that, in a distributed way, at large and small scales? I have played with making network graphs of newspaper business genealogies from the bibliographic data, without trying to do much of anything yet with the images and OCR text, and could share bits of that exercise to get some modest hackery into the mix, but there’s a lot more that could be done. Certainly we could speculate about text mining and high-performance computing, but I would hope we could also brainstorm where the opportunities for consequential innovation are as much social as technological. Even with the methods and technologies available now and yesterday, Chronicling America is finished enough to start changing history already. They flipped the switch on the API. So what? If we think it matters, then how do we start hacking the interface between the API and the world to demonstrate how it matters?

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    Social Media and the History Non-Profit Tue, 11 May 2010 02:39:56 +0000

    Hello All,

    Here’s what I put in my ThatCamp application:
    I would like to talk about the ways that the digital humanities can be used to communicate information in a non-profit setting.  I can provide examples from the National Trust for Historic Preservation–especially through the work some of my colleagues and I have worked on in terms of creating an advocacy campaign for Save America’s Treasures and the Virtual Attendee conference page for last year’s National Preservation Conference in Nashville, TN.

    In general, I’d like to hear how other organizations, individuals working in the digital humanities field have used social media and Web 2.0 to promote and market a particular message or idea.

    Here are some links so that you can see what the National Trust has been doing.

    In 2009 after we realized that the economic downturn would prevent many from attending the National Preservation Conference our web team put together a “Virtual Attendee” page as a way of encouraging individuals who cannot come to the conference to attend ‘virtually.  As a result we used live chat (Cover it Live), Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter to get information about the conference out to the preservation community.  In particular the web team looked at ways in which Twitter could be used by multiple people to tell the multiple stories from the conference–and as a result a team was deployed that consisted of each individual Twitter account having its own “beat”. For example, my handle @pc_presnation was tasked with giving a general history point of view for the conference, and I ended up actually tweeting the National Preservation Award ceremony as if it were the Oscars.

    To prep our members we released this video.

    The other example of how we use social media is for the recent (and ongoing)  Save America’s Treasures campaign. In brief, in the 2011 budget the monies for the Save America’s Treasures, Preserve America and Heritage Area’s programs were either completely zeroed out or drastically reduced.  In order to mobilize our members and remind Congress of the importance of preservation  it was decided that social media would a) put materials out there that people could use, and b)serve as direct marketing for the cause.  The text messages, the Facebook status messages, and the materials posted on YouTube and Flickr were divided between the emotional and the factual.

    For examples check out our   Tweet for  Our Treasures page.

    I’ve also been thinking, with the recent announcement by the Library of Congress regarding obtaining the Twitter archive about how historians can use these technologies to further our role in the public arena. How can we market the importance of what we do in the modern era? It strikes me that one of the things the National Trust struggles with is our image and reputation as being for a particular demographic. The same thing with heritage tourism, or preservation in general. How do we use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or whatever comes next to further communicate the broad mission, and dare I say-relevancy-to all Americans?

    That ended up to be a lot more long-winded than I intended. Thoughts? Anyone else interested in talking about something like this?

    About Me: I help run the preservation professional membership program (or the leaders level of membership) at the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Its called Forum membership). I write often for the blog,  and also post on a personal blog called ….And this is What Comes Next which while history related will also reveal my slight love for a little show called LOST–so since we are going to be having this conference on the eve of the Finale, you can also track me down to talk about the show as well.

    ]]> 2
    THATCamp-in-a-Box Mon, 10 May 2010 13:48:17 +0000

    UPDATE 6/21: Are you building a THATCamp website? We’ve put some resources at

    As you probably know, we received funding from Mellon to support regional THATCamps. One of the things we plan to do in this effort is develop a package we can give regional organizers to get a THATCamp started. What we’ve currently been doing is giving organizers a list of plugins I’ve used on the THATCamp site and the theme we use if they’d like to use it.

    So, I’d like to lead a discussion on “THATCamp-in-a-Box.” It would be an idea-gathering, pie-in-the-sky chat about what we should offer regional THATCamp coordinators to get a camp started. The package itself could take on any number of forms: some custom WordPress plugins and a theme for managing applications, registrations, badges, scheduling. Or we could find some plugins already out there and bundle those with some instructions. Or we could just develop and launch a WordPress/BuddyPress/Mediawiki service, where sites for regional camps would be hosted by us, and attendees would have a BuddyPress profile and  use one registration for multiple camps. I’m think of something almost as hot as what Matt GoldBoone Gorges and others have developed for the CUNY Academic Commons. But, there are questions as to how much centralization we’d want to do with THATCamp. Regional organizers wouldn’t have to use the package, of course; Its just a way to make setting a THATCamp a little easier.

    So, in this session, I’d love to bring together past regional coordinators, potential coordinators, or just anyone interested in contributing some ideas to this effort. We’ll be working on this more over the summer, so it’d be really great to have your input!

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    Teaching Collaboration Thu, 06 May 2010 19:17:19 +0000

    I would like to purpose a session on teaching collaboration, no not teaching collaboratively (although that might be part of the answer) but rather how do we encourage collaboration amongst our students. In some sense I have come to believe that “collaborative literacy” (I know poor name, need something better) is a key component to creating digitally savvy students. But this creates problems in the classroom.

    First issue: Most of the disciplines we all teach in value singular scholarship and singular production, to the point of idealizing it (the picture of a scholar sitting alone amongst a stack of books producing a manuscript). What’s worse is that many of us became academics because of an attraction to this kind of singular work, and very few us got any graduate instruction or experience in collaboration.

    Second issue: The institution is structured in such a way as to not only not encourage collaboration, but make it difficult. We are asked to evaluate students individually, give them credit for work that they have done, and assign a grade which signifies individual achievement.

    How do we teach our students collaboration? So how do we craft assignments in such a way as to not only encourage, but require this sort of collaborative approach? How do we then evaluate this and make it fit into the existing system?

    When group projects go well they do really well, when they go poorly they go really, really, really poorly. So here is something I am thinking about doing for next semester, an idea with which I am toying:

    At the beginning of the semester students will form groups based on project interest. No minimum to group size. If some projects have a lot of interest, might divide into two groups.

    • The student groups than spend the first week establishing community rules, expectations, etc.
    • Student groups are allowed to have a process by which they dismiss group members for not living up to community standards.
    • All students within a group receive the same grade.
    • If you are removed from a group you can do an individual project, or form a group with someone else. (Up to you to negotiate.)

    So, I purpose a session where we discuss what models have worked, what hasn’t, why, and what else me might try.

    ]]> 7
    Geolocation, Archives, and Emulators (not all at once) Wed, 05 May 2010 15:44:35 +0000

    My involvement in the digital humanities is wide-ranging, but there are three areas that I would particularly want to focus on at THATCamp.

    First, I have a pedagogical interest in geolocation and mobile computing. While some of the benefits of geolocation are immediately apparent to historians and teachers of history, very few people have thought about using geolocation in a literary context. Even less attention has been paid to the ways geolocation can foster critical thinking in students. I am currently thinking of ways to “re-purpose” Foursquare in ways unintended and unforeseen by its creators, for use in a new media studies class in Spring 2011.

    My second area of interest concerns digital preservation, social networking, ephemerality, and creativity. That sounds like a muddle, and it is. What I’m fascinated by is the tension between (1) digital preservation as a social act and (2) erasure, fallibility, and unreliability as a creative or political act. I see pedagogical, scholarly, and artistic implications in this tension that are worth exploring among other like-minded (and differently-minded) digital humanists.

    And finally, I’ve recently realized we need to think more critically about the use of software emulators (those programs that mimic other platforms, allowing you to run otherwise inaccessible programs and games using the original ROMs). As I wrote in a comment to John’s post on Hacking Ethics for Edupunks, these emulators are crucial for our scholarship, but they often rely on copyrighted BIOSes and ROMs that are, strictly speaking, illegal to possess (unless you happen to have gotten the ROM from a legal copy of the original software that you already own). So, there are ethical concerns to consider. But there are also important process-oriented questions we should be asking. How does an emulator change our experience of a program? What does an emulator add or take away from the original program? What about the emulation gap—the technological, methodological, and epistemological gap between studying software on its original platform and on an emulator?

    ]]> 7
    The Sound of Drafting Fri, 30 Apr 2010 18:33:48 +0000

    I am interested in seeing how audio is being used in classroom technology–whether it be website browsers like Browse-Aloud, or with video/podcasts of classes or student papers, or word-processing programs like Dragonwriter. As always, I want to be able to integrate such programs into the standard computer lab in order to normalize their use and make it possible for all students to benefit from them.

    ]]> 2
    The Schlegel Blitz ("Only connect…") Thu, 29 Apr 2010 21:47:50 +0000

    (Note: I didn’t apply to THATCamp, but I decided that I get to propose a session anyway, since I’m darn well coming in my role as Regional THATCamp Coordinator. That’s what admin privileges do for you, heh heh.)

    In E. M. Forster’s novel Howard’s End, the bohemian intellectual Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, both try to connect with men outside their normal bohemian intellectual circles. It’s a rather naive idea, and it turns out rather tragically for both the bright working-class dreamer Leonard Bast and the muddled bourgeois businessman Henry Wilcox, but in the end there’s some good at least that comes of it. David Lodge played with this idea in his novel Nice Work, too, and in that novel it turns out rather better.

    My idea is to spend a session simply connecting with people we don’t usually connect with, people outside our normal professional and disciplinary circles. That might mean calling a prof in the Computer Science department at your own university to see if s/he’ll come speak to your Literature class; or it might mean getting in touch with Apple to see if they’ll give your library an iPad to lend out; or it might mean arranging for someone from a community college, someone from K-12, someone from a university, and someone from business to all have lunch together for no particular reason at all. I’m often meaning to do this kind of connecting and never getting around to it — I figure we could do a little brainstorming, a little Googling, and then a little e-mailing or calling in an hour fifteen, and who knows what might come out of it?

    We might also use some of the time to discuss the ethics of corporate sponsorships of academic projects, including THATCamp. Though of course that might easily be a whole separate session.

    ]]> 3
    Text Mining Scarce Sources Tue, 27 Apr 2010 19:07:50 +0000

    I’d like to discuss text mining. I’m currently looking at narratives of conversion offered by fourteen laymen and -women to join a church in East Windsor, Connecticut, in 1700-02. This project raises questions about text mining that I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere. First, how can text mining can help scholars deal with the problem of scarce, rather than abundant, sources? Most projects that I’ve seen use text mining to plow through huge volumes of text. But there are only fourteen narratives from East Windsor (about 30 printed pages), and at most a couple hundred narratives from sixteenth-century New England. How can text mining provide close readings of the scarce documents that scholars from earlier eras work with? Second, how can text mining be adapted to documents that employ a vocabulary that is at once allusive and precise? Nearly every word in these dense narratives is a biblical or theological allusion, which is crucial to their meaning. At the same time, they use a very precise vocabulary. (For example, the term “saving faith” means “the type of faith that saves” rather than the more obvious “faith, which by necessity saves.”) How can text mining bring out the richness of this vocabulary? Though my project is focused on early American religious history, I think the questions it raises could contribute to the larger discussion of text mining.

    Since I write for my own blog and for a group blog on the history of American religion, I’d also like to discuss the value and danger of blogging for graduate students and early-career scholars.

    ]]> 4
    Applying open source methodology and economics to academia Tue, 27 Apr 2010 18:18:41 +0000

    I’d like to explore the potential parallel between academic knowledge production and open-source software development. Here’s my thought: while things are economically dire for universities (the de facto centers of scholarship), they are pretty good in open source communities (Linux, WordPress, Drupal and the like are more widely used all the time and supported by ever-growing communities). So maybe there’s something that scholars can learn from the open-source folks. Two possible lenses:

    1) Economics – The open source economy is, arguably, a gift economy when viewed from the inside. But externally, the open source movement is largely dependent on the commercial world: companies like Google and Sun officially steward open source projects, and more broadly, many (most?) contributors to FOSS projects are only able to do so because of their gainful employment in the regular economy. To some extent, the academy already works like this: scholars can only create contribute to the scholarly economy because they are supported by their employers (universities) who enlist them for income-generating service (mainly teaching, but also financially attractive research, etc.). Are there other parts of the commercial economy where scholars can be parasitic? Or, in the way that a company like Automattic provides paid support to commercial users of WordPress in order to finance the continued development of the software, are there ways that scholars could independently charge to “support” (speaking gigs, consulting, etc) the ideas that they give away for free?

    2) Process – Much of the pushback from open publishing models centers on the importance of peer review: good review costs money, and the closed model of an academic journal provides necessary funds. Take away pay walls, the argument goes, and you can’t have good review. In successful open source projects, code has to meet an extremely high standard of quality, yet many (most?) contributors are not paid for their contributions. What are the ad hoc models of review, hierarchy, and encouragement that emerge in open source communities? How might the structures that emerge out of open source communities – ideas like ‘commit access’ and ‘version control’, the notion of fluid and complex rather than fixed and linear hierarchies, and so on – play a role in the development of a new kind of peer review? ]]> 2 What I'd Most Like to Do or Discuss Mon, 26 Apr 2010 22:32:18 +0000

    Here’s what I wrote in my application:

    I’d like to talk about the hegemony of Microsoft Word® and what we in the digital humanities might do about it – nay, why we might want to do something about it. I can’t remember ever meeting a professor who doesn’t mainly use Microsoft Word® to write academic prose (though I know they exsit), or a student who doesn’t exclusively use Microsoft Word® to write their research papers (though I’m sure they probably exist as well). When I tell people I generally don’t use Microsoft Word®, I often get confused looks, as if they’re thinking, “Well, how does he write then?” Indeed, Microsoft Word® is the de facto word processing program in most of contemporary academe and Microsoft Word® documents are often the de jure file format when it comes to things like journal submissions. What this means, of course, is that even people such as myself who don’t and don’t want to use Microsoft Word®, find themselves forced to deal with .doc/.docx documents all the time, hence the hegemony of Microsoft Word®. Why is this the case? (e.g., Microsoft Word® is subsidized by universities.) Why might it not be the most ideal state of affairs? (e.g., The tools we use to write inform the way we write.) What might be some of the alternatives? (e.g., Plain text, Markdown, HTML, LaTeX, Google Docs, programs like Srivener, Zotero instead of EndNote, etc.) How might we resist Microsoft Word® in our teaching practices? (e.g., What if we required students to submit research papers in plain text? Or what would happen if we required students to use a non-WYSIWYG word processing program?) These are some of the issues I hope to explore with a group of digital humanists interested in thinking critically about the technologies we use every day in our research and teaching.

    I’m sure others have thoughts on some of these things as well – some of them likely more developed than mine – and I would be very interested in hearing them. In fact, this being my first THATCamp, I’m more interested in hearing what other people think and in participating in multiple conversations than I am in holding worth on Microsoft Word®, though I’m happy to do that too.

    That said, I finally booked my plane ticket to THATCamp and am now looking for a someone to share a room with on Friday and Saturday nights. Anyone?

    ]]> 1
    Hacking ethics for edupunks Thu, 22 Apr 2010 16:45:19 +0000

    I think one of the primary goals of academics is to encourage students (and each other) to innovate. Frequently, that innovation takes the form of modifying, re-purposing, and reusing existing existing tech and software for learning, and I have argued that educators should be at the forefront of this innovation.

    However, much of the technological innovation driving the production of new devices has come in the form of locked-down tools such as the iPhone and iPad (with notable exceptions like Android). I am interested in discussing the legal and ethical gray areas created when educators hack commercial products. Is this hacking educationally justifiable? If not, should educators abandon the locked-down space created by these devices and roll our own open source software / tech (I’m looking at you, arduino).?

    And if anyone wants to get together and hack an iPad, I’d be up for that, too 🙂

    ]]> 14
    Mobile technology and the humanities Tue, 20 Apr 2010 13:42:45 +0000

    NCSU Libraries recently launched WolfWalk (, a web-based self-guided tour of the NCSU Campus for advanced mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhone/iPod touch/iPad or devices running Google’s Android OS. The project makes use of a device’s location-awareness to display historic information and images of sites of interest in the user’s vicinity, thus creating an in situ learning experience. I would be interested in talking with others who are working on or thinking about similar projects, either related to exposing library/museum collections in new ways or using the capabilities of the mobile devices for studying and teaching the humanities (e.g., history). Also, how could concepts such as augmented reality be applied in this context?

    Site note: We published WolfWalk as a mobile web site, but also plan on launching a “premium” iPhone application sometime this summer.  This application will be available free of charge, but will include some features that we could not implement in the mobile web version for technical reasons. I’d be interested in hearing what people think about the two approaches, i.e., the open, browser-based mobile web vs. the platform-focused and tightly controlled “There’s an app for that” approach.

    ]]> 5
    Audiences and Arguments for Digital History Mon, 19 Apr 2010 14:24:58 +0000

    Below is what I proposed for this year’s THATCamp.  (I hope I’m not misremembering or misrepresenting Tom–or more likely making too much of an offhanded comment.  If I’m doing any of those things, my apologies, Tom.)  Rereading what I wrote a few months ago, the questions I pose at the end strike me as perhaps too abstract for a session.  And perhaps I’m wrong and there are exemplary digital scholarship projects that use the medium to make arguments–arguments that have had an impact among humanists, digital and non-digital alike.  Maybe if anyone else is interested in these kinds of questions about digital humanities, new media, and argumentation and has examples of the best and most exciting digital scholarship being developed those projects could be listed in comments on this post.  A session might be organized around discussing the most promising directions and techniques for presenting arguments and engaging humanities questions using new media.

    During the session at last year’s THATCamp on whether all history before too long would be digital history, Tom Scheinfeldt said something to the effect that digital history was more often than not synonymous with public history.  I disagreed with him then, but I can’t dispute that he’s right that most of the notable digital history projects that have been developed to date have tended to have a public history orientation.  While there have been some projects that have been developed to present arguments, they are few, and for the most part I sense that they haven’t had a substantial impact among academics, at least in the field of history.

    At this year’s THATCamp I’d like to ask why that is.  While of course still a small minority, more humanists are now employing computational techniques in their research–whether that be using GIS or text mining or social network analysis or a number of other techniques and tools.  But with a few exceptions these techniques are used to produce conventional scholarship, to inform and shape linear, textual essays and monographs.  There isn’t much digital scholarship that uses new media.  (There are a few exceptions–Vectors comes to mind.)  Why is that?  Is new media ill suited for presenting arguments, markedly inferior to linear prose?  Does the relative absence of argumentative digital scholarship just reflect the newness of new media?  Have we just not figured out how to use the medium to make arguments yet, or maybe time is needed for the larger scholarly community to be both willing and able to read and thoughtfully engage with digital scholarship?  While digital history and new media has enriched the field of public history, as a medium of expression (as opposed to a set of methodological tools) can and will it have a similarly significant impact upon more narrowly academic scholarship?

    I do have an unrelated idea for another session.  I know a number of THATCampers have offered undergraduate digital humanities or digital history courses.  I’d really welcome the opportunity to have a discussion about how to organize and teach such a course.  I’ve long thought about developing such a course, but I’ve struggled the logistics of asking students to “do” digital humanities without devoting too much class time to teaching them some modest technical skills.

    ]]> 18
    Open Peer Review Fri, 16 Apr 2010 15:40:31 +0000

    I’m hoping to spend some time talking about mechanisms for transforming peer review practices and understandings via open social publishing systems. In October 2009, I published a draft of my book, Planned Obsolescence, online for open review. The process has been extremely productive, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback, but it’s left me with three key questions about how to transform something like CommentPress into a viable mode of open peer review:

    (1) How do we create the drive within communities of practice to participate in these reviews? I’m still amazed how many people contributed to mine, but it took a good bit of strategic planning (which is to say, begging and pleading) at the outset.

    (2) How can we ensure that the reviews we’re getting through a system like CommentPress don’t lose the real strengths of conventional peer reviews — the ability of a reviewer to think synthetically about the text as a whole? There’s at least the potential in a fine-grained commenting system of losing the forest in the trees.

    (3) What kinds of technological or social additions can we imagine to such a system that might help persuade review committees, publishers, provosts, etc., of the value of open review?

    No doubt there are more issues as well. I’ll look forward to talking with you all there.

    ]]> 2
    Who Wants To Be A Hacker? Fri, 16 Apr 2010 13:50:28 +0000

    Over the last year or so a few various people have asked me about how I got into hacking on and writing code. I’d love to get a bunch of people together at various levels of experience and interest in writing code — from never having written a single line on up — to talk about the hows and whys. Could be a workshop, could be a general discussion, could be anything. Maybe even a live-coding session (which I think would be super-fun)

    I think that something around getting started writing code could be really interesting, especially in terms of teasing out ideas of what, with apologies to @digitalhumanist, a “Digital Humanist” is. Does a digital humanist need to write code? Work closely with someone who writes code? Is the coder also a digital humanist? Know enough not to panic when they see code?

    That’d be an approach more toward discussion. Something more workshoppy  could look at code basics, or could have a series of etudes in developing code that solves particular problems. Sort of a hacking basic training.

    Thanks…can’t wait to hear about all the ideas from you all!

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    Please advise Thu, 15 Apr 2010 22:40:50 +0000

    We’ve been discussing what to call our THATCamp that will distinguish it just enough but not too much from the THATCamps that are springing up around the world, but we haven’t been able to settle on just the right name. On t-shirts and on our website, we’re sticking with plain THATCamp, but we could use your help in choosing a unique name for the times when it’s necessary. You can pick as many as you like below or you can write in another option — thanks for the help, hive mind.

    Greetings from the new Regional THATCamp Coordinator! Tue, 23 Mar 2010 21:33:46 +0000

    As announced earlier today, the Center for History and New Media has just received a very generous grant from the Mellon foundation to support the ever-increasing number of regional THATCamps. I’m more than pleased to join CHNM as the Regional THATCamp Coordinator — “thrilled” is closer to the mark.

    I wanted to take this opportunity to point out that we’ve put up a very sketchy first draft of guidelines on how to host your own THATCamp. In the coming weeks I’ll be gathering much more information on that head and greatly expanding and revising that and other support documents, but for now I’d more than appreciate it if you’d add your comments to this post with suggestions for holding a successful THATCamp. I’ve already gotten a few ideas from the loyal band of Twitterers who almost make every day a THATCamp; for instance, Bethany Nowviskie of the University of Virginia Scholars’ Lab mentioned that Great Lakes THATCamp “set aside Rooms of Requirement for random/needful impromptu convo w/whomever showed.” (Bethany earns extra points for the Harry Potter reference.) Kudos to Ethan Watrall and the other Great Lakers (?) for that and, I’m sure, many other terrific innovations. I’ll do my best to gather and document all the great ideas; some kind of wiki may well be forthcoming (you’ve been warned).

    I also wanted to draw special attention to the fact that Mellon’s kind assistance means that graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and pre-tenure scholars will now be eligible for micro-fellowships of $500 that will enable them to pay travel costs for attending what we’re calling “BootCamp,” a day of digital methods training that will take place in conjunction with the regional THATCamps (though not “THATCamp Prime” in Fairfax). THATCamps are very inexpensive to organize and to attend compared to most conferences, but travel expenses can be a serious burden for junior scholars and graduate students. These micro-fellowships will help introduce new and emerging scholars to digital methods, not to mention to the lively digital humanities community, which is something I for one am all in favor of.

    Finally, let me urge you to write me at if you’re even slightly interested in hosting or attending a THATCamp in your area. THATCamps keep sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain, and in addition to the seven regional THATCamps that have already been held or planned, THATCamps are or might be taking shape in the following places:

    • Canberra, Australia
    • Florence, Italy
    • Toronto, Canada
    • New England
    • Florida
    • New York
    • New Jersey
    • Georgia

    We’re just getting started, but it’s looking like it’s going to be a great couple of years.

    And one more thing: you may indeed call me THATgirl. 🙂

    ]]> 7
    2010 Applications Open! Tue, 16 Feb 2010 18:02:47 +0000

    Following successful home events in 2008 and 2009, and regional events around the world, the Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the return of THATCamp for 2010! We’ll have the third annual THATCamp May 22-23, 2010, at the home of CHNM, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

    THATCamp is, as the about page explains, “The Humanities and Technology Camp,” a user-generated “unconference” on digital humanities. The conference program is more-or-less made the day of the conference, and organized based on attendee interest. An unconference is not a spectator event. Participants at THATCamp  are expected to present their work, share their knowledge, and actively collaborate with fellow participants rather than simply attend or passively observe.

    THATCamp is of course open to anyone with energy and an interest in digital humanities: scholars, students, teachers, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, educational technologists, designers, developers, hackers, public historians, artists, writers, humanities administrators, grant makers, and more.

    As to what you should present about, that’s up to you! Sessions at THATCamp will range from software demos to training sessions to discussions of research findings to half-baked rants (but please no full-blown papers; we’re not here to read or be read to.) You should come to THATCamp with something in mind, and on the first day we’ll find a time, a place, and people for you to share it with. Once you’re at THATCamp, you may also find people with similar topics and interests to team up with for a joint session.

    Unfortunately, we only have space for about 100 participants, so we’ll have to do some vetting. To apply for a spot, simply fill out the THATCamp registration form telling us a little about yourself, what you’re thinking about presenting, and what you think you will get out of the experience. Please don’t send full proposals. We’re talking about an informal note of maybe 200 or 300 words, max. To apply, please fill out the application form, which includes fields for a brief biography and the topic you’d like to present or discuss. Deadline for applications is March 15. There are no application or registration fees for THATCamp, but donations for snacks and soda are very much appreciated.

    So what are you waiting for? Go apply!