THATCamp is a user-generated “unconference” on digital humanities. This particular THATCamp was organized and hosted by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University on May 22–23, 2010. For the main THATCamp site, see

Latest Posts

THATCamp Prime Collaborative Documents

Monday, May 24th, 2010 |

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!

THATCamp Prime evaluation

Monday, May 24th, 2010 |

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

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 |

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.

THATCamp on Flickr

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 |

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

Visualizing Subjectivity

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 |

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

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 |

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

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 |

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)

Friday, May 21st, 2010 |

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)

Late to the Stage: Performing Queries

Friday, May 21st, 2010 |

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.

Humanist Readable Documentation

Friday, May 21st, 2010 |

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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    All Posts

  • THATCamp Prime Collaborative Documents
  • THATCamp Prime evaluation
  • New session: The THATCamp Movement
  • THATCamp on Flickr
  • Visualizing Subjectivity
  • More Twitter Visualizations
  • Remixing Academia
  • What THATCampers have been tweeting about (pre-camp)
  • Late to the Stage: Performing Queries
  • Humanist Readable Documentation
  • Zen Scavenger Hunt
  • The (in)adequacies of markup
  • One Week, One Book: Hacking the Academy
  • Analogizing the Sciences
  • Digital Literacy for the Dumbest Generation
  • Teaching Students Transferable Skills
  • Modest Proposals from a Digital Novice
  • Creative data visualizations
  • OpenStreetMap for Mapping of Historical Sites
  • soft circuits
  • Mostly Hack…
  • A Contextual Engagement
  • ARGs, Archives, and Digital Scholarship
  • Playing With the Past: Pick One of Three
  • DH centers as hackerspaces
  • All Courseware Sucks
  • HTML5
  • Dude, I Just Colleagued My Dean
  • The Future of Interdisciplinary Digital Cultural Heritage Curriculum (oh yeah, and games as well)
  • Project "Develop Self-Paced Open Access DH Curriculum for Mid-Career Scholars Otherwise Untrained"
  • what have you done for us lately?
  • Digital Storytelling: Balancing Content and Skill
  • Visualizing text: theory and practice
  • Plays Well With Others
  • Citing a geospatial hootenanny
  • Reimagining the National Register Nomination Form
  • documentation: what's in it for us?
  • Sharing the work
  • Digital Humanities Now 2.0 and New Models for Journals
  • Finding a Successor to Paper and Print
  • "Writing Space"
  • From Scratch
  • Cultivating Digital Skills and New Learning Spaces
  • Surveying the Digital Landscape Once Again
  • Building and designing projects for long term preservation
  • Collecting the Digital Story: Omeka and the New Media Narrative
  • Design Patterns for DH Projects
  • Chronicling America: They gave us an API. What do we do now?
  • Social Media and the History Non-Profit
  • THATCamp-in-a-Box
  • Teaching Collaboration
  • Geolocation, Archives, and Emulators (not all at once)
  • The Sound of Drafting
  • The Schlegel Blitz ("Only connect…")
  • Text Mining Scarce Sources
  • Applying open source methodology and economics to academia
  • What I'd Most Like to Do or Discuss
  • Hacking ethics for edupunks
  • Mobile technology and the humanities
  • Audiences and Arguments for Digital History
  • Open Peer Review
  • Who Wants To Be A Hacker?
  • Please advise
  • Greetings from the new Regional THATCamp Coordinator!
  • 2010 Applications Open!