THATCamp American Historical Association 2012 The Humanities and Technology Camp Mon, 30 Jul 2012 00:03:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Link to THATCamp evaluation Tue, 10 Jan 2012 17:52:14 +0000

Hope you guys had a good THATCamp. Whether you did or whether you didn’t, you can tell us more on the THATCamp evaluation form — only two fields required: which THATCamp you went to, and your rating of it on a scale of 1 to 5. There’s space for you to rate and comment on other aspects of the THATCamp, though, and we appreciate that input.

Note that all evaluations are anonymous and are publicly posted.

Notes: Grantwriting strategies for the Digital Humanities Fri, 06 Jan 2012 18:50:02 +0000
Scattered & unedited, but nevertheless, notes from . . .
Grantwriting Strategies
Jen Serventi (Digital Humanities, NEH) & Josh Sternfeld (Preservation & Access, NEH)
I. Josh/P&A
Leverage projects to begin small
Getting groundwork laid out, right people involved
Move to larger and larger grants

Collection of primary resources you want to describe
Digitization for digital repository
Focuses on collections (as does the entire division)
Spend a lot of time talking about sig. of collection for grant
What can your collections be used for?
Reference resources: databases,
Collections and resources cannot have overly interpretative angle
Collections need to be neutral, used for different kinds of purposes
Up to 350,000 for up to 3 years
Come talk to NEH about partnerships with multiple institutions

Larger questions and topics on pres and access
Developing digital tools that can enhance access
Preservation areas of specialization AV, born-digital, sustainability (conservation)
Up to 350,000 for up to 3 years
Most successful: best standards and practices
Can look scientific by nature, or more tool development

II. Jen/Office of DH

More startup focused
Bring people together to idenitify a challenge
Brainstorm, meetings, moving toward next bigger stage
Inkling of innovation solution

Prototyping, with knowledge always more work to be done
Use funds to discover whether or not project really should even continue
Identify challenges and roadblocks
Begin looking toward solutions
“Successful failure” = white paper on what went wrong, or why this project is not worth continuing (all proj. must produce white papers)

Inst. for Advance Topics in DH
To position yourself as leader in topic of DH
Seed grant program to bring people into DH
Introduce methodologies and approaches
Go one to apply for other grant programs at NEH
Good for faculty and staff without robust DH programs on campus

Tips & Strategies
1. Consult one of us (they read drafts! up to 6 weeks prior to deadline)

Review process
– Interested? Come talk to us.
– Submit app.
– Bring in relevant peers for review
– Grades tallied
– Goes to Council (26 appointees)
– Funneled up to Chairman for final choice
(upwards of 8-9 months; startup 5-6 months)

Interoperability big!
Addressing project to your field and colleagues, not the NEH staff
Write for general educated audience (but not bloated with tech. jargon)
First time applicants, look at resources provided on NEH site
Recommends applying to multiple programs (but not identical apps!)
Will pass along results of panel comments from review process whether successful or un
Sustainability = buzzword important to NEH
Talk about mechanisms to promote sustainability
Same with scalability
Have multiple writers doing different sections of app. narrative
Make friends with office of sponsored projects/whoever submits your grant apps
Strategies for putting together a work plan (Ask Jen!)
Key: use collection as test bed

Google Doc on Programming in the Humanities Thu, 05 Jan 2012 20:24:24 +0000

Google Doc: Programming in the Humanities — some links and suggestions

Google doc for collective notes for Problem of old Digital History Sites Thu, 05 Jan 2012 20:20:55 +0000

Link is here.

Not There Yet: History Departments, Tenure, and Digital History Scholarship Thu, 05 Jan 2012 16:25:24 +0000

I am proposing a general discussion that might morph into a writing session on the topic of tenuring the new generation of digital historians. As we know, the humanities are currently experiencing the exciting changes proffered by the digital turn as some disciplines, like English, are out in front leading the charge, others, like history, are late adopters, pushing back hard at the attendant cultural changes. As a tenure-track Assistant Professor at a research university currently up for promotion and tenure, I have been experiencing the disconnect between progress (“let’s hire a digital historian!”) and tradition (“how can we possibly grant tenure to a file that is so different than what we had to do?”). This is not to say that history is bereft of digital visionaries, obviously as even a cursory glance at this year’s AHA program will attest, there have been several bright lights leading us down the primrose path by their scholarship, the tools they have developed, and the students they have trained. I for one have been the happy beneficiary of being in that light at both UVa and UNL. However, most all of the first (and probably second) generation were either tenured when they took up digital history or were granted tenure with files that included a monograph that represent the kind of traditional scholarship that P&T committees could recognize.

In contrast, the files of those of us who are following their lead are much different. While not void of print, these files do not feature the monograph as the primary locus of the scholarly product created during the probationary period. We have digital history archives filled with research materials that are heavily marked-up and associated in sophisticated ways, we have visualizations of historical questions that we build with an ever-evolving set of tools, we have successful peer-reviewed grant applications from highly competitive agencies, and we have a real, not simply rhetorical, track record of true collaborative research that reaches across different departments on campus and into the library. It is my experience that our faculty peers in history—both those who support our digital work and those who do not—are not in a good position to evaluate the merits of our work when it comes time for promotion and tenure review. There are many factors that contribute to this situation, from individual scholars being unable or unwilling to address the digital scholarship on its own terms to the dearth of venues to publish born digital work or even have it reviewed (every academic journal reviews books but only the JAH reviews “web sites”?), to the very customs of the P&T process that are built around 19th-century notions of historical scholarship. But as Cathy Davidson said in her HASTAC keynote, the digital is transforming the humanities and that we must take hold of the technologies of this historical moment to create institutional change.

Let’s discuss this topic and perhaps conclude by drawing up a brief statement of how we expect the discipline of history to change to adapt to value and reward the new model scholarship that they want us to engage in. This sort of “digital historians bill of rights” would be extremely valuable for those who will find themselves negotiating the terms of their hires into history departments and their annual and reappointment reviews. It’s time to bring our discipline in line with the 21st-century humanities world even if have to skip a century to get there…

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Etiquette question Thu, 05 Jan 2012 00:25:12 +0000

Yikes – so very excited to attend my first THATCamp and airplane trouble will keep my boss/adviser from presenting at the Digging Into Data panel and I have been drafted in his stead (gulp). I know things are informal, but I don’t want to look like a dope heading out at 3:15 – can I still come for the earlier sessions?

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Transport: Anyone want to split a cab from the Westin tomorrow? Thu, 05 Jan 2012 00:16:43 +0000

The AHA shuttles will not have started by the time THATcamp starts, so I’m crowdsourcing a ride 🙂

Session Proposal V 2.0 Revisiting How Do We Share Our Knowledge of Historic Places Wed, 04 Jan 2012 22:18:00 +0000

At the Columbus THATCamp in 2010, Eli Pousson asked the question, “How do we share our knowledge of historic places?” I would like to revisit that question at the Chicago 2011 THATCamp.    Below is Eli’s original argument which still holds true today.  Add to the resources Eli listed below a slew of commercial sites like, a commercial, community-driven website that lists international historic, contemporary and conceptual architecture.  It functions as an openly editable encyclopedia of buildings from around the world. This and other sites with unproven accuracy abound including Archiplanet, a section of Wikipedia that catalogs more than 100,000 structures; all entries are user contributed with unproven vetting and uneven quality.  Is it possible or even desirable to aggregate all the various online sites about the built world into one megasite?  Are there new forms of online publishing that would better support documentation of architecture, landscapes and their context?  Will augmented reality, 3D models superimposed on Google Earth maps, and other technical innovations dramatically alter the way we present our knowledge of historic places?  Can we envision a solution for how to represent the built world in the online environment?  I would welcome a discussion.  Pauline Saliga, Director, Society of Architectural Historians


Eli Pousson’s original statement:  How do scholars, activists, tourists, neighbors, city planners, and preservationists find and share information about historic places in their communities, in their cities, and in their regions? How do they identify relationships between places or understand the context within such places were constructed, occupied, or even destroyed? In most cases, anyone interested in these questions might rely on a wide range of tools and resources, such as calling a local historical society, finding a walking tour brochure at a local visitor center, visting the local history section of the neighborhood library, searching a web-based database provided by a State Historic Preservation Office, or simply searching online in the hope that someone might have already investigated the location. The latter is often productive but resources are currently fragmented both topically and geographically, as well as suffering from an absence of essential features such as mapping, sorting or filtering. If you are searching for information on historic theaters Cinema Treasures is indispensable, roadside architecture can be found at, the Labelscar retail history blog has documented hundreds of shopping malls but none of these sites allow the consideration of the unusual buildings within their local contexts. For example, what African-American neighborhood did the Comet Theater serve? What was located at the site of the Westland Mall prior to  its construction in 1969?

In addition, while a few websites offer a rich user experience, the web services provided by State Historic Preservation Offices are often severely limited by accident or by design (as some local and state governments license their data on historic places to private contracts if they maintain an updated database at all). Take a look at the National Register database provided by the Maryland Historical Trust or the basic PDF list provided by Virignia to get a sense of the limited services provided by government institutions in this regard. Even more effective examples, such as the Pennsylvania Historical Markers website or the National Register NPS Focus database, are often closed and provide few opportunities to even make comments, let alone access the underlying database for mashups or analysis. Regrettably, few preservation organizations even at a state or municipal level, let alone small museums, nonprofit preservation advocacy organizations, neighborhood and city historical societies, have sufficient technical expertise or capacity within their organizations to build and maintain new and effective web applications.

Even with the issues I’ve identified with both independent and publicly supported websites sharing data on historic places, the most serious issue is the great extent to which our knowledge of historic places is limited to the minds of a few individuals in our communities, in a box of documents sitting in a damp basement, or a drawer full of unlabeled photos at a neighborhood church. I’m curious to explore the potential of building websites that support sharing our knowledge of historic places, capturing new knowledge from those who hold it, and allowing scholars, activists, and interested citizens to explore this data at local, regional and national scales. Possible models for this approach may lie with smaller projects such as the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Database, the North Carolina Architects & Builders project, the University of Berkley’s California’s Living New Deal project, Teaching + Learning Cleveland, the Community Almanac from The Open Planning Project, the Open Plaques website, and dozens of others. I’d be very talking with anyone who has an interest in the intersection of place and new media to explore these questions further, but I’m especially curious how my questions relate to those presented by Elizabeth SchultzCandace Nast, Marjorie McLellan, Andrea Odiorne, Justin Hons, Stephen Titchenal, Doug Lambert, Jonathan Tarr, and Phil Sager. For a quick bit of background, I currently work for Baltimore Heritage, a preservation advocacy organization. My past experience includes work with the DC Historic Preservation Office and a number of small museums and historical societies.

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Session Proposal: The Problem of Old Digital History Sites Wed, 04 Jan 2012 20:45:35 +0000

The graphical world wide web is closing in on 20 years of existence. Some of the earliest digital history sites are almost as old. While some of these sites are tied to people or organizations who update them in one form or another, many are not as funding ran out or creators moved on. As a result, I’m sure we can all think of sites that we’ve run across that are, at a minimum, up to today’s visual and user experience expectations, and at worst, are simple unusable by some or even all of today’s users.

Since we know that old sites don’t fade away (though they might blink in and out), but linger on virtually forever (unless they were on GeoCities), what might we do with some of these abandoned or no longer funded projects going forward?

I know that digital history is typically about new projects and new digitization, but how might we build on the work that has already been done, and do so in a way that is more than just an aesthetic facelift for these sites? Is it worth considering ways that we might make such previous work more accessible (both in terms of accommodations and in terms of something that more people would want to use) and usable?

I’m particularly interested in those sites which preserve and present primary sources, but would like to talk about a broader set of historical websites as well.

So, I’m proposing a session where we brainstorm the ways that we might individually or systematically work on updating older digital history sites, as well as the issues with doing so. [In the latter category, I know questions of copyright/permissions are a factor, as are technical aspects of how the material was stored and presented, and no doubt a host of other concerns I haven’t thought of yet.]

Who’s with me?

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Thought on Sessions Wed, 04 Jan 2012 16:04:44 +0000

There is certainly some interesting proposals for discussion. I don’t have a specific item to discuss but I’m primarily interested in how best to incorporate technology into undergraduate history education. What level of technologically literatacy should an undergraduate history major achieve? What are the current technologies and techniques he or she should be familiar with? I’ve been teaching a class with the university archivist along these themes. The class combines some readings on technology with hands-on projects that require students to work with original archival materials but the final product is often a web page or something similar.

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(hack)session proposal: data seeks skills Wed, 04 Jan 2012 09:26:03 +0000

I’m an old school archival historian flirting with the digital side like a drunk in a bar – ie. without any skill set to speak of. So here goes with my pick up line …

I’m interested in academic networks in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As we know, academic careers are highly mobile, but traditional archives tend to lock such individuals in national frames of reference.

I’ll bring with me a pretty messy set of excel files that detail the career trajectories of professors at the universities of Cape Town, Manchester, Sydney, and Toronto in the period 1850-1939.  They include information about the place of birth, study, and work of about 400 individuals. I had a pretty amateur stab at qualitative analysis here Pietsch – ‘Wandering Scholars’ JHG (2010)

I’d like to learn more about ways that some of the data I’ve gathered could be visualised. It’s probably not detailed enough to do much with networks, but does tell us about movement between different institutions.

It could all end badly, but whaddyasay?

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Session Proposal: Programming in the Humanities Wed, 04 Jan 2012 03:54:30 +0000

Over the course of my training as a digital historian, I have had two opportunities where classroom instruction involved learning a programming language. The first was in Prof. Stephen Ramsay’s Electronic Text course during the fall of 2010 where I formally learned Ruby. The other was this past fall in a digital humanities seminar with Prof. William Thomas where I self-taught myself Objective-C in a month to build an iOS application.

I am, most broadly, interested in this idea of programming in the humanities as separate from Software Studies (Lev Manovich et al.), Critical Code Studies (Mark Marino et al.), and Platform Studies (Ian Bogost et al.) (hat tip to Steve Ramsay for pointing out this distinction to me recently). The digital humanities perspective on code is different, and perhaps this is an area for discussion.

I propose a general discussion about the nature and training of humanities programming:

  • How do we help prepare graduate students and faculty in the basics of programming?
  • Or, should they be concerned with programming at all (Steve says yes)? Is it just nice to have, or essential? Is programming best left to the professionals?
  • What are the benefits and pitfalls of taking the time to learn a programming language (or several)? How do you decide which language is best?
  • How might programming knowledge shape careers?
  • What mentoring services or formal instruction can be introduced to graduate training in humanities programming?
  • How does building shape the way we think, research, teach (see Kathi Berens, e.g.)?
  • How failure produces results.
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Visualizing Networks Tue, 03 Jan 2012 23:44:31 +0000

“Communities and Networks” is the theme for this year’s AHA meeting, so let’s talk about them from a digital humanities historian’s perspective.

In my own research I keep wishing there was a way that I could easily and dynamically visualize the various layers of relationship that exist within or across the groups of people I’m studying. Working on dissident Philadelphia Quakers during the American Revolution I’ve made some terrific discoveries by dipping into genealogical resources, for example: three of the dozen men involved in a Revolutionary-era business venture were closely related through marriage before any of it started because A had married the widowed mother of B while C had been married to B’s wife’s sister before she died quite young, perhaps in childbirth. And my interest in the business venture comes from noticing a correlation between individuals’ involvement in it (1775) and in a seemingly unrelated dispute on the religious front (1781). But that’s just one example within the community I’m studying, and the set of relationships quickly starts to get quite complicated. How do I see them all?

I’ve looked at (and experimented with) some genealogical software and it’s got room for lots of details as annotations, but is mostly geared toward showing trees: all someone’s ancestors or all someone’s descendants–which for my purposes is limited and flat. What I want to see is more like a rhizome or a social molecule or a Facebook for historians with multiple facets, different types of relationships, metadata, footnotes and visualization tools (and sure, GIS) built in.  And it’s not just about family connections, but all manner of social and cultural connections between people that may or may not end up being significant—but how will I know until I can see them?

Though the critical impulses may be similar, this poses a different methodological problem than working with specific texts via data mining or network analysis, because the bits of evidence that add up to layers of relationship are gathered from many different idiosyncratic and specific historical sources in a process that isn’t close to being mechanizable yet, if ever. (My research boundaries, in other words, are not delimited by a  set of texts or sources; given time and survival, everything that exists is fair game.)  And my interest at this point is less in displaying some final product on the open Web (though that’s surely a worthy goal as well) than in visualizing the networks so that I can make better sense of them, for the purposes of interpreting them to address historical-cultural questions.

I have some examples of experimental diagrams I’d like to share with interested colleagues to see if they’re interpretable or useful. I’d also love for us to talk about what historians might need in the way of purpose-built network-visualization software—and what we need to learn (in terms of computing, information theory, etc.) to create that most effectively. Or… are there projects out there that already address these needs? Jean Bauer, who I’m hoping will join the session, is working on Project Quincy and DAVILA. Is there existing multi-use software–I’ve wondered about DEVONthink for example–that can somehow bend to these purposes?

So, if any aspect of this ethnographically-inspired digital-historical prosopographical fantasy appeals to you–how to specify it, build it, use it, improve it–I’d love for us to chat.

(An earlier version of this session took place at THATCamp Virginia in December 2010.)

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Post-THATCamp Happy Hour Tue, 03 Jan 2012 17:46:44 +0000

I’ve reserved some post-THATCamp pre-prandial time and space at a nearby pub. They’ll be expecting a large group at D4 Irish Pub & Café at about 6:15pm — they’re saving a spot by the fireplace, even. The pub is located just a couple of blocks away at 345 Ohio St. — it’s on the map on the Travel page. All are welcome, even non-THATCampers.

Session Proposal: Best Practices and New Ideas for Open-Access Publications Tue, 03 Jan 2012 17:30:34 +0000

The academy needs open-access. As Bethany Nowviskie has pointed out in a memorable (and revolting) phrase, much of the intellectual product of the academy is “fight club soap.” We produce scholarly work at great cost to our institutions and the donors and governments that fund them, only to hand them over to for-profit publishers, who sell them back to our libraries at ruinous cost. This cost is exorbitant for the wealthiest universities and prohibitive for everyone else, exacerbating the divide between haves and have-nots, and locking our scholarly work behind paywalls where hardly anyone reads it.

Thankfully, there is no reason why we need to continue in this way. The economics of publishing that favored the printed, bound, and distributed academic journal are now untenable, and instead we have the opportunity though the internet for open-access publications, that is, publications which are available online, for free, regardless of the user’s affiliation. Open-access scholarly publications are the academy’s chance to cash in on the idea that “information wants only to be free.” But like anything worth doing, creating open-acccess publications will take a lot of work.

I’ve recently accepted the opportunity to be the web editor for the Journal of Southern Religion, an online journal that has been open-access since 1998. (It’s remarkable how prescient the editors of JSR were about the opportunities of open-access in its first issue.) I’ve been tasked with a redesign of the site, but also with thinking through what the journal should look like in the future.

My session proposal, then, combines both the large question of open-access with the specific issues I’m going to face over the next year or so. I’d like to talk with scholars, librarians, technologists (anyone, actually) about the best practices and new ideas for open-access publications. For example, we might try answering these types of questions:

  • What new ways of publishing can an online, OA journal take advantage of?
  • What are the technical requirements of an OA journal?
  • What is the best use of web 2.0 technologies?
  • Is there a better way to handle citations than footnotes?
  • How can an OA journal keep its back catalog useable into the future?
  • What are the best software options for running an OA journal?

It would be best if this session could produce a deliverable, probably in the form of a report or syllabus listing best practices, useful readings, and possible future directions for open-access journals. We could write this collaboratively during the time we have for the session.

If you have any ideas, links to open-access publications that are doing good work, or readings that would helpful, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

I’ve cross-proposed this session, which I originally proposed for THATCamp New England 2011 but which was sparsely attended.. A new group at THATCamp AHA might have different ideas and different experiences.

Session proposal: No More Plan B? Tue, 03 Jan 2012 01:01:35 +0000

You may have seen “No More Plan B,” in which AHA president Anthony Grafton and executive director Jim Grossman argue that it’s time to devote serious attention to preparing history grad students for jobs outside the professoriate.

You may also have seen the responses: one from grad student Dan Allosso, one from historian Rohan Maitzen, one from Tenured Radical, and a response-to-the-responses from Grafton and Grossman.

THATCamp AHA seems like the perfect place to discuss our own responses to this line of thought. I’m particularly interested in:

  • what it means to prepare grad students for non-traditional careers. What has to change?
  • what these careers might be.
  • what the AHA’s role might be.
  • whether this direction marks an accommodation to academic casualization, as some have argued (for example, in the comments here).
  • how we might create mentoring and advocacy opportunities for history grad students who are dealing with this unsettling time for the profession.
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Unsession Proposal: Epic brain dump!, or, THATCampception Mon, 02 Jan 2012 16:53:45 +0000

I got this idea talking to a guy about a New Year’s Eve party he was at with a martial arts club. They did a thing where everyone taught one quick lesson about something. Sounded very THATCampy to me, so I’d like to suggest giving it a whirl here.

So, maybe one session where everyone there aims to teach, in five to ten minutes, something about DH, kinda like Dork Shorts, but less about projects and more about knowledge and skills-sharing (depending on how many people show up, might have to enforce a time limit!). So, you might teach the group about a particular tool you like (any Prof- or Grad Hackers here?), or about some general knowledge or technique you use — a habit for managing RSS or Twitter feeds. Or maybe a quick lesson about some detailed technology (what is Object Oriented programming? or what does a MySQL database look like and do, anyway?). I think it could be a fun way for people to share something that they’ve learned recently and present it to others — always a good way to reinforce newly acquired knowledge!

We’d have to be versatile in the session depending on how many people (if any!) are interested, and we could riff along based on what people want to hear more about, depending on time. In that way, I guess it’d be a kind of THATCamp within a THATCamp. I imagine very short lessons that would span a lot of knowledge and interest–very quickly presented–that would be a nice brain-dump and exposure of who’s interested in what kinds of things, and who has skills that other people are looking to learn more about.

Whaddya think?

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Session Proposal: Electronic Publishing and the Practice of History Mon, 02 Jan 2012 15:55:36 +0000

We’d like to propose a general discussion session on the present and future of electronic publishing in the historical profession.

We have all been involved in the creation of a new professional organization, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, which came into being during the summer of 2011.  (We’re so new that we do not even have a website yet, though you can find out about us on the U.S. Intellectual History blog, which is affiliated with S-USIH.)  S-USIH’s two major, existing projects are our blog and our conference, both of which predate the existence of the Society. But one of the reasons that we wanted to form a society is that we are interesting in exploring the possibility of creating some sort of journal. I think we all feel that this will likely be an electronic journal. But this immediately raises a series of questions that we have only begun to explore.

What forms might an e-journal take?  Does an e-journal differ simply in its method of distribution? Or does its electronic format potentially allow us to promote and distribute different forms of scholarship from those that might appear in a printed journal? How does an e-journal credential itself in our discipline?  How have other e-journals answered these questions?

Or is the very idea of an e-journal—an electronic version of a form created in a print-bound world—a failure to explore the horizons of electronic publishing and digital scholarship?  Should the publication program of a new professional society in 2012 take an entirely different form?

In this session, we’d hope to gather those interested in exploring these questions in a more general context.  Among the general questions we’re particularly interested in exploring: What are the new scholarly possibilities opened up by electronic publication?  What are the expenses—in hardware, software, bandwith, etc.—associated with a serious e-publication program? How can some vital technologies associated with traditional scholarly publication—e.g. peer review—be translated to an electronic age?

Ben Alpers,
Lauren Kientz Anderson,
Ray Haberski,
Andrew Hartman,
Tim Lacy,

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Session Proposal – Graduate Training in the Digital Humanities Mon, 02 Jan 2012 01:45:01 +0000

My department is in the process of developing a digital humanities certification program. I will be serving as the graduate liaison and would love to hear about others’ experiences in developing digital humanities courses and curricula for history graduate programs. This session could also serve as a workshop to generate a collection of resources and articles for introducing and training graduate students in the digital humanities. Some questions and topics for discussion:

  • What sorts of courses, skills, and readings should be included in a digital humanities program? What sorts of work-arounds are there for departments who want to offer these certifications but don’t have the necessary faculty or DH centers (combining courses and camps like THATCamp or DHSI, for example)?
  • How do graduate students incorporate digital humanities into their degrees for ‘credit’? Meaning, how do we place dh training alongside other C.V. builders (articles, reviews, conferences) in a competitive job market?
  • What sorts of parallels are there between graduate training in the digital humanities and the current tenure and promotion system for junior faculty? Can the issue of getting tenure credit for DH work be addressed alongside the development of new forms of training graduate students?

Many graduate students are self-taught in the DH world, often times by learning from blogs, conferences, and mentorship outside their institutions. Perhaps there is a way to make this a more concerted and organized effort. At the very least, such a session would be useful in both assessing how different programs approach the issue and in creating a list of resources.

Alex Galarza,

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Session Proposal: Going off the grid. Sat, 31 Dec 2011 23:21:35 +0000

I work at a university with slow servers, a bad e-mail client, an outdated version of a terrible LMS (which starts with “Black” and ends with “board”), frightfully old computers in the offices and the classrooms and not nearly enough tech support for any of these things.  What I’d like to see/hear/do at THATCampAHA is figure out how I can gather all the tech I need to do my job and keep these tools under my control rather than my employer’s.  I’m not just talking about teaching paperless, I’m talking about finding everything needed to become essentially a technological free agent, no longer dependent on edtech help that isn’t there.

While I’m not sure if I have much to contribute to this session beyond the idea, I’ll certainly do everything I can to explain what I’m thinking once we all arrive in Chicago.

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Session Proposal: Crowdsourcing Fri, 30 Dec 2011 22:30:46 +0000

“How many digital humanists does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“Yay, crowdsourcing!”
Melissa Terras

Crowdsourcing seems to be a favorite THATCamp session idea, appearing in at least half a dozen of the THATCamps held since 2008.  Sessions I’ve participated in have developed from the basic “what is crowdsourcing” in 2009 to the more practical “how do you find and motivate volunteers” in 2011.  At THATCamp AHA2012, however, we are fortunate to have campers who are experts at running crowdsourced projects, including Chris Lintott of GalaxyZoo, OldWeather and AncientLives and Jen Wolfe of  the University of Iowa Civil War Diaries and Letters transcription project.  Though both run popular projects, their implementation could not be more different: the Zooniverse team developed sophisticated crowdsourcing software themselves, while  UIowa decided on a low-tech, partly-manual process to minimize the IT load on their team.  I think that range of perspectives should lead to an interesting discussion, and hope that other campers who have experience with crowdsourcing or are just interested in the subject will join in.

Here are some questions that have been on my mind which might serve as conversation starters:

  • Are some tasks inappropriate for volunteer crowdsourcing?  Although it seems like people are willing to volunteer their time on the most obscure of subjects–including bugs and leaves–it still may not pay to invite volunteers to do data-entry on your institution’s old account books.  Is it possible to predict in advance whether your material is suitable for the crowd?
  • If a project won’t attract volunteer effort, might it still be worthwhile to use crowdsource-for-pay systems like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk or various freelancing sites?  If so, how do you ensure accuracy?  (One recent project introduced known bad data to transcripts before paying users to proofread and transcribed a 19th-century diary for thirty cents a page.)
  • Volunteers seem to participate according to a power-law distribution in which a few users contribute the majority of the effort. (See the Transcribe Bentham leaderboard or the North American Bird Phenology Program’s top fifty transcribers chart for examples.)
    • Is this something we should be concerned  about or a phenomenon we should embrace?
    • Do all projects demonstrate the same participation patterns?  (My own small efforts have shown small-scale projects to be even more lop-sided than the large ones.)
    • How do we find those few passionate volunteers?  Where does a small project find a target-rich environment for its outreach efforts?
  • Is it important to provide users with context?  Christine Madsen argues that libraries and archives should stop presenting entire manuscript pages to users, as this can make their tasks feel more like work.  On the other hand, Andie Thomer and Rob Guralnick believe that context is an important tool for motivating volunteers and enabling accuracy.

I hope that my fellow campers will add their own questions to these in the comments to this post.

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Session Proposal: Activating the Archive Fri, 30 Dec 2011 06:06:33 +0000

I would like to propose a session on the question of the digital archive.

At a panel at HASTAC 2011 (see and scroll down to Sessions D3 (Lightning Talks) – Rackham West Conference Room), I was struck that all of our digital humanities/history projects were driven by questions of how to design, use, and produce new historical knowledge from digital repositories. Intersecting dilemmas, goals, concerns, and ideas kept arising among the presentations. These suggested to me that there is an important discussion to continue to have about how archives might be transformed for the better in the digital age. This discussion might include what past practices should be discarded, what we should (pardon the pun) preserve from analog archival traditions, and most of all how we might reimagine the archive in the digital medium.

Here are a set of questions that might serve to shape such a session:

  • Does the digital create new possibilities for archival study? There are the obvious possibilities of wider, more democratic access to the archive. There is the opportunity for quantitatively studying “big data” of archival materials. But how else, as historians, might we reimagine the archive—and the power of the archive—for the digital age? What might the archive look like in the digital realm? What might it be able to do (or not do) as compared to the analog archive?
  • What new theoretical questions does the digital archive raise? Do we need to rethink the boundedness or porousness of the archive, the authority of it, the nature of archival materials in the virtual realm?
  • What are the new methodological issues that digital archives present? How might historians contribute to the design, interface, and tools used to arrange, access, and make use of digital repositories (a good recent book on this topic is a collaboration between an archivist and a historian, Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg’s Processing the Past: Contesting Authorities in History and the Archives)?
  • Might previously separate parts of the process of “making” history—the archive, the research workshop, the publication, and the scholarly conversation/debate that follows publication—intertwine and interact in new, productive ways?
  • Does the digital archive bring us back to core historical questions about connecting evidence to argument in compelling ways (that’s a leading question, I admit, since I think it does)?
  • In the digital medium, does the archive, typically the precinct of primary sources, provide a starting point, a launching pad, for new modes of historiography to emerge?

Michael Kramer,

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THATCamp Check In; AHA Registration Thu, 29 Dec 2011 18:30:41 +0000

As Amanda notd, THATCamp AHA participants will check in outside Parlor C in the Sheraton.

Those of you who are registered for the AHA meeting should note that AHA registration opens at noon on Thursday, so you won’t be able to pick up your AHA badge before attending THATCamp. Registration, located in the Sheraton’s River Exhibition Hall B, is open until 7 p.m. Thursday evening so you will be able to pick up your AHA badge immediately afterward.


Debbie Doyle

American Historical Association

Preparing for THATCamp AHA Thu, 29 Dec 2011 17:57:28 +0000

Hi all — Amanda French here, THATCamp Coordinator and co-organizer (which is rare) of THATCamp American Historical Association, even though I won’t be there. (I’ll be at the Modern Language Association meeting instead, since I’m a *literary* historian.) As we get closer to THATCamp AHA on Thursday, January 5th, I wanted to give you a few important logistical details, especially about proposing sessions.

Proposing sessions

Now is the time to start thinking about what you’d like to do or talk about at THATCamp AHA. If you’re not familiar with the unconference model, you might want to read our About page, but also and especially our page on Proposing a Session. If you’re stuck, you might think about it this way: describe whatever professional problem is currently bothering you most, and pose your session proposal in such a way that you’ll get help with that problem. You don’t *have* to propose a session, but since unconferences are participant-driven, if no one proposes anything, then there won’t be an unconference. (That never happens.)

To propose a session, log in at and write a blog post outlining your session idea. To write and publish your blog post, go to Posts –> Add New, write your post, and then click Publish. Your blog post will be published to the main page of the THATCamp AHA site, which will allow us all to read and comment on it. Do please plan to visit the THATCamp AHA site fairly often in the coming days to see what people are proposing and to comment on the proposals.

In the first 90-minute session on Thursday at 12pm, everyone will discuss and vote on the session proposals in a process run by Dan Cohen, and you’ll have a chance then to propose last-minute session ideas or to ask for a particular time slot. Some sessions might not make it on to the schedule, and some might be combined with other sessions. If your session proposal makes it to the program, you will be expected to facilitate it, but very often that just consists of making the first and the last remarks. You can engage in more structured activities aimed at producing a document or other result if you like: it’s your session, so as long as it doesn’t consist of you giving a presentation, you can run it as you choose. The one exception to the “no presentations” rule is if you’d like to teach people a particular skill, and you can certainly offer to do that, though even then we encourage workshops to involve hands-on exercises.

We have pre-scheduled several workshops, and you can see their times and rooms on the schedule. (Note that there’s been a room change: workshops that were in “Parlor B” are now one floor up in “Michigan B.”) By 1:30 on Thursday, the rest of the time slots on the schedule will be filled, and you’ll refer to that web page to see where to go.

The most important thing to remember is that unconferences are casual, spontaneous, fun, collegial, open, non-hierarchical, inquiry-driven, and (ideally) productive. (Well, that’s several things.) Apart from that, there’s not much else to know. If you’re curious about other THATCamps, try doing a Twitter search on THATCamp, or check out some of the websites for one of the fifty-plus other THATCamps.


On Thursday, 1/5, we’ll be checking in THATCamp AHA participants at a table outside Parlor C in the Sheraton. See our Travel page for a map to the hotel. You can pick up your THATCamp AHA badge starting at about 11:15am, and we’ll begin the crucial first all-hands scheduling session promptly at noon. You’re welcome to bring lunch and eat it during that session; unfortunately, our budget didn’t run to either food or coffee. We made sure, however, that the budget would run to wi-fi, which will be available in all the rooms. We recommend that you bring a laptop, especially if you plan to attend one or more of the workshops. Unconferences are deliberately informal, so dress is casual. Wear whatever you like (that’s warm).

Instead of running a wait list, we overbooked our capacity a bit, anticipating a few cancellations. Therefore, there are currently 111 people registered for THATCamp AHA: see our list of Participants to check out who’s coming, and consider updating your own profile when you log in. To add a picture, upload one at — it will automatically appear on all Gravatar-enabled sites.

I think that’s about it. Questions? Write me at Hope you have a fun and productive and enlightening THATCamp.

Housing / Room-share for ThatCamp and AHA Sun, 25 Dec 2011 05:36:04 +0000

Hello fellow campers!

I’m looking for a place to stay or a room to share for ThatCamp and the AHA, and I’m guessing that I’m not the only one, so I thought I’d start a thread.

If you have:

  • A couch to spare
  • A spot on the floor
  • A hotel/motel room with an extra bed
  • &c

I, and probably several others, would like to know about it.


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Workshops and Fellowships Tue, 22 Nov 2011 19:46:53 +0000

We’ve just confirmed that we will be offering technology skills workshops at THATCamp AHA. On the roster already is a blogging workshop by Professor Dan Cohen of, and we’ll be letting you know more in December as we confirm topics and instructors.

Offering workshops means that we can also offer small fellowships courtesy of the Mellon Foundation. If you are registered for THATCamp AHA and are a graduate student or faculty member in the humanities, you can apply for a fellowship until Monday, December 4. Fellowships are granted in the amount of $500 or $250. (Be advised that fellowship funds might not arrive until after THATCamp AHA has taken place.) The deadline isn’t far away, but the fellowship application isn’t onerous: just a 1- to 3-paragraph essay.

Spread the word . . .

How do you teach THAT? Tue, 08 Nov 2011 19:33:56 +0000

Greetings, THAT Campers!  I teach a graduate seminar on “museums in a digital age” and undergraduate courses in public history and museum studies at Western Michigan U.  I try to incorporate digital aspects of museum work into my teaching whenever possible, covering topics such as content management systems, metadata, virtual worlds, museum websites, social media for museums, in-gallery interactives, grantwriting, etc, etc.

Finding materials for humanities and technology instruction can be a tricky enterprise, mainly because it requires looking in numerous and non-traditional places.  I find that use a mix of traditional/academic/print readings, conference papers (mainly from past years’ Museums and the Web), TED talks, and cool museum tech-y YouTube videos.  

Course organization can also be a challenge.  Should one organize by type of technology (eg, augmented reality), by broad tech topic (eg, virtuality), by broad non-tech topic (eg, interpretation and learning), etc?  Finally, finding institutional (and even student) buy-in can sometimes be a challenge.  I feel as if I need to keep re-iterating my case for the incorporation of digital technology throughout my courses (not just in a ‘technology unit’).

So, I’d like to talk with others who teach at the intersection of the humanities and technology.  How do you teach THAT?  What sorts of readings do you assign?  How do you organize your courses?  How do you make the case for teaching THAT to your institution and to your students?  I’d love it if a Twitter-based ‘How do you teach THAT?’ support group or some such thing came out of this session.  Anyone else have thoughts on coming together and talking about teaching THAT?

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Registration is now open Wed, 19 Oct 2011 22:47:58 +0000

We have opened registration for THATCamp AHA! We will be accepting the first 100 registrants, after which we will close registration.

Announcing THATCamp American Historical Association Mon, 26 Sep 2011 19:24:47 +0000

Hi all,

We’re pleased to announce that there will be a THATCamp at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. THATCamp AHA will take place from 12pm to 6pm on Thursday, January 5th, 2012.

Registration for THATCamp AHA should open in early October. Watch this space for more information.

Amanda French

THATCamp Coordinator


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