THATCamp 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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