THATCamp New England 2011 The Humanities and Technology Camp Tue, 01 Nov 2011 13:23:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Back to the Present Future: Document* Sat, 22 Oct 2011 11:18:50 +0000

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The ability to capture the present changes the past and, therefore, the future. What becomes of the document, not to mention the document of record? Do trails of evidence matter to humanities scholars? How do people in the humanities think of documents and trails of documentary evidence in a world in which history is captured in the present (no longer a study of the past)? How do we address questions of historiography in a world of Twitter and iPhone/Android/mobile text- and photo-documentation of current events? The conversation about citizen journalism, for example, exists; but how are (and might) such trends change the way archivists, librarians, curators of all sorts (including educators at all levels) think of their roles as stewards of the documentary legacies we create as witnesses of the present? Documents, documentaries, documentation — document*.

Let’s discuss and understand better how we harness and harvest the present (and the past) to influence the future.

HistoryDeck prototype design crit Fri, 21 Oct 2011 21:55:17 +0000

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HistoryDeck—a prototype for American Experience—seeks to provide a bridge between current discussion and debate and historical reference, by way of an innovative, hybrid use of technology (video player + TweetDeck-like functionality). This session will critique and brainstorm taking HistoryDeck to the next level.

[Note: If you missed our session, you can still send your input my way: kim_ducharme at wgbh dot org Many thanks!]

HistoryDeck in a nutshell:
The current debates over controversial social issues and public policy are often ill-informed, and disconnected from an understanding of history. How can we inform the current discussion with events from the past about issues that are still relevant today?

The American Experience film library provides an excellent reference for current issues, but full-length films are more difficult to get your friends to watch and discuss.

What if you could quickly discover specific, smaller portions within the full-length American Experience films that relate directly to what you’re discussing with your friends online?

HistoryDeck has a simple aim: To connect past and present.

Starting with a simple keyword search, HistoryDeck goes to work, searching Twitter for related tweets, and the American Experience archive for film clips and other resources.

HistoryDeck provides a list of recent tweets that are an immediate snap shot to the conversations happening right now on the web, and relevant video clips from the American Experience archive provide context and insight into the events of the past that relate directly to these discussions. You can watch and share video clips, see others’ comments and insights, and share your own. Key terms and topics related to the clip you’re watching put further discovery at your fingertips.

HistoryDeck provides a way of informing these real-time discussions with expertly produced, well-researched historical content, and makes it easy to discover, share and participate all in one place.

In Phase II, HistoryDeck will partner with other media institutions to expand it’s offerings — making it a destination for historical reference, and a crucial companion resource for ongoing discussion and debate.

I’d like to spend some time critiquing the current prototype —what’s working, what’s confusing; how would you change it; how would you use it personally (scenarios), would you use it in teaching (or research)? — and then brainstorming ideas for taking HistoryDeck to the next level.

Prototype pitch video:

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Complex Networks Fri, 21 Oct 2011 20:34:30 +0000

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Complex Networks are an ubiquitous phenomenon that is studied in physics, computer science, biology, economics, social science, and increasingly the arts and humanities. While almost any conceivable link relation in arts and humanities data exhibits complex network properties an important question with regards to future directions of research remains to be answered: Can we list the truely interesting node and link types in arts and humanities data?

Analyzing and visualizing large bodies of data is one way to find such interesting aspects and relationships beyond the obvious and well studied classification, citation, social, and geographic networks. Another way is to ask practitioners in what they are really interested. In this latter sense, this session brings together participants to collectively mine their brains in discussion.

During the session we will come up with two lists of interesting node and link types. The result will be a weighted diagram of networks that are worthwhile to study.

For an equivalent result based on a scholarly database see for e.g.

Text encoding (editing, modeling, metadata, TEI, skills, tools…) Fri, 21 Oct 2011 06:58:35 +0000

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Can’t help but offer this – a session in which to discuss the hows and whys of text encoding using XML and TEI. The discussion can also encompass databases used for digital text.

This is primarily a practical discussion, to share how participants engage with text encoding, their methods and tools. However, it is important to keep it in the context of text encoding as a conscious scholarly and research practice.

The discussion can range over what text encoding is about, how it helps, what to keep an eye out for, best practices for using it in a class, for research and publication. When is it easier or more appropriate to encode metadata rather than  “data?” What about other schemas? (Yes, I know the plural is schemata, but in XML, the plurals is schemas.)

This session could be a discussion among experienced users, or an introduction for novices. There are plenty of experts attending THATCamp who could lead it.


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Dinghies and Ocean Liners – DH projects of different sizes Fri, 21 Oct 2011 06:31:10 +0000

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DH activity, especially when it is based on creation or manipulation of digital materials, usually takes the form of a project – whether it is a dissertation, a grant, or a digital publication. Until recently, projects tended to be large and expensive, and to seek justification in words like “long term,” “sustainable,” “generalizable,” “infrastructure.” Such projects are intended for public use, and want to be many things to many people. In some cases, the shaping and presentation of the digital resources seem to have displaced the research questions that provided the initial impetus. The Index Thomisticus, which arguably started us all down this path, may even be the first example of this. These are the ocean liners – beautifully detailed, massive, able to cross the ocean – but they require a crew to sail and maintain them.

There are other DH projects, however, which have a more ephemeral quality; they may be more private in scope, less generalizable, and rough around the edges. These are originate as experiments and explorations, and are focussed on a research question, either firmly within a traditional discipline or at the intersection of a discipline and the use of technology. Examples may be the many data sets and visualizations we find in ManyEyes, or an individual research database. These are the dinghies – small, light and easy to sail, but not designed for long voyages.

The two types of project I have described above are not as distinct as I make out. What starts out as a dinghy of a research projects morphs into a ocean liner along the way, as the researchers needs and ambitions grow, or as their colleagues start to express interest. Large ocean liner projects become more useful if they can also behave like dinghies, allowing individuals to manouevre them where they need.

I’d like to discuss how projects take shape, how think about size, audience, and life-cycle. Should they all be engineered like ocean liners? How much detail and classificatory “purity” do digital materials need? When does it matter? Does it matter? Am I perhaps expressing a problem that pits researchers against librarians? What are the commonalities across types of project?

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Life and Scholarship in Plain Text Thu, 20 Oct 2011 19:17:59 +0000

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I’ve never met a person who liked Microsoft Word. Maybe I’ll meet that person this weekend, but I doubt it. Here is what Stephen Ramsay has to say about writing tools: “I don’t hear many people say that they love Word; people routinely say that they love Vim, Emacs, Scrivener, TextWrangler, and a few other high-performance writing tools.” That’s been my experience too.

I’d like to propose a session to talk about how to do scholarship in plain text. We can talk about syntaxes like Markdown and LaTeX, text editors like TextMate, TextWrangler, Vim, etc., tools like Pandox and pdftk, and best practices, such as how to collaborate with people who don’t use plain text.

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How Can Libraries Support Digital Humanities? Thu, 20 Oct 2011 15:26:31 +0000

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During THATCamp, I hope to learn enough to start proposing ways the
library could support digital humanities scholarship on campus. The
eScience movement is gaining momentum here at Boston College because a team of librarians (I’m one of them) is participating in an ongoing learning process designed by ARL and DLF:
Concrete outcomes thus far have been drafts of workshops for faculty and library staff and a libguide about eScience. While I can’t start something as complex as that on my own, the more I know about digital humanities, the better I’ll be to see what could be done at BC. I’d be interested to hear what others might suggest as concrete steps.

What can we do to help? Thu, 20 Oct 2011 14:32:10 +0000

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As a master’s student in Information Science, I want to know how I can help DH scholars and students. What skills do librarians and IT support folk need to support the growth of digital humanities? Since the projects are so varied and interesting, learning each individual tool seems like a hopeless venture, but how can we provide you with what you need?

Ideally, I’m looking to develop a list of skills (and tools, if appropriate) that IT and Librarians (both in-training and in the profession) should develop or become familiar with so that we can support those working in the DH.

* Social Network Analysis (SNA) as an Analytical Research Method for the Humanities* Thu, 20 Oct 2011 00:00:54 +0000

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“From texts to models, then; and models drawn from three disciplines with which literary studies have had little or no interaction: graphs from quantitative history, maps from geography, and trees from evolutionary theory.”

In his Graphs, Maps, Trees, Franco Moretti proposes three methods for literary studies. It is fascinating that he sees literary history as a sort of collective system, not merely the sum of individual cases, and then strives to find a pattern in navigating through a series of major canons and other minor texts. However, one might want raise the question of whether his notion of so-called ‘distant reading’ could mislead readers to neglect the importance of close reading for unique aesthetic quality or textuality of individual works.


Over the past year, while conducting my dissertation research, I explored/tested a couple of DH methods, hoping to discover a solution to the dilemma between the distant reading and close reading. Among various DH methods, SNA, which I learned from a sociology class taught by Peter Marsden, gave me the idea that the structural approach of SNA could be used for literary studies, not only for drawing overall patterns of literary history, but also for measuring relationships among authors, texts and all other possible factors affecting the production of texts.

In our ThatCampNE, I’d like to propose a session about SNA and its possible applications in the humanities. We might try answering questions such as the following:

  • How do we define relationships among actors/agents in literary works to achieve a conceptual/qualitative level of outcomes?
  • What kinds of SNA models could be used? Graphs, centrality, subgroups, etc.?
  • What major limits will we have to keep in mind while using SNA for the humanities?
  • What about programs? UCInet? Gephi? Or any others?

If people are interested, I also have a personal project for which I would love to get feedback. Frankly, I’m rather overwhelmed by all the mathematical discussions shared among SNAers due to my limited mathematical/statistical training. I hope to be able to share my questions and difficulties with other ThatCampers….

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Student-Directed Learning Wed, 19 Oct 2011 22:40:15 +0000

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How do we institute and teach a humanities class where student-directed learning is at its heart?
Having just attended the MobilityShifts Conference at the New School in New York City, I’ve come away with a strong sense that student-directed learning is a crucial component of 21st century literacy. Student-directed learning means that students have a say in what’s taught in a class and how the material is taught. Students teach and assess each other. Students publish their work. The class covers material and collaborates on projects that are relevant to their world—the space is in the classroom, within the university, and outside, in the non-academic world.
What does a student-directed class look like? It’s more than just having students choose one of the books they’ll read in a literature class. It’s more than forcing composition students to give a two-minute PowerPoint presentation on the passive voice.
I’d like to discuss how to create a “syllabus” and guidelines for a student-directed course. I am open to discussing any course that might benefit from this method. The three I have in mind are: a composition and rhetoric class for college freshman; literature course for undergrad and grad students; an introduction to digital research tools and project collaboration for students and researchers at any level.

  • How does one prepare for such a class? Does class size matter? How long should a class period be?
  • What digital tools for research and collaboration are the most useful? How can we make sure that the class does not use digital tools just for sake of using them, but that those tools and the platforms actually enhance and serve the project’s overall concept, content, and form?
  • How do we assess individual and group contributions?
  • Who assesses?
  • How do we mold assessment to fit the A, B, C, D, F grading system?

These are just a few questions, I know there are many more that I haven’t even thought of asking.
For more thoughts about this, check out Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.

Other proposals for this conference have been made that might dovetail with this one:

“Publishing with Time-Based Media”
“Is a Simple Straightforward Syllabus for Intro to DH Possible…?”
“The Having of Wonderful Ideas”
“Helping Students Negotiate Private and Public Boundaries Online”
“Writing with DH Tools”
“Tools for Scholars for Preparation and Publication of Texts…”

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Digital tools for content and discourse analysis? Wed, 19 Oct 2011 17:58:46 +0000

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First of all, let me say that I am also a THATCamp newbie like a lot of you, so I am looking forward to meeting up and have a DH crash course together! I’m planning on attending most of the workshops to gain my footing, but an unconference here and there would be really helpful too.

Right now I’m writing up a research proposal for funding and IRB review, and I usually run into problems when I write about qualitative analysis, specifically analyzing interview transcripts. Content and discourse analysis are fairly standard methods in the humanities, but in the social sciences they take on a slightly different form. Discourse analysis, especially, is heavily influenced by Michel Foucault and his writing in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). There are a lot of commercial softwares available for coding and content analysis, but for discourse analysis, one also needs to look at what isn’t there (as well as many other things.) Are there new tools that digital humanists use for these kinds of qualitative analyses? A recent tool that I’ve encountered is Scalar, but I don’t have much experience with it yet, and I also want to see what kind of projects other people have done.

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What about the “non-digital” natives? Wed, 19 Oct 2011 16:13:18 +0000

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I’m concerned for those who were left behind: scholars in their late 60’s and older, leaders in their field with valuable research & materials. Alot of these people avoided the digital revolution, muddling along without it because it was too much of a hassle and happened towards the end their careers anyway.

They’re the digital immigrants who came to the New World too late, even to learn the ‘language’.

But these individuals are a gold mind of information because they are (for want of a better word and with great reverence for native cultures) the digital aboriginals. They represent the last generation who experienced first hand what it was like to learn without digital tools. They offer a wealth of experiential knowledge which will help us technologists, developers, pedagogical experts, and so on, to be better attuned to the historical context of learning & scholarship, and to utilize and value their precious experience as we go forward.

But yet…. all we seem to want to do is bring them over to the Promised Digital Land. Instead, I wish we took the time to ask, “Gee what was it like for you? How is it different now? What is being lost, what is changing? Tell us your stories.”

Can we do this before its too late? They’re starting to die off….

Timelines as a Nexus for Pedagogy and Research? Wed, 19 Oct 2011 10:32:03 +0000

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What do digital timelines offer us? We see their potential both as a vehicle for understanding complex events in history as well as a structure to which students can contribute materials and scholarship.  In this way temporal and topical interrelationships are highlighted to make the material more attractive and enlightening.

We’ve had some success with using a publicly viewable timeline to support undergraduate scholarship.  But we’ve also come up against some challenges: What are the processes and standards we should use when publishing student scholarship? What are the optimum visualization tools for our material? Are there several?

Our tool is built to separate presentation (through a Flash applet on the web) from content (stored in XML). We want to learn more about how the content could be used by other tools, or how our visualization tool could be used to display content from other institutions.

And, although we’re psyched about publishing student research (and the corollary benefits and motivators it offers), do we need to distinguish visually between student scholarship and the scholarship of senior researchers in the field?

Thinking towards the future, we want to initiate a conversation on how to network and connect with others doing similar research in other institutions. How can we build a community of scholars and students around digital historical timelines?

Molly, with Elizabeth Wood and Ben Brophy

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DH in a LAM world Wed, 19 Oct 2011 01:43:15 +0000

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I consider myself brand new to digital humanities. Perhaps over the course of THATCamp I will find I know more than I realized. In the meantime, though, I am most interested in a session (discussion/brainstorming) about digital humanities techniques that can be adopted in a non-university environment. I work at a historical society. We are a combination library, archives, and museum with a tight budget. Among our current goals is increasing visitation. I have colleagues who think we should just digitize “everything in our collections.” Simply put, that isn’t going to happen. However, what sort of DH techniques could we (or any other LAM) implement, on a shoestring budget, that will attract a variety of visitors (different ages, research goals, etc)? Budgets aside, is there a DH technique you feel every LAM should be using, but few of us are? Are there any differences between what you look for when doing your own research versus when you send students to do research? These are just a few of the questions that immediately come to mind.

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The Having of Wonderful Ideas Tue, 18 Oct 2011 20:35:47 +0000

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Eleanor Duckworth’s essay “The Having of Wonderful Ideas” (The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Essays, Teacher’s College Press, 1987) proposes a radical way to support learning and intellectual development.

In my paraphrase: her idea is to give the learner a relatively unstructured, but well-equipped space in which to explore, and create hypotheses, and construct experiments, and ask questions, and ultimately have wonderful ideas about, the stuff of the world. Which her research shows helps people learn better and intellectually develop more.

I propose a session in which we imagine what it would be like to construct these kinds of environments in higher education, in various traditional disciplines, and of course in the Digital Humanities, and in our various workplaces, and what it would be like to learn in them, and how we would assess them.

People interested in this will have to read the article prior, due to our shared commitment to intellectual rigor and general conscientiousness, which suggests we should hold it in the afternoon, but it’s only 14 pages, and I’m sure we can figure out how to get appropriate access to all interested.

Results will be gathered in a collaboratively-edited google doc and will revolutionize the world.


Humanities, Technology and Engagement Tue, 18 Oct 2011 19:42:13 +0000

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I’d like to discuss how technology can be used both in the classroom and in museums to get people interested in the humanities, to engage with the subject matter and to encourage further exploration and learning.

My interest in this topic began when I took a museum studies course and the professor required all students to keep a journal. I began a blog that originally focused on the course materials, but the subject matter expanded in scope as I made more connections between topics. I found myself more interested in this class than others I was taking at the same time because I was thinking about it more frequently and had two venues through which to engage with the material – the classroom and the web.

I am currently developing an audio tour for an historic house museum. Before beginning the project, I researched the use of audio tours in museum galleries and found a lot of studies that suggested visitors engage more deeply with their surroundings when they are also engaging with technology – in the form of audio tours or interactive apps. I think this is great and when I taught intro history courses to undergrads I tried to integrate activities using audio or video files and interactive websites into class discussions.

Now my question is can educators use technology to further learning experiences beyond the classroom or museum?

I see the digital humanities as a field that is very connected to the future, that is anticipating technological advances and the ways in which technology will be used in everyday life. I also think it has the potential to generate a greater appreciation of the arts and humanities in our culture.

I think it would be fun to discuss these issues, but maybe also brainstorm ideas for humanities-related mobile apps or games that could be used both in and out of the classroom. This could also be a writing session or if anyone interested in this has the programming knowledge to move this into a hacking session that would be neat, but I’m not familiar enough with app development to take the lead on that aspect.

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Immunity to Change Introductory Session Tue, 18 Oct 2011 19:40:11 +0000

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Immunity to Change is a self-improvement method used to help you do things you want to do but don’t.  It comes from decades of research by Bob Keegan and Lisa Lahey of Harvard, most recently encapsulated in the eponymous and widely-available book.

Here Oprah talks about it (hint: she likes it).

I think it has a lot of benefit for a lot of areas in higher ed, professional development, and just life in general.  If you’re trying to do something hard, like write a dissertation, or publish an article, or build an online data archive, it can help. Most people seem to love it.

It’s also one way to “surface assumptions,” a key move central in individual and team learning.

By coincidence I’ve been trained as an Immunity to Change facilitator and am willing to facilitate an introductory session, where we try the process out, in a safe, collaborative, supportive room (we’ll close the door).  You can see what you think, and you might learn something about yourself!

A hypothetical value of $100 – $200 or so, yours for free.




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Breaking In & Finding a Home Tue, 18 Oct 2011 19:11:42 +0000

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I am the first to admit that prior to my immersion into Twitter, I felt that the way I teach was in a bubble and no where close to where/how my colleagues taught the same course. I integrated tech, mandated choice in topics, and more that seemed against the grain of my peers. Twitter has introduced me to terms that I can relate to and are very comfortable attaching to myself.

Digital Humanities is one of these terms. I can sense it truely enveloping and enhancing not only what and how I teach, but who I am as an educator.

The one hiccup is, I am so incredibly green to this world, I feel, somehow, lacking and have an almost insatiable drive to discover all I can. I often feel like I am teaching on an island with methods and pedagogy and I am hoping others do too.

I’d love for this to be an open discussion session, perhaps building off of Friday’s session on the Intro and more. Others could discuss how them came into this field of study, what it means and where to go next. Also, I would love to discuss how to talk to others in my department, and beyond, about the ins and outs without the quizzical looks that I get now.

I acknowledge, and embrace my newness, but I also feel that this community could be my educational home. I’d ultimately appreciate some help delving into further discussions into this.

DH dating service Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:49:50 +0000

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There’s a DH person or two at every school, kinda isolated, sad.

They need to collaborate with other DH people at other schools. For lots of reasons.

Let’s make a platonic DH dating service. You put your interests in a database and you get a recommendation of a project or people to work with or on.

Outcome: a plan for such a database or recommendation service

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the all-DH major Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:47:30 +0000

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What if you had a major or a track or a school that was ALL-DH? How would you build that and what courses would be in it and what would people do with the degree during and after?

Let’s imagine it!

The outcome of this discussion will be the curriculum or program description of a four-year DH degree.

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learning about learning Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:45:20 +0000

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The trend of shifting from teacher-centric to learner-centric education is moving towards making the skill of learning itself part of the point of every class.

Some might but most schools don’t have a course on learning. Which is silly, because it’s what we expect people to do while here. And helping them think about it would probably improve their chances to do it.

I propose a session to develop a collaborative syllabus on learning itself, inventing, borrowing, imagining, as necessary. With an eye to DH-style learning (to be relevant to THATCamp). And I propose we envision this course on learning as a, um, syndicated course: that is, taught and attended by students and teachers from a network of schools (so no one school can suppress it).

I ALSO imagine, in my eagerness, that out of this might come a wonderful research project (with associated funding?): sending a cohort of students through LEARNING 101 (the intensive, introspective learning course we would devise) and comparing their development over their college career with a control group of um non-trained learners.

Product: a syllabus

course communication dump & analysis Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:39:51 +0000

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I think we’re at the point that we can capture just about all communication in a course. Via email, yes, and via any journals and via and submitted papers (as in Word, etc.). But also (!) by recording things spoken in class and transcribing those spoken things with the aid of cutting-edge software (perhaps donated by an interested company).

This would give us a pool of virtually all expressed thought in course that we could analyze linguistically and temporally cross-referencing the topic and the person speaking to see what patterns emerge.

Worth talking about? Imagining? Throwing around some possible ingredients?

I propose so, and suggest we gather the results in a (where else?) collaboratively edited google doc.

syllabus analysis machine Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:35:05 +0000

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Greg Crane had this idea to gather all syllabi, encode them, mark them up a bit, and then analyze them as a data set that could show learning “tracks” or assumptions or ways of thinking about learning or patterns of supporting information usage or varieties of instruction of key points.  And THAT analysis could then inform the individualization of learning, in this way:

“David, I see you want to learn Economics. Our research shows that there are 12 ways to start, and no.s 3, 6, and 9 correspond to what you say your learning styles are. Here are some steps to follow, and here is a hyperlink to the most commonly-used texts, and here are the names of 3 tutors willing to help mentor you. When you’re done, come back for an assessment.”

I propose we talk about it and what would be involved. Maybe someone’s already doing it. Maybe not. I know the Brandeis linguistics department is quite interested, and I know that Brandeis syllabi (at least) are mostly online, in a pool that we might one day be given permission to study. I imagine others might be interested, including funding agencies interested in rendering education more cost-effective or individualized. We might be able to attract Greg to sign on as an advisor (why not, he suggested it!  He founded the Perseus Project! Etc.).

The results will be gathered in a shared published doc and might include a preparatory document on the idea and its challenges, or thoughts about what it would take, or a list of other people doing something like this, or the name of a school willing to host this, or the idea of some funding agencies interested in this kind of thing.


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imagine a commoditized university Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:28:05 +0000

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The threat of the Khan Academy is looming over higher ed.  Of course this is the idea of wholesale, direct-to-consumer, commodification of learning “chunks,” that the individual might subscribe to at a distance at their convenience without needing to enroll in all the trappings of the university/college and at great personal cost savings.
Sooner or later we’ll have to think about how to respond to this trend.
I propose we can use this session to make it sooner: let’s imagine a world where we ALSO provide commodified chunks of learning wholesale. What would the chunks be? How organized? What support structure needed? How produced at scale? And how could DH play a part? Could DH take the lead?
Ideas gathered into a collaboratively-created list to be published in ePub format.
Learning Organization Academy Tue, 18 Oct 2011 18:23:26 +0000

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NERCOMP is helping sponsor an interesting new professional development opportunity that might appeal to DHers trying to instantiate their work into an academy that doesn’t yet know how important DH is.  It’s basically an intensive support structure for people developing projects that improve learning in their organizations; it is comprised of a 1-week intensive project-development workshop with training in workplace learning theory and a year-long scaffolding made of coaching support and quarterly gatherings of the cohort for refreshers and collaborative troubleshooting.  You might say “this sounds like something for a company or an IT organization or a library, but not for my academic department,” but I actually think academic departments and schools need to ask themselves how well they do as learning organizations (for those who aren’t students) and could benefit from an experiment or intervention or two.  I describe it more thoroughly here.

I propose for this session to discuss the academy and the kinds of projects we think it will support, share some of the workplace learning research (if folks are interested), and think we might collectively brainstorm possible projects, venues, or teams, and we’ll capture all thoughts and feedback in a document. There’s also room for participation in the administration of the academy (i.e. volunteering to join as a coach or in other kinds of supporting roles).

Discussion of Learning Analytics Project Development Workshop Tue, 18 Oct 2011 16:57:26 +0000

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New Media Consortium and the NorthEast Regional Learning Analytics group are organizing a collaborative let’s-think-about-possible-learning-analytics-projects opportunity Halloween week. Teams from 5 organizations will develop and give feedback on each other’s ideas; there is room for another. It’s a great place, if you have a feeling that you might have the spark of the germ of the soul of the shadow of the hint of the embryo of an idea, to explore that idea in a supportive, reflective, energetic, welcoming environment. And to learn more about Learning Analytics. And to network with some funky data-collecting learning-likers. And then subsequently to show off your idea to the world via an optional webinar preso. See my related blog post:  The product of this conversation will be discussion of the event, a brainstorm of possible learning analytics ideas (particularly those that include DHness) captured in a google doc, and possible formation of a robust and inspired team for participation in the aforementioned workshop.

Digital Scholarship and Strengthening Regional Connectivity Tue, 18 Oct 2011 15:30:54 +0000

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THATCamp New England, MCN NE SIG: Museum Computer Network Northeast Special Interest Group, NERDS: Northeast Regional Digital Scholarship Group, and NERCOMP: The Northeast Regional Computing Program. In one way or another (unconference, forum, peer group, or program), these groups serve the northeastern regional community engaged in digital scholarship, technologies, humanities, projects, and practices in an effort to better facilitate pedagogy, academic research, and curation.

I propose an informal session to discuss how these groups might better interact/learn from each other and, by so doing; strengthen the northeastern regional digital scholarship community. A community relatively small in geographic terms, but very strong in resources and activity. Let’s make the Northeast more of a hub of digital scholarship than it already is!


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Local TV News use in digital humanities Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:56:10 +0000

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I’d like to discuss how large local tv news collections that are on-line might be used in the digital humanities.  There are several potential avenues of use.  The first is to use the large digital library collection of news materials to teach research skills and how to maneuver through large digital libraries of media.  We’d also like to know how best to present these large collections for the easiest access.  Another is looking at the collections as windows into our cultural history.  How does having a visual and audio record change the interpretation of history?  Third is looking at it through the lens of media literacy – what stories were covered, why, and how – from what perspective.  How can a researcher compare different coverage of the same event, or similar events in different locations?

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Give me your metadata, your text… Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:41:30 +0000

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your scribbled notes yearning to breath free…

the wonderful refuse of your scholarly process…

send these, the ephemeral, tempest-tost to me..

I lift my lamp beside the golden repository!

Scholars use archives. Scholars take notes. Scholars produce based on these archives and notes. How can the archivist and librarian make use of this process to enhance access to their materials? What tools are necessary for scholars to contribute to the descriptive processes of archivists and librarians? How can this be more of a give and take relationship, as opposed to the current situation where the archivist processes, makes available, and then the scholar makes use. How can we encourage a collaborative process that benefits both parties and makes use of open web technologies to benefit our larger audiences?

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Using video in the digital humanities Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:40:50 +0000

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This topic has a couple of different facets.  One is encouraging scholars to use video as primary source material in their research and work.  Discuss why this isn’t done more often and what we can do to help encourage it.  The other is the technical challenge of using video in digital humanities.  Is it not used because of the challenges of access and what can we do to overcome these challenges.  We should also expand the discussion into digital humanities classroom use for teaching, as oppose to just scholarly research.

Publishing with time-based media Tue, 18 Oct 2011 14:34:53 +0000

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I’m interested in scholars making use of media archives and multimedia sources. I’d like to explore new modes of publication and how digital humanists can embed/cite/integrate time-based media into their digital publications. Besides simple citation, what are some examples of scholarly works integrating external audio/video/games/flash into their products? How can the archives and content sources facilitate this use?

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Virtual Material Culture Tue, 18 Oct 2011 00:13:54 +0000

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I’m a Roman historian and would like to develop some pedagogy that would use technology to give students access to material culture.  Right now, I’m thinking about Roman coins, because the web-based resources are quite good, but in theory the issues relating to software tools, web-based content, and pedagogical genre (lab, game, mapping, etc.) would be the same for any humanities discipline in which material culture is a dimension of study.

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Helping Students Negotiate Private and Public Boundaries Online Tue, 18 Oct 2011 00:13:27 +0000

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The following topic might work best as a general discussion: The digital native’s difficulty with negotiating personal and professional boundaries.

Online, one of the few ways to maintain the distinction between our professional and private lives is to keep the personal offline altogether. All the protections offered to us are illusory. Anyone who wants access to our private information can access it with little effort if we put it online. But keeping our private interests offline deprives us of a broad and engaging network of like-minded individuals. At the same time, using the internet as a venue for expressing views and habits not conducive to our professional existence—leisure activities, political views, religious views, etc.—could potentially compromise one’s professional career.

Students today are reacting to this phenomenon is many ways. Some students are resistant to using technology they deem “personal” in an academic capacity. Others use social networking sites to forge professional connections while simultaneously using the same sites to forge personal connections, sometimes with disastrous results. This lack of negotiating personal and professional boundaries could have damaging consequences for our students when pursuing their careers.
Questions that could be addressed:

1. How are your students responding to use of popular technology in the classroom?

2. What role do/should we play in teaching students about successfully balancing their identities in multiple social frames, especially as the internet erodes these boundaries?

3. How do we negotiate these boundaries in the internet age?

Writing with DH Tools Mon, 17 Oct 2011 21:31:12 +0000

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I want to start off by saying that I’m very much looking forward to my first THATCamp, particularly given the range of interesting proposals so far and because I’m quite new to the digital humanities field and excited to learn about how others have used and benefited from its methods and tools.
I would be interested in a general discussion session on using digital humanities tools for the practice and teaching of scholarly writing. What digital resources have you used to enhance your own writing practices? What specific issues–whether scheduling, goal-setting, revising, sharing, etc–would you want to learn more about, implement, or even design?  What tools have you or would you like to introduce to student writers? What writing assignments have you developed using DH tools?


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From Projects to Program Mon, 17 Oct 2011 16:24:29 +0000

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Do you have a Digital Humanities Center on campus?  A major or certificate?  A course?  Or, as is more common, a collection of scattered projects that occur on an ad hoc basis, in different departments under different funding models, with very little continuity or memory of the past?

I’d like to talk about the process of moving from scattered, individual projects to a more fully supported (and supportive) DH program.  Has this process happened on your campus?  If not, what are the major obstacles?  If you do have an established center or program, how did you bring together campus support?  What were the pitfalls?  What would you do differently?

Is a formal DH center or program always a good idea?  Does creating a “center” also create boundaries in negative ways?  Does a having DH program/center/discipline start to shape the research question?  Is it best to keep DH inquiry on an ad hoc, agile basis?  (You can see that I’m full of questions!)

I see this as both a general discussion and a writing session: attendees could possibly leave with a concrete plan, suggested actions, or even a list of what not to do.

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Tools for scholars for preparation and publication of texts: LaTeX, BibTeX, MakeIndex. Mon, 17 Oct 2011 15:35:17 +0000

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Posted on behalf of John Burt

LaTeX is an open-source, free typesetting system for producing beautiful books. It is available for almost every operating system, and is a stable, mature product with a large user base. With it, you can make camera-ready pdf’s of books and theses, plus other documents of many kinds. It has too many features to name in a short description, and  in power it is closer to a desktop publishing system than to a word processor. BibTeX is a bibliography database management system designed to work with LaTeX. It is similar in power to Endnote and Zoho. MakeIndex is a utility for making complex, multi-level indexes (indices?). It is designed to work with LaTeX, but can also be used to organize an index you prepare from galleys.

Is a Simple, Straightforward Syllabus for “Intro to DH” Possible? Is it even desirable? Mon, 17 Oct 2011 12:39:44 +0000

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By now, there are dozens of courses that introduce students (undergrad & graduate) to the digital humanities, representing a wide variety of approaches, disciplines, and with different degrees of sophistication and technical prerequisite knowledge. Whereas even a couple of years ago there was little coordination or consensus, some broad definitions of the field seem to me to be coalescing now. I see potential in this emerging consensus for agreement on what skills, habits of mind, and essential content might need to be present in an introductory course. But I also sense that a canon creates boundaries–something against which DH defined itself to begin with.

I’m proposing a winter session course, “Intro to Digital Humanities” at my institution for January 2012. I’d be interested in a session that hammers out whether such a course should be idiosyncratic and purely exploratory, or whether we are at the point where we can agree on core readings/activities/competencies that would be a disservice to my students to omit. I’ll prepare a list of links to existing syllabi available online in advance of Saturday, and if we do this session I’d welcome a wide-ranging conversation about how to teach as well as do digital humanities. Speaking purely for myself, I find I’m better at following and applauding DH efforts than actually getting involved in them and I’m hoping this THATCamp will be a firecracker under my chair in my own work and in my classrooms.

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Digitizing Texts: Re-Presenting Time and Space Sun, 16 Oct 2011 21:01:14 +0000

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This could be a “General Discussion” session, a “Working Session,” or a little bit of both (see Session Genres). Basically, I want to talk and learn more about different ways of representing or re-presenting time and space in digital formats, whether in specific literary works, corpora, or other varities of texts (I myself study literary texts for the most part and, occasionally, more philosophical ones).

Tools such as Google Earth or SIMILE’s Timeline and Exhibit protocols make it easier and cheaper than ever to explore these possibilities, even for first-year grad students with no technical training, such as myself. These technologies may have their most obvious applications in teaching or in the classroom, but I would also like to consider what roles they could play in facilitating research and as forms of scholarly production.

Questions for discussion could include the following: 

  • How do we fit digital representations of time and space into our arguments about texts, or how do we construct new arguments around the data of a map or a timeline?
  • What sort of implicit arguments do activities such as mapping and timelining make about textuality, history, and traditional modes of scholarship focused on interpretation?
  • Are these sorts of activities accepted in your discipline or your department? What  venues and resources can support this type of work and demonstrate its value and legitimacy?
  • Do such projects effect the independence of scholarly production? Digital humanities has been praised for opening the doors to more collaborative research, but does technology also have a centralizing tendency, and likewise, how does a digital medium effect the content of humanities scholarship?
  • What projects are you working on? Given unlimited time and resources, what projects could you envision?

If people are interested, I also have two newly initiated personal projects for which I would love to get either feedback or some extra data-entry power: (1) using Google Earth to map allusions in Ezra Pound’s “Three Cantos” (read Canto I) and (2) making a timeline of the publication history of Victorian cultural criticism. These could serve as case studies for discussion or we could get down and dirty trying to actually translate texts into new temporal and spatial representations—I honestly have no idea what I’m doing so far!

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Data Visualization: From Discovery Tools to Visual Arguments Sun, 16 Oct 2011 20:30:19 +0000

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I would like to propose a session on data visualization.  How we do it (programs, techniques, etc.) and why we do it (data cleaning, discovery tools, visual arguments)?  The conversation will hopefully range from theories of information design (Edward Tufte/Ben Fry) to case studies brought by the participants.  What kind of data visualizations have you created or would like to create in the future?  What problems have you run into?

In the “let’s build something!” spirit of THATCamp, one product of the session could be expanding a Google doc created at THATCamp Prime 2011 for the session on “Best Practices for Structuring and Visualizing Research Data.”  The participants created a series of questions/considerations to raise with researchers before they went into the archive and began recording their data.  I would like to create a similar document that outlines how one goes about visualizing and cleaning data that was not stored in a standardized/visualization-friendly manner.

If this would be of interest to anyone else, the comment tool is your friend.

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“Training the Trainers” for DH Fri, 14 Oct 2011 22:28:27 +0000

I am interested in developing/learning about new (painless and fruitful) techniques regarding introducing and familiarizing librarians and archivists with Digital Humanities and Digital History resources in order to help them better inform and engage with both DH resistant and enthusiastic teaching faculty.  A “training the trainers” methodology.

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Propose a Session Fri, 14 Oct 2011 20:33:26 +0000

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Here is how THATCamp works. Other than the workshops, we don’t have anything planned—you’re the ones who do the planning. Over the next few days you can post your session ideas to the TCNE website. Also over the next few days, you should read other people’s proposals and comment on them if you wish. On Saturday morning, everyone will get to vote for the sessions you want to participate in, which will then become our schedule for the rest of the day.

Obviously this works better if more people propose sessions that they’ve put some thought into. Here’s what makes for a good session proposal:

  • It’s NOT a paper, or a talk, or a lecture, but an idea for a conversation.
  • It proposes a topic related to technology and humanities that a group of people can discuss in an hour or so.
  • And ideally, the session will produce something useful: a list of resources, or some hacked code, or a syllabus.

There are more ideas and guidelines on the THATCamp website.

So please visit the list of session proposals, then add yours with your login to WordPress.

Also, if you’re interested in giving a lightning presentation, sign up here.

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Best Practices and New Ideas for Open-Access Publications Fri, 14 Oct 2011 16:44:20 +0000

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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!

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Lightning Presentations (AKA Dork Shorts) Fri, 14 Oct 2011 15:45:05 +0000

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Dork shorts boardAre you working on an awesome digital humanities project? Are you using a great DH tool? Do you want people at THATCamp New England to know about it? Our lightning presentations (often called Dork Shorts) are your chance.

During our only plenary session on Saturday, October 22, we will have time for anyone who would like to give a very, very brief presentation of his or her project. Here are the rules:

  1. You get two (2) minutes. No exceptions. No extensions.
  2. First come, first served. We’ll let people present in the order that you sign up, first here on the website, and second on the morning of THATCamp.
  3. All you get is a web browser. No PowerPoint! If you sign up below with one URL, I’ll have it ready for you in advance; otherwise you’ll have to waste some of your 120 seconds. Pro tip: use

So if you want to do a lightning presentation, leave a comment with a link below. Have fun!

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Application Deadline Extended to September 16 Thu, 08 Sep 2011 03:05:18 +0000

For many institutions, the semester is just under way. To make sure everyone has a chance to apply, the organizers are extending the deadline for applying to THATCamp New England to September 16. Take advantage of the extension, and apply now! We look forward to seeing you at THATCamp.

Apply Now! Mon, 01 Aug 2011 17:14:38 +0000
Applications are now open for THATCamp New England. Please apply to come to the BootCamp and main unconference here. If you want to know more about the conference, see our call for participants.
We look forward to seeing you in October!
Image courtesy of Flick user David Hilowitz.
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THATCamp New England and NERCOMP Together Sat, 02 Jul 2011 15:06:55 +0000

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Your local THATCamp New England organizers have gotten together with the fine folks over at NERCOMP to create a partnership that we hope will be a big help to THATCamp.

First, let me explain the problem that THATCamp New England faces. The greatest strength of the regional THATCamps is that they’re lightweight. There is no bureaucracy. We don’t even have a bank account. Sounds ideal, right? It is, until you want to hold a second, or third, or tenth THATCamp New England. It becomes very difficult to transfer funds from one place to the next, and it becomes hard to maintain institutional continuity. In other words, the organizers have to build each new THATCamp New England from the ground up.

What if it were possible to keep the THATCamp New England organization lightweight, and have the advantages of long-term institutional stability, and get a pile of cash at the same time? Enter NERCOMP.

The NERCOMP officers have graciously drafted a memorandum of understanding with the THATCamp New England organizers. Its most important provisions are these:

  • The agreement will last for four years, beginning July 2011. Each year both parties will have the option to dissolve the partnership if they chose.
  • NERCOMP will act as THATCamp New England’s banker, accepting donations and disbursing funds on its behalf.
  • THATCamp New England and NERCOMP will cooperate in organizing shared events that benefit both of their constituencies.
  • NERCOMP will donate $3,000 per year to THATCamp New England operating expenses.

This partnership has the approval of the THATCamp New England organizers and we expect the approval of the NERCOMP board soon. We also have the blessing of CHNM via Amanda French. We plan to sign the memorandum in a couple of weeks. But since THATCamp New England is a community-organized event, we want to give you a chance to comment publicly. Leave your thoughts below by Friday, July 9. After that, we’ll feel free to put the agreement into place.

THATCamp New England 2011 Coming to Brandeis University, October 22 Tue, 07 Jun 2011 18:05:45 +0000

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Mandel Center for the Humanities, Brandeis University

Brandeis University is pleased to announce that it will host the second annual THATCamp New England, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Department of History, Mandel Center for the Humanities, Library and Technology Services, and Office of the Provost. Here is the basic information about the 2011 THATCamp New England.

When: The main THATCamp will be held all day on Saturday, October 22, 2011. A BootCamp will be held the Friday afternoon before, October 21. See the schedule for more information.

Where: The conference will be held at Brandeis’s Mandel Center for the Humanities. Brandeis University is located in Waltham, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. See the location and directions page for more information.

More information will follow soon.