I spent the last two days at THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) http://chnm2013.thatcamp.org/. This weekend’s event was held at George Mason University, where I received my MA degree, and since GMU is the home of the Center for History and New Media, I experienced THATCamp Prime.
What is THATCamp? Well I am not sure I know and I’m sure those who run the program know for sure either because THATCamp is a very free form (or should we say open source) event. This is not a slight at the organizers, because it was an informative weekend, but the THATCamp schedule is made by the attendees, or “campers.” Known as an unconference, the campers submit ideas in the weeks leading up to THATCamp such as workshops, lectures, etc. Once everyone arrives, the campers vote on which events they like best and those with the most votes get a time slot for their topic. It was a unique democratic way to run conference compared with the SOP usually followed by academic conferences.
Going into THATCamp, I wasn’t not sure what to expect. I have this average, unread blog/personal website, and no real website building or coding experience. I wasn’t necessarily looking to learn to write code but I wanted to learn how to create a good digital history website. I can say that I definitely learned how to do that and much more – in fact its overwhelming and invigorating at the same time.
While I attended several good sessions, I found the dork shorts and the introduction to Omeka (http://www.omeka.net/) the most useful for my purposes, of course there were many others I wanted to attended but schedule conflicts abound. The dork shorts were a fun way for people to briefly introduce digital humanities projects that they have been working on and give campers a way to introduce their projects to a new group. These offered me a way to see what people are doing in digital humanities. The Omeka session I attended was for beginners, and I found it really helpful. Since Omeka, somewhat like wordpress, comes with a format and you should ply in information, it showed me ways that that historians, museums and libraries can quickly and easily display the information they have.
There are not only sessions to go to and things to learn but you also get the opportunity to meet smart individuals who are more than willing to help. Many of these people have been involved in digital humanities or the THATCamp for years and they really want more humanists and social scientists to get involved too. So ultimately, if you “code curious” and interested in the digital humanities find a THATCamp near you at http://thatcamp.org/ and get involved. I didn’t meet anyone who regretted it.