THATCamp brings scholars, professors to Storrs
Published: Sunday, October 20, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 20, 2013 23:10
Last Saturday, scholars, professors and students from throughout New England took part in UConn’s first official THATCamp. The Humanities and Technologies Camp, or THATCamp for short, has seen it’s fourth successful year as a new way to conduct scholarly meetings and lectures.
The event began last Friday with a keynote speech by Dan Cohen, Founding Executive Director of the Digital Public Library of America and one of the creators of THATCamp. However, the actual “unconference” portion of the event took place the following Saturday.
The “unconference” is a unique aspect of THATCamp that separates it from a typical scholarly lecture. The process begins with some preliminary ideas for discussions, but discussion ideas can be endorsed the day of as well. Those ideas are written on sticky notes and displayed on windows, and the “campers,” or attendees of the event, can vote on what discussions they would like to see held that day.
“Everyone here is already part of a hierarchical organization.” said Paul Lyzun, media producer and facilitator of THATCamp New England. “THATCamp is more democratic in that you can choose what you want to discuss that day, and how you discuss it.”
THATCamp is like a real summer camp, but instead of campers, counselors and canoeing there are scholars, discussion facilitators and Encoding TEI. The campers sat in circles, the light of everyones tablet and laptop replacing the bonfire, while the facilitator of the discussion went around the circle asking what they wanted to learn of the specific subject.
“The traditional model has gotten to the point that some people who do well in that environment think that they’re the ones moving knowledge forward, and they’re pulling the audience along with them,” said Trip Kirkpatrick, a participant and facilitator of discussions. “At THATCamp, the experience is that anybody facilitating sees the group as moving forward as a whole.”
A range of topics were explored at this year’s THATCamp, which combined aspects of humanities and technology. For example, Recreating the Irreproducible concerns work across various multimedia to recreate how a story is told. More technical THATCamp discussions, such as Encoding TEI, focus on real applications of coding to help professionals create Wordpress websites, or preserve digital media in online campus libraries.
The “unconferences” culminated with the Maker’s Challenge. Participants have two minutes to present work they’ve completed over the two day period at THATCamp. The audience, all of which had open laptops browsing the THATCamp New England Wordpress website, voted immediately after the projects were demonstrated, and the winners were rewarded amazon gift cards. These projects can be found at THATCamp’s website.
The UConn THATCamp attracted over 80 participants from schools all over New England including professionals from Harvard and Yale. The success of UConn’s THATCamp provides hope of subsequent New England THATCamp events, however, as of this publication, there is no confirmed host.