Session Ideas – THATCamp Texas 2011 The Humanities and Technology Camp Thu, 17 Jan 2013 22:39:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 eBooks Fri, 15 Apr 2011 21:21:12 +0000

Has the time already come to compare what’s happening in the publishing world today to what happened to the music industry a few years ago? I would like to discuss ebooks, publishing, bookstores, digital divide, access to technology, libraries, education etc.

Mobile Learning Fri, 15 Apr 2011 21:19:10 +0000

Greetings! My name is Saima Kadir and I am a librarian at Houston Public Library. My official title is Emerging Technologies manager which means that I get o explore and sometimes implement new technologies as they pertain to libraries and its users. I am interested in mobile devices and its ubiquity. Statistics show that more people now access the Internet via a mobile device. What does that mean in K-12 and higher education environments? Can mobile apps be used for learning and instruction? Is is an extension of online learning? What does mobile usage say about digital divide in 2011?

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Too much is just enough: Finding clarity through re-presentation and designing for information overload Fri, 15 Apr 2011 01:24:15 +0000

Technology has a way of overcoming scarcity: while books have helped us keep more information than we could remember, photos have shown us sights we couldn’t see with our own eyes, and movies have taken us to places we could never travel, the internet expands upon these to let us see and hear more things in more ways at more places and times than we ever could before.

With an abundance of quality data, stories, articles, maps, movies and more now online, how are people taking advantage of all the quality resources readily available? What tools are you using to organize all of this amazing information? How can someone use multiple representations of information (text, charts, video, etc.) to target different student interests, abilities, and learning styles beyond course content, such as with grading or assignment descriptions?

I am interested in discussing what strategies, technologies, and instructional approaches people have adopted to embrace excess and help students broaden their experience or deepen their understanding beyond what can be discussed or graded in class.


Using GIS to Visualize Historical and Cultural Change Thu, 14 Apr 2011 16:14:40 +0000

I am interested in discussing how GIS mapping technology can help visualize cultural transformation in specific communities. Ideally, I would be able to show this change at the local and international border levels. My dissertation research compares the development of Mexican American transborder communities on the Texas-Mexico border with Franco American transborder communities on the Maine-Canada border. I focus on intermarriage and language practices at the turn of the twentieth century. I have some experience using GIS mapping technology in the classroom through creating interactive mapping activities (U.S. Southwest module of and in conjunction with service-learning projects. Most recently, I have used it to create maps to illustrate my research.


I am currently working with census data and hope to learn new ways of visualizing information from a variety of sources:

* I am using census data to track intermarriage based on nativity, how language practices changed over time, and gender differences in those practices. At this point, my maps reflect the locations of towns, the growth of railroads, and act as backdrops for pie charts.

* I would like to learn new ways to use GIS to visualize changes in language practices (who spoke French where and when) using census data, the distribution of French/Spanish language newspapers, photographs and/or distribution of public signage, and the impact of school language policies

* I would like to find new ways to visualize intermarriage practices, if possible.

* I am also intensely curious about possible ways to visualize migration and settlement patterns. On the international level, I would like to show changes in border crossing traffic in response to stricter immigration policies and border enforcement. This could include points where border crossing stations or international bridges appeared, and hopefully more. At the city level, I would like to see how the ethnic makeup of town neighborhoods and rural areas may have changed. I’ve seen where later twentieth century census data can be mapped to a detailed local level. I’d like to do the same with data from the 1860s to 1930s – and still hopefully be able to finish my dissertation before the turn of the next century.


These are some of my initial ideas and I am completely open to suggestions. I look forward to discussing your ideas and projects. Thank you.


Yay! Crowdsourcing! Tue, 12 Apr 2011 18:59:31 +0000

Q: How many digital humanists does it take to change a lightbulb?  A: Yay! Crowdsourcing!  (Melissa Terras via Bethany Nowviskie)

Several THATCampers have added comments to my session proposal mentioning their interest in a session on crowdsourcing.  I’d like to promote that conversation to its own session idea.

What kinds of things could a crowdsourcing session cover?  Some options include a wide-ranging, unstructured discussion, a brain-storming session on how to integrate crowdsourcing into specific proposals, or perhaps a review and brief demo of successful crowdsourcing projects.  We might end up with a mix, as I’ve attended some very successful sessions that had heterogeneous formats.

What are your ideas?

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DH Commons Tue, 12 Apr 2011 17:23:09 +0000

I’ve been working with a group of digital humanists from a variety of institutional types who are seeking to break down silos between large and small institutions in the world of digital humanities.  We are especially interested in how we can can help the isolated digital humanist connect with the rest of the community.

DHCommons seeks to ameliorate the isolation of digital humanists at colleges and universities without the institutional infrastructure to support digital scholarship. At a number of research institutions, digital humanities centers reduce isolation by providing technology, expertise, and mentoring to scholars. Such resources, however, are not available to many scholars, especially at smaller institutions. Lone digital humanists must independently (and repeatedly) argue for the value of their work. Their disconnection prevents them from learning about standards, resources, and ongoing projects, so that their work may not inter-operate with other projects or may reduplicate efforts. To address these challenges, DHCommons will build an inter-institutional infrastructure for digital humanities collaboration through several related innovations:
  • A new hub at will help digital humanists discover and contact potential collaborators: to find and join projects.
  • Microgrants to encourage scholars to develop curriculum in conjunction with existing projects, travel to partner digital humanities centers for training or project mentoring, etc.
  • Expertise sharing among schools without digital humanities infrastructure
Groups like CenterNet are helping by connecting centers, and THATCamps certainly help isolated digital humanists build regional ties.  DHCommons hopes to complement these efforts.  We envision a dual audience, both identified and potential digital humanists.
As we develop this idea, we are seeking the following input:
  • How does the technology and human infrastructure relate to one another?
  • Do you know of failed experiments with similar projects? (or successful ones?)
  • How do you compel and encourage participation?
  • How do we launch such a thing?
  • What would be most useful for you?
  • One idea we had was using microgrants to encourage development of curricular modules, e.g., student reviews of Tools in the DiRT wiki (which I proposed as another session)
  • What elements would the technology tool need, e.g., profile lists the tools they use, projects looking for collaboraters,etc.?
  • With what resources or hubs should this integrate, e.g., DHAnswers, etc.?
  • What kind of help would you want from such an effort?
  • What questions are we not asking?
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Student-Generated DH Tool Reviews Tue, 12 Apr 2011 17:03:55 +0000

Last month at the TILTS symposium at the University of Texas, the twitter stream generated some discussion around the need for tool reviews, e.g., in the Digital Research Tools (DiRT) wiki.  One suggestion was to incorporate developing reviews into coursework.  I’d be interested in organizing a session that figured out how to do that.  Questions to consider include:

  • What level of student? Graduate? Undergraduate?
  • Are there criteria or templates for a good review?  For example, what projects use this tool? Can we cross-reference it with other resources, e.g., DHAnswers.
  • What methods or process could we establish to help reviewers?
  • How could we turn a review into an individual or group assignment? How do we scaffold this task?
  • Can we prioritize tools to cover?

This idea is connected with another project in which I’ve been involved, DHCommons which seeks to help isolated digital humanists.  It also may connects with some other sessions that I’ve seen proposed, e.g.,


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E-Books in the Humanities Mon, 11 Apr 2011 21:36:55 +0000

As a collection development/management librarian, I’m very interested in how faculty and students think about library resources, and these days I spend a lot of time wondering and worrying about e-books.  In particular, I’m curious to talk to other THAT-campers about attitudes toward e-books (specifically scholarly monographs) within various humanities disciplines.  A few questions we might consider:

  • How could the e-book format change scholarship in the humanities (both in terms of the kind of work you produce and the way you use the work of others)?
  • Are there significant differences in attitudes toward e-books between humanities professors and humanities students?
  • What features or options would make e-books more appealing to humanities scholars and students?
  • Is the stereotype of humanities faculty as e-book-averse true?  If so, what are the reasons behind the aversion?
  • Do existing e-book business models have the potential to support humanities research and education?  What other models might work better?
  • How can librarians and faculty have a productive conversation about e- books in the humanities?

I’ve enjoyed reading the creative and thoughtful proposals that have been put forth so far and look forward to meeting everyone on Saturday!

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Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Digital Humanities Mon, 11 Apr 2011 21:34:24 +0000

I’d be interested in chatting about how librarians and archivists and museum professionals can work with digital humanities efforts. Could we provide an embedded librarian for your course project? Help coordinate digitization and metadata creation? Provide guidance regarding copyright? Assist with long-term digital preservation/curation?

What are we (libs/archs/museums) doing well? How could we be doing better? How can we be better partners in research? Do scholars want a partnership with libs/archs/museums or some other relationship?

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DH Pedagogy Mon, 11 Apr 2011 15:44:20 +0000

I’d be interested in talking about DH and Pedagogy – the “training up” of the next generation of DH scholars.  At UT Dallas, we have a project in the works in which we will develop tools for sharing, rating, collecting, and evaluating readings and assignments for use in DH and New Media classrooms.  The goal of the project is 1) to serve as a resource for people who teach DH–users will be able to search the DB and receive suggestions about materials on the “you may also like” model, 2) to create a persistent archive of essential DH texts and tools, and 3) attempt to bring some of the focus of DH, which has largely emphasized research, to pedagogy (see Kathy Harris’ Blog)
So, some of the things I’d like to talk about:

  • What tools do people use in the classroom?
  • What “texts” are essential to understanding the history and future of DH?
  • What are the essential skills we should be teaching people interested in digital humanities?
  • What are the resources people use for teaching, for choosing readings, for designing projects?
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Ethical Research Practices and Emerging Pedagogy Mon, 11 Apr 2011 14:22:39 +0000

I have a couple of interests that I would like to see discussed during THATCamp Texas.  I’m interested in looking at ethical research practices in digital humanities scholarship.  What does it mean that current practices are influenced by “mapping” and “data mining” practices that, while beneficial to the current modes of research practices, are instituting the same colonial structures of knowledge production that come with western modes of literary studies?  How do we negotiate the necessity of our research without creating disciplinary divides?  How can we challenge the current modes of thought that position digitisation as a process of manifest destiny (the we need to do it first, frontier rhetoric)?  Though these questions seem a bit “out there” I believe these will be conversations that will need to take place as we start to think about the culture of digital humanities research, something Alan Liu has discussed recently at the TILTS 2011 symposium.


I’m also interested in thinking about bringing digital humanities research, ethically of course, into the composition classroom.  How can we get students to work and understand texts in the same ways that we do?  What are the benefits, the downsides, and how do we do it ethically without making them laborers?  What are some of the tools that can help them develop the necessary literacies that are required of these composition classrooms?

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Increasing Proprietary Database Literacy Fri, 08 Apr 2011 14:43:10 +0000

Looking forward to meeting you all! The posts so far have been really exciting.

One of my ideas for a session is similar to Matt King’s post about procedural literacy and Jessica Murphy’s post about theorizing digital archives for graduate students. As I’ve just explained in a longer post on my own blog, many historians in my own field–the history of the early republic–have begun to use proprietary databases like those published by ProQuest and Readex as crucial parts of their research process. The evidence of this is beginning to trickle down into the scholarship published in leading journals in our field; my longer post gives a few examples.

While I am personally interested in how methods like text mining and keyword searching might be deployed in my own research, I also think the increasing use of such methods will require all historians (and I would extend this to humanists generally) to keep up to speed with differences between major proprietary databases. To evaluate, and also to write, the kinds of articles that are appearing now, I think we need an easier way to see, at a glance, what the default search conventions are in different databases (e.g., whether the text layers in these databases are created with OCR or other means, how often databases are changed, how big the databases are, and so on). What I’m imagining is something like a SHERPA/Romeo site that serves as an accessible and human-readable repository of information about proprietary databases used in humanities research.

The questions I have related to this idea are: Do similar sites already exist? Would such a site be useful? What sort of information should it include to be useful? What features (search, sorting) would make the site most useful? What costs and problems would be involved in building such a site? Would it be best housed in existing professional organizations, or cross-disciplinary? Should it be wiki-like, or maintained by a few authors? What funding would be required, and where might it be found? Could scripts or RSS feeds be used to keep the information up to date? What legal issues would be involved? Are there other, better means of helping humanities scholars (even those, like myself, who are on the margins of or new to “digital humanities” proper) abreast of relevant information about proprietary databases?

Alternatively, could many of the same needs be met by developing a “manual of style” for humanists who wish to cite the results of keyword searches in proprietary databases? How rich should the information included in such citations be and how should it be formatted? Could we collectively draw up such a “style manual” for keyword searching at THATCamp?

My other idea for a session deals more with my teaching interests. I’m currently working with undergraduate students in my Civil War history class to build an Omeka site and would be interested in learning from others about their experiences with digital project management in a classroom setting.

What helps you be productive? Thu, 07 Apr 2011 02:49:18 +0000

I’d be interested in facilitating a discussion on personal productivity for those working on DH projects. We could talk about challenges and share tips and solutions. For instance, possible topics might include:

  • how do you manage your time between DH projects and other professional responsibilities?
  • what tools or methods have been helpful to you in organizing your personal workflow?
  • what jumpstarts your creativity?
  • what tasks do you procrastinate on?
  • if you don’t have a large team (or any team at all), how do you get everything done?
  • what do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?


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Procedural Rhetorics, Procedural Literacy Wed, 06 Apr 2011 22:04:29 +0000

Procedural literacy typically involves a critical attention to the computational processes at work in digital artifacts. Our understanding of a web page shifts if we consider it not only as a multimedia and hyperlinked text but also as a rendering of code that normally remains hidden from us. Ian Bogost argues that procedural literacy need not be limited to computational processes, that this mode of literacy encourages a more general capacity for mapping and reconfiguring systems of processes, logics, and rules. This expansive sense of procedural literacy resonates with James Paul Gee’s investment in “active learning,” an approach to education that emphasizes social practices rather than content as a static entity. Both procedural literacy and active learning highlight the importance of engaging texts (broadly defined) as embodiments of dynamic processes and configurations. Procedural rhetoric more specifically refers to the way that a text can be expressive and persuasive with reference to the procedures it embodies (Bogost privileges video games as examples of procedural rhetorics).

I would be interested in a session that considers the possibilities for teaching procedural literacy and procedural rhetorics as well as incorporating them into scholarly work. Areas of inquiry like critical code studies and video game studies would be one possible focus, but I imagine that the session could be more inclusive and expansive. For example, “digging into data” projects seem to require procedural literacy to establish algorithms through which to read texts. An algorithm functions as a sort of procedural argument: “this is a valid and helpful way to reconfigure these texts.” A recent article argued for reading David Simon’s The Wire as a sort of video game, a show deeply invested in attending to the logics and processes defining Baltimore’s drug trade and various institutional responses to it. In this sense, procedurality might be a useful concept for areas of inquiry that take us outside of the digital humanities proper.

My own interests have led me to focus on the intersection of rhetoric and video games (see the Digital Writing and Research Lab’s Rhetorical Peaks project), but I would be very interested to hear how others incorporate notions of procedurality, procedural literacy, and procedural rhetoric into their research and pedagogy.

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GIS and the most profitable slave colony in the 18th century Caribbean Mon, 04 Apr 2011 15:43:38 +0000

I have two related projects — here’s the first one.

France's most profitable plantation colony in the 1700s

I want to propose a help-a-thon for a project I’m calling Virtual Saint-Domingue. Saint-Domingue was the French colony that became Haiti in 1804 after the only successful slave uprising in world history. In the second half of the 1700s French administrators compiled an extraordinary collection of census data for the colony. About a dozen censuses recorded data for each of approximately 30 colonial parishes, giving numbers of white colonists, free people of color, enslaved workers and breaking these categories down by age and gender.  There are also parish-level tallies for commodity and food crops, munitions, weapons and animals. I’ve already made substantial progress towards this project, first on proprietary software (ArcGIS) and now on open source QGIS. I can already create choropleth maps of the census data for Saint-Domingue in ArcGIS and I’m working on reaching the same level in QGIS.

My goal is  to put this data on the web in a dynamic format, so that users can chose the different formats themselves and get a display on the screen. This is an amazing source for understanding what was happening on the eve of the world’s only successful slave uprising. It could also be very useful for writing an environmental history of Haiti, something that is sorely lacking.  I want something that would be accessible to undergraduates as well as researchers. So I also want to make the data available in spreadsheet form so that other researchers can check it.

Finally I’d like to leave the door open to add other kinds of data to this project. For example, I’d like it to be open so that colleagues could add coordinates of plantation ruins in modern-day Haiti,  overlays of historical maps that show locations of plantations, irrigation works, plantation illustrations, other material. There is also an amazing textual source — a highly detailed parish-by-parish overview of the colony written in 1788 just before the Haitian Revolution. A colleague has a spreadsheet showing slave populations on hundreds of individual plantations. I’d like to be able to integrate that as well in the future, if he is interested. And there is also the slave trade data from

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The Difference of Poetry Sun, 03 Apr 2011 16:09:58 +0000

I’m currently working on a project that applies different kinds of digital analysis to a large corpus of nineteenth-century poetry texts.  One of the things I’m exploring are the strengths and limitations for poetic analysis of existing tools that are typically used with prose texts.  For instance, word frequency and word clustering can tell us certain things about poetic texts as they do with prose texts.  But there are other features of poetic language (like rhyme, line length, and punctuation) that are meaningful and thus require different tools.

I’d love the chance to brainstorm some new tools or uses of existing ones for analyzing the language of poetry with people who have different expertise than I do.  I’d also be interested in talking with other people currently working with poetic texts in any kind of DH project to share ideas, methods, problems, and so forth.

Memes Fri, 01 Apr 2011 16:32:10 +0000

It would be interesting to hear more about memes. Unlike Adorno and other cultural theorists who are critical of popular culture as being comprised of commercial products to placate the masses, there are other theorists (for example, Douglas Kellner) who believe that individuals can play with and comment upon products of pop culture. I think I would argue that memes do just that. Although fleeting ephemera, they give voice to those who rearrange, redo, or literally comment upon the original image, song, or video. The question remains though since they are temporary and easily forgettable, can they ever have a chance of enacting any real political change?

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Let your data be used. Easy API creation using object-relation mapping and RESTlets. Fri, 01 Apr 2011 09:00:44 +0000

One of the great aspects of Web 2.0 is the availability of numerous APIs that are attracting both professional and hobbyist programmers to build cool new applications. The mashup has been borrowed from Hip-Hop culture and re-envisioned as a combination services and data from multiple locations online. Do you care about the modern views by location on 17th century poetry? You can cross-reference your collection of poems with the one of the news archive APIs and visualize the results on a Google Map.

The flip side to this is that each of these APIs started with a person who saw the benefit to letting data be available and re-usable. API creation is a daunting task, but it can be made easier. The Walden’s Paths project at Texas A&M, which I am currently the lead designer on, has found that by coupling modern database access techniques and the RESTlet library for API creation, we can easily produce APIs that can be successfully used for creation of interesting interfaces.

I propose a hack-a-thon where we would discuss as a group API design, issues to be concerned of when exposing your data, and then put together simple APIs that would allow easy data access. This might be even more useful when combined with others who have knowledge of creating mashups so we can quickly see what an open-API allows us.

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GIS: Geography as Digital Art Wed, 30 Mar 2011 02:34:07 +0000

Learning to make maps with GIS is  the most profound way to learn geography. Learning by doing. Learning by making.

Unlike pre-packaged images, creating a map with GIS is also like designing artwork in Photoshop or Illustrator. You control the pen, the color, the thickness of the line.  You chose to highlight the items you want people to see and fade the less important ones.

And if you like math, you can compare areas or geographic shapes, measure distances, calculate angles.




Digital texts, online identity and political blogging Tue, 29 Mar 2011 22:19:29 +0000

English Professor Jerome McGann, of the University of Virginia, writes, “Electronic scholarship and editing necessarily draw their primary models from long-standing philological practices in language study, textual scholarship, and bibliography. As we know, these three core disciplines preserve but a ghostly presence in most of our Ph.D. programs.” Do McGann’s comments take on a special relevance now that a judge has limited the ambitious and commercial aspects of Google Books? What should be the future of electronic libraries and who should edit the texts in their new format? (I write more thoroughly about the issue here).

How can students and faculty create productive online identities? How should online instructors model for students as they create an online identity? What constitutes too much information in the world of Facebook and iPhones?

As a longtime progressive political blogger, I wonder about these questions: What is the future of blogging as more and more words and multi-media artifacts crowd the information highway? Can open source platforms, such as Word Press and Drupal, keep current and relevant against the continuing commercialization of the Internet? What about archival systems when it comes to saving a written political history without a hard copy?

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Reproduction, Technology, Narrative Tue, 29 Mar 2011 16:23:59 +0000

I would like to discuss research or teaching people are doing in the area of reproductive technology and its representations in popular culture and online. The community of Assisted Reproduction Therapy (ART) bloggers is huge and growing, as is online activism surrounding reproductive choice issues. Stories about surrogacy and in vitro fertilization like the New York Times’ recent Meet the Twiblings continue to inspire strong reactions. What relationship does/should exist between these narratives and digital humanities? How does reproductive technology (now including cloning, stem cell research, etc.) complicate how we discuss “technology” and “reproduction”? Can texts about reproductive technology and ART be used productively in the classroom?
I have written a little about class issues in the ART blogosphere and have taught a class on the Literature of Birth Control in which we discussed connections between technology and reproduction, so I have a few thoughts, but I’m mostly interested in getting together with others to brainstorm approaches, texts, and teaching ideas for getting at this ideological/mechanical/political/biological nexus.

Literature and GIS Mon, 28 Mar 2011 23:44:11 +0000

My ideal session would be one in which participants discuss their experiences with GIS and literature projects. My contribution would be the presentation of a current project which uses Google maps to mark locations and routes of characters in James Joyce’s Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. Specific topics the session might explore would be how best to present the relationship between original texts and the visualization of geographic spaces, how best to represent patterns between texts while also thoroughly treating each individual text, the potentials and limitations of data migration when using Google maps for such projects, and the benefits and drawbacks of open collaboration on web-based projects.

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Text Tools for Grad Students Sat, 26 Mar 2011 21:27:04 +0000

Here’s my second session idea: I’m a member of the Linguistic Society of America’s Technology Advisory Committee, which is putting together a panel on tech tools for linguistics students. I’d love to learn as much as I can on what’s currently being used in working with text data so that I can spread the word at the next LSA meeting in January. I’m seeking ways to encourage more use of relevant tech tools by grad students: Especially, what do current gatherers of language materials need to know how to do? What tools are being taught in other programs? Are they fit into existing courses or set up as separate informatics type classes or workshops? Aside from social networking, linguists sometimes use tools specifically for dealing with text files, including concordancing tools like AntConc, database tools like Flex, and some UNIX scripting, maybe in perl or R.  What others are key in your discipline? (This may be the hands-on aspect of the more conceptual framework raised by Jessica’s session suggestion.)

Compiling a contemporary corpus Sat, 26 Mar 2011 21:26:16 +0000

There are two topics I’m interested in right now. Here’s my first session idea: I’m compiling a corpus of both old and new media vernacular texts as part of a semantic/anthropological examination of American beliefs about health. (It’s called CADOH—Corpus of American Discourses on Health). I’ve been using the pilot stages of it to look at the distribution of terms such as fat, stress, cold, and oil.  I’m envisioning its final form as a mix of vernacular discussions. While good corpora exist already for prose from contemporary magazine, newspaper, and fiction (e.g. COCA), I’m aiming to include more transient conversations about health, including blog posts and their comments, listervs, online forums and wikis, letters to the editor, and radio transcripts. So I’m proposing a helpathon in order to hear from others who have dealt with compiling current materials. The bootcamp sessions on the text encoding initiative, managing digital projects, and using regular expressions should all be helpful. But I’d also like to compare information on ways to gather, annotate, and share text samples. In using xml to annotate the metadata, what have others have found most useful– hand coding? Oxygen? Other resources? To make it useful for others, I’ll need to get copyright access for sharing. What ways to request copyrighted info have been helpful? (besides a big pot of money.) And, once the copyright issues are dealt with, what’s the best way to make the corpus accessible? Would this be a good Omeka project?

Theorizing Digital Archives for Graduate Students Sat, 26 Mar 2011 15:35:08 +0000

In Fall 2011, I will be teaching a graduate class on digital archives of medieval and early modern materials (description: What I want to deal with in this class is not only the “traditional” research that can be conducted using the abundance of digital archives that are out there, but also the interpretive and theoretical moves that must be made on the development side before the archive even becomes available. I want to help my students think critically about how everything they encounter (printed books included) is mediated in some way. The conversation about how to talk to students about these issues of interpretation and theory in digitization work could be a very fruitful one. How does one explain TEI, for example, to someone who sees herself primarily as a reader of printed books? Or how does one get a student to ask questions about a “repository” he’s been using for years?

Using the Government to Grow Digital Humanities Sat, 26 Mar 2011 13:02:43 +0000

I would like to propose a session on how the U.S. government can help  create programs that grow the digital humanities environment.  Currently there are publicly funded organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), however  the implementation of more organizations and programs  that specifically focus on digital humanities could enable others to discover and learn about  more about the field. Additionally this could lead to research and studies that  enable us to find new  innovative ways of using digital humanities within different industries.

Right  now everyone is pretty much aware that there are many unresolved  ongoing issues regarding the federal budget, however if we properly invest I believe that we will definitely receive a great return on investment. I  also suppose  that the bigger question is how to manage the programs to make sure that they are not only able  sustain, but also effectively utilizing the taxpayers dollars.

I may not have all  the answers to the questions I have proposed,  but i do have a few suggestions to bring to the table. I believe that we all will have something to contribute if this session is implemented and I’m looking forward to meeting  and discussing these issues with all of you.


Social Media for the Academic Institution Fri, 25 Mar 2011 14:32:05 +0000

It is more or less clear the power that various social media platforms have for individual to individual interaction but how can a university or a department build a similar connection? The session I propose regards how different institutions – libraries, academics departments, universities – can use various social media platforms to engage their respective audiences.

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Bringing DH to the LAM World Thu, 24 Mar 2011 16:32:18 +0000

I would like to propose a session about how people are forging fruitful partnerships between DH (digital humanities) initiatives and the world of LAMs (libraries, archives, and museums).

In my own experiences in the LAM world, I have witnessed many opportunities for symbiotic partnerships between the two go unexplored.  At museums in particular, many important cultural heritage collections remain hidden, due to lack of technological infrastructure, as well as fears about treading into new policy territory, exhausting resources, transgressing museum traditions, or ceding control of collections by making information available online.

Many museum collections are cultural heritage treasure troves and could become incredibly powerful scholarly resources if combined with DH tools and strategies like linked data and information visualization.  Additionally, museum professionals have great expertise to offer in the way of understanding and serving users, as well as organizing and presenting visual information. There exists a growing contingent of technology-friendly professionals within the greater museum community, but many of them work for larger, more generously funded institutions like the Smithsonian, or they are working on finite, grant-funded projects. At museum conferences, too many of the conversations focus on “making the case” for broader technology implementation to policy-makers, as opposed to actually implementing powerful digital collections solutions.

If LAMs were more routinely and directly engaged with the DH community, and more dialogue focused on the goal of sharing resources and combining available and developing DH tools with long-standing LAM knowledge, expertise, and traditions, I sense that both communities of practice would be benefited.

I would love to hear about other people’s experiences working at the intersection of DH and LAM practices, and to gain new insights into how to bring the two closer together.

Looking forward to meeting you all!

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Identifying and Motivating Citizen X-ists Tue, 22 Mar 2011 02:20:46 +0000

I’ve got several session ideas rattling around my head.  I doubt I could talk about any of them for more than 20 minutes, but if one of them fits well with another THATCamper’s interests, perhaps we can put a session together.

The last year or so has seen a lot of buzz about Citizen Scientists, Citizen Archivists, and many yet-unlabeled communities of people who volunteer their Serious Leisure time collaborating with institutions and each other to produce and enhance scholarship.  Institutions are becoming interested in engaging that public via their own on-line presences and harnessing public enthusiasm to perform costly tasks, spread the word about the institution, and enhance their understanding of their own collections.  Less well understood is the difficulty of finding those passionate volunteers and the nuances of keeping volunteers motivated.

I’ve been blogging about crowd-sourcing within my own niche (manuscript transcription) for a few years, and one of the subjects I’ve tracked is the varying assumptions about volunteer motivation built into different tools. Some applications (Digitalkoot) rely entirely on game-like features as incentives, while others (uScript, VeleHanden) enforce a rigid accounting scheme.  There is a real trade-off between these extrinsic motivations and the intrinsic forces that keep volunteers participating in projects like Wikisource or Van Papier Naar Digitaal, and project managers run the risk of de-motivating their volunteers.  Very few projects (OldWeather and USGS’s Bird Phenology Program among them) have balanced these well, but those have seen amazing results.

As a software developer my focus has been on the features of a web application, but finding volunteer communities to use the applications is equally important.  I’ve got a few ideas about what makes a successful on-line volunteer project but I’d love to hear from people from different backgrounds who have more experience in both on-line and real-world outreach.

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Combining Text-Mining and Visualization Thu, 17 Mar 2011 17:33:51 +0000

I’d like to propose a session on getting the most out of text-mining historical documents through visualizations.  There has been a lot of attention recently lavished (rightfully, for the most part) on Google’s n-gram tool and the recent Science article.  And text-mining has been gaining a lot of attention from humanists, particularly as easily adopted new tools and programs become available.

I’m working on two big projects that try to extract meaningful patterns from large collections (newspapers in one, transcribed manuscripts in another) and then make sense of those patterns through visualizations.  Most of this happens in the form of mapping (geography and time being the two most common threads in these sources), but also in other forms of graphing and visualizations (word clouds, for instance).

A major challenge, it seems to me, is that there is not a widely understood common vocabulary for how to visualize large-scale language patterns.  How, for example, do you visualize the most commonly used words in a particular historical newspaper as they spread out across both time and space simultaneously?

We’ve been experimenting with that in our projects, but I’d like to hash this issue out with folks working on similar (or not so similar!) problems.

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