Archive for the ‘Session Proposals’ Category

  • A couple of proposals


    Howdy, all. I’m Erin White, Web Systems Librarian at VCU Libraries in lovely Richmond, VA. I’m new to DH and this is my first THATcamp! So I am looking forward to meeting everyone and talking with you about your work.

    I have had a hard time deciding what to propose here, so I am cheating and throwing out multiple proposals.

    • Viewshare hackathon – inspired by the Neatline workshop on Friday. Viewshare is a web-based digital collection visualization tool created by the Library of Congress that supports multiple input formats – Excel, XML MODS, OAI, and ContentDM. I’m by no means an expert but would be happy to facilitate a working+learning session. If you’re interested I encourage you to request a ViewShare account before Saturday since account creation requests can take up to 24 hours.
    • TinyTech sharium – we all have small productivity shortcuts or areas of tech-spertise that help us get our work done faster and better. I propose a workshop where we share tech tips. Anybody an expert or an experienced dabbler in regular expressions, Mac’s Automator software, Gmail keyboard shortcuts? Anybody want to give a 5-minute overview of basic command-line tasks? Got a favorite browser add-on that makes your life 1000 times easier? Let’s share.
  • A simple intertextual machine


    For some time, I’ve been interested in the similarities between two given texts. That similarity could be understood as textual (approximate string matching, longest common subsequence, etc), language-based (translations), semantic (paraphrases, allusions, etc), and ludic (think Derrida’s Glas). In an effort to resist my tendency to think up Digital Humanities chalupas (e.g. Neatline + Omeka + Juxta + Zotero + VoyantTools all rolled up into one), I’m trying to imagine the most simple block matcher possible.

    Focusing on the textual for a bit. Here’s what I want my tool to do for me:

    • Parse the text for suggestions using an approximate string matching algorithm fine tuned for different versions of a literary work.
    • Allow me to tweak the results by selecting the appropriate boundaries for the blocks.
    • Allow me to name the individual blocks using unique IDs.
    • Store my choices in a database.
    • Take me to  bird’s eye view of the two documents, to see where things have moved around to.
    • After I have done enough matching with several documents, show me the network of connections.

    We already have a tool, Juxta, that could provide this functionality if we expand it’s capability to abstract matches and divorce it from the DIFF algorithm. The one addition we would need would be the ability to give unique ID’s to blocks and visualize from a distance. Anyone up for tweaking Juxta?


  • Discussion Session Proposal: A Worldcat for Manuscripts?


    I am a medieval historian by training, and also a THATCamp newbie. I currently work as a manuscript specialist on a grant-funded DH project called “The Virtual Libraries of Reichenau and St. Gall” (, now based at the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, but which in an earlier phase of the project (before I came on board) was based at UVA’s IATH.  In a nutshell, this phase of the project reconstructs the intellectual landscape of two of the most important intellectual communities of Carolingian Europe.  We have digitized or purchased the rights to use images of about 170 Latin manuscripts that are or were owned in the Middle Ages by the Benedictine monasteries of St. Gall and Reichenau in what is today southwestern Germany / north-central Switzerland.  My work on the project mostly entails describing these manuscripts and creating TEI XML metadata for our page-images of them.

    Outside of my work on the St. Gall project, I also have used DH applications in my own scholarship, which focuses on the Venerable Bede (672/3-735) and the manuscript transmission of his works.  My work in this area has mostly focussed on database development, and so in that connection I would be very interested in a discussion of some aspects of linked data and what it means for the future.  Specifically, I’m interested in whether linked data will be the answer to what for me has become an old conundrum: namely, whereas to do serious research on medieval textual transmission you used to need to access, say, 1,000 pretty specialized books; since the digital revolution took hold you now need to access 700 pretty specialized books (half of which you might be able to find online if you look hard) and 300 different websites, one by one.  In short, access has definitely been increased dramatically, but I think there’s still a lot of room to improve in terms of leveraging technology to reduce the amount of labor expended in accessing this type of information (I’m talking essentially about eliminating busy work; obviously the hard thinking bits will always be done by scholars).  Or, to put it another way, will the growth of linked data technologies make it feasible to build a equivalent of Worldcat for medieval manuscript collections (or for that matter other types of archival/special collections)?  Can others point me in the direction of projects that have done or are attempting to do this sort of thing for other fields of study?  What would need to be done to make this happen?

    Joshua Westgard

    UCLA / Silver Spring, MD

  • Online discussion/annotation apps


    Topics might include: which discussion tools you like and use most (and why), what features you find most valuable and what features are still needed, what variables seem most important in engaging readers, tips and tricks you’ve found useful, etc.

    A possible point of departure: A team at UVA’s Curry School has been looking at what a next-generation online discussion tool might look like and can share its preliminary design for comments, criticisms, and suggestions.

    Submitted by:
    Dan Doernberg,
    Bill Ferster, UVA Curry School

  • Digital Versions of Life Narrative


    My first THATCamp, right in my backyard.  I’ve hopped around every digital branch of the UVA tree (think the bewigged cardinal): Scholars’ Lab (including the GIS specialists), NINES, SHANTI, and IATH, where lately we’re working on the BESS schema (Biographical Elements and Structure Schema), a database, and some prototypes for visualization, all taking the bibliography of 1200+ books in the Collective Biographies of Women project further into studies of biography.  Lots of DH work is biographical (a lot of projects have a person’s name in the title), and personal data and life narratives are all over the Internet, but even in literary digital studies there is relatively little work on genres of nonfiction.   I just got back from a conference on Life Writing at the Huntington Library.  My talk was called Social Networking in Old and New Media, the “old” being books, the “new” being digital, both social media and digital humanities.  The talk was like a sandwich with “all about my DH project” pressed thin in the middle, and thick slices of observation and speculation about the social construction of persons online.   What are the elements of a unique “person,” identity, or life narrative?  How do the forms (in all senses) of life narrative vary with repetition across different media?  Name, date and place of birth and death, portraits, signature or password, resume-style events (think Linked-In)–and, as on Facebook, relationships and consumer choices/opinions–these elements seem to give us a handle on the unique individual linked to others.  But as anyone who has worked in a library, written a biography or a history, or developed a database involving any social records knows, every component in this list of identifiers can be shared by others or it changes over time or can be falsified or lost.  There’s lots to pursue in the ways that computers affect life narrative, writing or encoding or studying it.  I’m interested in all the angles people might bring to this, but the Huntington crowd was very much about scholarship in paper archives and writing full-length literary biography.  I think print and digital media present similar issues about reconciling the big and little picture, what’s shared, what’s interesting, and what kind of elements or controlled values our schema allows.

  • A Digital Video Segmentation and Annotation Plugin for Omeka


    As part of an NEH ODH grant, I am developing a video segmentation and annotation plugin for Omeka that will enable academic and cultural institutions and individuals to incorporate annotated video into online collections and exhibitions. Using either the client- or Web-based version of the Annotator’s Workbench, scholars and cultural professionals will be able to segment and annotate video and upload it to an Omeka-based Web site using the plugin created by this project. The annotated video plugin for Omeka will greatly enhance the pedagogical and research potential of video for online collections and exhibitions by providing humanities scholars and cultural institutions with a tool for incorporating video segments that contain integrated descriptive data linked specifically to the video content.

    I see an opportunity to extend the capabilities of Omeka’s robust yet flexible development environment by building the annotated video plugin. Currently, users can incorporate a video file into an Omeka-based Web site and play it back. To include metadata is more difficult and the exisiting plugins are generally designed for one file with a single, associated set of metadata. None of the current Omeka plugins can deal with a video file that has been virtually segmented and for which corresponding annotation metadata is associated with each segment.

    I plan on showing the plugin in action and would like to discuss how digital video, especially segmented and annotated video can be used in research and pedagogy.

  • Dubious digital dissertating?


    Hi all!

    My name is Kathleen Thompson and I’m a PhD student in Russian language and literature here at UVA. I’m writing about 21st-century Russian-American authors who were born in Russia and emigrated to the U.S. (usually with their parents) in childhood, so my work focuses a lot on transcending borders and movement and fluidity of medium.

    I took Intro to the Digital Liberal Arts with Rafael Alvarado here two years ago and loved it; I have only a very basic grounding in DH, but I’m fascinated with the very idea of it, and I really want to be able to apply it to my work somehow. For that class, we each had to build our own WordPress site on a particular topic – mine was a digital repository for one of the authors I’m studying – and that gave me an idea: why not nudge my dissertation towards the digital? Why not start a conversation that’s immediately accessible to more than just my small committee and anyone wandering around our library stacks checking spine titles for something interesting?

    Slavic studies is sort of a dinosaur in that it’s slow to embrace change, and most of the people in it who are doing online work (blogs, mostly) are politics and history scholars. Literature has a very small presence on the web; the UVA library does have a new and fantastic online collection of contemporary Russian literature, but I want to add to that. Pursuant to that, I want to explore the idea of the digital dissertation itself: what does it entail? What format is acceptable? How can we best make older work digitally consumable? Is a digital dissertation even viable/cromulent/workable in academia today? If you’re on a dissertation committee, would you be willing to work with one, or would you strike it outright? How do we vet them?

    I’ll probably add more questions as I think of them, but this is already over 300 words for a start!

  • Intro and Other Sundry Things


    I am a THATCamp newbie! I am very excited to be attending and look forward to meeting all of you.

    Right now, my pride is KPK: Kpop Kollective, my digital cultural studies project on Korean popular culture.  I, along with a rag-tag band of colleagues and students at my institution and across the country, engage in collaborative research and writing, studying and document the international fan’s experience of Korean popular culture, which occurs almost exclusively on the Internet.  I am running three IRB-approved studies through the site, and  I am interested in talking to others about how to successfully collaborate in a digital environment in terms of writing, teaching research methods and writing in an onine environment.  I am also interested in innovative ways of presenting large amounts of information in a way that engages the user. (We want to create an interactive cultural history of post-1997 Korean popular culture).

    I’ve also been charged by my colleagues at Elon University to find out more about how we can plant that digital humanities flag at my institution in ways that are recognized by administration as legitimate scholarly activity.

    I’m an associate professor in an English department at Elon University, but I have an interdisciplinary degree (American studies), and my work tends to be transnational. I do comparative cultural studies (African American, Asian, Asian American), focusing on visual culture, popular culture and literature.  I have a book under contract on Afro-Asian cultural interaction in a global age, and working on a second combining qualitative research and cultural analysis on Korean and Chinese historical television dramas. I teach courses in American studies, American literature, Asian film and literature and speculative fiction.

    Can’t wait to meet all of you!


  • Now, about those session proposals….


    The fundamental tenet of the THATCamp experience is the user-generated-ness (to coin a term) of the event itself.  In other words, it’s up to you to propose the sessions, and this site is set up to help that happen. Phil Edwards has kicked us off already down below.

    How does it happen?

    Now that you’ve registered for THATCamp Virginia, we’ve make you a user account on this site. You should have received your login information by email. Before the THATCampVA, you should log in to the site, click on Posts –> Add New, then write and publish your session proposal. Your session proposal will appear on the front page of this site, and we’ll all be able to read and comment on it beforehand. (If you haven’t worked with WordPress before, see for help.) The morning of the event, we’ll vote on those proposals (and probably come up with several new ones), and then all together we’ll work out how best to put those sessions into a schedule.

    Here’s some guidance for you when considering a session idea to post.

    In brief

    Everyone who goes to a THATCamp should propose a session. Do not prepare a paper or presentation. Plan instead to have a conversation, to get some work done, or to have fun. Also remember, try to keep the posts brief–300 words or less should be enough to give your colleagues a sense of what you’re interested in talking about, without tiring out their eyeballs.

    No papers, no presentations

    An unconference, in Tom Scheinfeldt’s words, is fun, productive, and collegial, and at THATCamp, therefore, “[W]e’re not here to listen and be listened to. We’re here to work, to participate actively.[…] We’re here to get stuff done.” Listen further:

    Everyone should feel equally free to participate and everyone should let everyone else feel equally free to participate. You are not students and professors, management and staff here at THATCamp. At most conferences, the game we play is one in which I, the speaker, try desperately to prove to you how smart I am, and you, the audience member, tries desperately in the question and answer period to show how stupid I am by comparison. Not here. At THATCamp we’re here to be supportive of one another as we all struggle with the challenges and opportunities of incorporating technology in our work, departments, disciplines, and humanist missions.

    Session proposers are session facilitators

    If you propose a session, you should be prepared to run it. If you propose a hacking session, you should have the germ of a project to work on; if you propose a workshop, you should be prepared to teach it; if you propose a discussion of the Digital Public Library of America, you should be prepared to summarize what that is, begin the discussion, keep it going, and end it. But don’t worry — with the possible exception of workshops you’ve offered to teach, THATCamp sessions don’t really need to be prepared for; in fact, we infinitely prefer that you don’t prepare.

    At most, you should come with one or two questions, problems, or goals, and you should be prepared to spend the session working on and working out those one or two points informally with a group of people who (believe me) are not there to judge your performance. Even last-minute workshops can be terrifically useful for others if you know the tool or skill you’re teaching inside and out. As long as you take responsibility for running the session, that’s usually all that’s needed. Read about the Open Space Technology approach to organizing meetings for a longer discussion of why we don’t adopt or encourage more structured forms of facilitation.

    Session genres

    1. General discussion— Sometimes people just want to get together and talk informally, with no agenda, about something they’re all interested in. Nothing wrong with that; it’s certainly a much better way of meeting people than addressing them from behind a podium. Propose a session on a topic that interests you, and if other people are interested, they’ll show up to talk about it with you.
    2. Hacking session— Several coders gather in a room to work on a particular project. These should usually take more than an hour or even two; if you propose such a session, you might want to ask that one room or swing space be dedicated to it for the entire day.
    3. Writing session— A group of people get together to start writing something. Writing can be collaborative or parallel: everyone can work together (probably in Google Docs) or by themselves (yet with a writing vibe filling the air) to write an article, a manifesto, a book, a blog post, a plan, or what you will.
    4. Working session — You’re working on something, and you suspect that some of the various people who come to THATCamp might be able to help you with it. You describe problems you want solved and questions you want answered, and strangers magically show up to hear about what you’re doing and to give you their perspective and advice. This is notan hour-long demo; you should come with specific questions or tasks you want to work on with others for most of the session.
    5. Workshop— A traditional workshop session with an instructor who leads students through a short introduction to and hands-on exercise in a particular skill. (Note: the workshop series was formerly called “BootCamp,” a term we have now deprecated. Note too that as of January 2012 the Mellon fellowship program for THATCamps with workshops has ended.) Workshops may be arranged beforehand by the organizers or proposed by a participant who agrees to teach it.
    6. Grab bag— Ah, miscellany. One of our favorite categories. Indefinable by definition. It’s astonishing how creative people can be when you give them permission; performances and games are welcome.
      • David Staley, An installation, THATCamp Prime 2009.
      • Mark Sample, Zen Scavenger Hunt, THATCamp Prime 2010 (N.B.: The Zen Scavenger Hunt didn’t actually happen, but it was still a great idea).

    Empty sessions

    We’ll do our best to provide space for additional, on-the-fly conversation. Sometimes, for instance, your discussion was going so well at the one hour fifteen minute mark that you hated to end it; if there’s a slot available, you should be able to propose “Training Robotic Ferrets: Part Two” as a session as soon as “Training Robotic Ferrets” ends.

    And yes, we know this went over 300 words.


    Info on this post shamelessly cribbed from THATCamp Texas and Because who can improve on perfection?

  • Introduction and ideas: Phil Edwards


    I’m Phil Edwards, and I’m very excited to be a part of the regional THATCampVA this year. In my day-job, I work with individual faculty members, graduate students, and departments as they think about their teaching, courses, curricula, and student learning. I earned my B.S. in Chemistry with a Minor in Mathematics (2001) from the University at Buffalo–SUNY, my M.S. in Information with a specialization in Library and Information Services (2003) from the University of Michigan, and I was a Ph.D. candidate [A.B.D.] in Information Science at the University of Washington from 2003-2010. I was a member of the faculty at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2008-2011 until I joined the Center for Teaching Excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University in July 2011. (Go Rams!)

    In terms of session ideas…
    if anyone would be interested in engaging in a conversation about some of the recent developments in (mostly-)online education (e.g., Mozilla’s Open Badges project, HASTAC’s Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, MITx, Udacity, etc.), I’d be willing to come to the table to share in that discussion. I’m currently enrolled in the prototype MITx course, 6.002x: Circuits & Electronics, and I’ll be documenting my experiences as a student along the way. (Well, MITx 6.002x officially starts tomorrow.) Anyone interested?

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