#thatcamp report part 3 (finally!)

Here at last is my final installment of my experiences at ThatCamp.  The conference proceedings will be released on August 1st so you can read more about the sessions there.  Meanwhile, I’ll give my reflections on what I got out of the sessions.

Since the first session day coincided with Bloomsday, I sat in on the hacking session Visualizing Ulysses.  Here is Amanda Visconti’s report on the results so far.  Amanda is looking for volunteers to help with this, so if interested, please contact her directly.

We got done a bit early, so I attended the tail end of Mark Sample’s session on building a better blogging assignment.  Lots of good ideas, some of which I might actually implement this semester!

After lunch, I attended a session on museums and authority.  It didn’t interest me as much as I expected so I utilized the rule of two feet and wandered between a few other sessions before I decided to collect my thoughts for the session I proposed, More Disruptive Pedagogy: Thoughts on Teaching an Un-Course.  Attendance was great, maybe because Mills Kelly was mistakenly listed as session organizer!  As I wrote in my proposal, ”

The idea for this session stems from my experiences and challenges teaching a graduate public history course on the theory and practice of digital history.  The first challenge I face has to do with coverage: what are the most important things that students should know to get a reasonable introduction to the field?  The second challenge regards levels of experience: some students have little or no experience with anything beyond word processing and using an online catalog; others are far more advanced in their skill level (the last time I taught the course I had a student with an undergraduate degree in computer science. Talk about a humbling experience). The third challenge is keeping up with the field and making sure that the course stays fresh and up to date.

So, what I’d like to discuss is — would the un-conference model, in which students decide on at least some of the themes and topics of the course, work for a graduate level course?”  Mills has an excellent post on what we discussed.  I still don’t know if/when I will use the “un-course” idea but the pedagogy of disruption intrigues me enough to pursue it further.

#Thatcamp report part 2: workshops

Here’s the second  part of my THATCamp report.  Friday was a full day of various workshops for those interested in learning more about specific digital tools.  I decided to start by honing my Omeka skills and took Sharon Leon’s workshop on Web Publishing for Humanists.  While the session was aimed primarily at beginners, I did learn a few new things and got a chance to create a mock website for the department.

Next, I attended a workshop on Viewshare, taught by Trevor Owens, a digital archivist at the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) in the Office of Strategic Initiatives at the Library of Congress. According to the website, “Viewshare is a free, Library-of-Congress-sponsored platform that empowers historians, librarians, archivists and curators to create and customize dynamic interfaces to collections of digital content.” Go watch the screencast and hopefully you will agree it’s pretty cool.  One problem — it doesn’t work with newer versions of ContentDM, which is what the CCSU library and the CT State Library use for their digital collections.  I think there are plans to fix this in the future.

The last workshop I attended was on Digital Humanities and Mobile Devices taught by Mike Tedeschi.  Here is a link to the slides for his presentation.  My energy level and attention span by this point were pretty minimal so I left early and went for a run to give my brain a rest up before another full day of that-camping.

#THATcamp report part 1: Roy Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and Humanities

Hi folks,

I’m back from a busy four days at THATCamp CHNM (aka THATCamp Prime). I’ll start by discussing the fascinating presentation by Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives and Records Administration about the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, online projects created with the recently-released 1940 census data, and other exciting digital projects from “our nation’s attic.” I thought Sharon Leon‘s choice to use an interview format was excellent and made for a much more dynamic and engaging forum than a straight-up presentation. The Citizen Archivist Dashboard grew out of the Open Government Platform initiated by President Obama. The goal of Citizen Archivist is to make NARA’s documents more accessible while also serving as a forum for engaging the public in the intellectual work that makes accessibility happen. Pam realized that simply opening the archive’s data to the public without any guidelines would be like dumping out a load of raw cake batter: it might be yummy for the most dedicated enthusiasts (e.g. “Lincoln Lady”) but most people would like to have a “cupcake” — i.e. a specific task or subject on which to work (e.g. the Titanic is the featured “cupcake” right now).

So far, Citizen Archivist has been wildly popular: within two weeks of going live, the archive received 1,000 page transcriptions (by contrast it took Sharon several years to reach the same number of transcribed pages for the Papers of the War Department). The 1940 census received 20 million hits the morning it went live.  Pam hoped that one of the hackers at THATCamp or elsewhere would design a “pocket archivist” app that would allow users to upload images while they are doing research at NARA. She also asked for suggestions for other topics and projects to add to the initiative.

Another way that NARA engaged the public was in the redesign of its website. They received 4 choices from the designer and then let the public vote on which one they liked best. Voters overwhelmingly chose the simplest design (which many at NARA found too minimalist). This is something to keep in mind as my colleagues and I set out to redesign our department website.  Perhaps we should survey our students to see what they want from a website?

Stressing quality over quantity, or why I’m not worried I haven’t blogged in awhile

via Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog

Cohen has just redesigned his blog.  Here’s why:

“the thinking behind this redesign goes back to the beginning of this blog, when I struggled, in a series called “Creating a Blog from Scratch,” with how best to highlight the most important feature of the site: the writing. As I wrote in “Creating a Blog from Scratch, Part I: What is a Blog, Anyway?” I wanted to author my own blogging software so I could “emphasize, above all, the subject matter and the content of each post.” The existing blogging packages I had considered had other priorities apparent in their design, such as a prominent calendar showing how frequently you posted. I wanted to stress quality over quantity.”

Unlike Cohen, I’m not planning on writing my own blogging software (or any software for that matter).  But, I do like the idea of waiting until I have something meaningful to say rather than accumulating posts for the sake of doing so.

I will be attending THATCamp CHNM 2012 (aka ThatCamp Prime) where I hope to learn and/or polish some useful things for my teaching and research.  So, I might write about that.  Or not.  We’ll see how the summer goes.



Happy Second Birthday #twitterstorians

Two years ago today, Katrina Gulliver began compiling a list of fellow historians on Twitter, and coined the term “twitterstorian” to describe this group.  She also instructed to use the #twitterstorian hashtag (which I don’t always remember to do!).   Although I was a relative newcomer to Twitter, she invited me to a Twitterstorians happy hour and dinner at this year’s AHA convention in Boston.  In honor of this anniversary Katrina has asked us to write about our experiences with Twitter, how it has helped with our research, networking, finding information, and so forth.

In my experience, Jeremy Boggs nicely sums up the advantages and disadvantages of Twitter with the pithy phrase: “Twitter to connect, blogging to reflect.”  Readers of this blog will notice that my output here has dwindled since I joined Twitter, which is why I have my feed embedded on the blog, and have my feed automatically compiled as the Knitting Clio daily.   The “daily” isn’t just for my fans, though:  it’s the only way I can keep up with all the cool stuff that posted by those I follow without going out of my mind!   Even then, it feels overwhelming.  Also, the daily only compiles shared links, not the back and forth conversation on the network.  I don’t check the status updates on a constant basis — I just can’t or I wouldn’t get any work done (or find time to ride my bike, or knit, or play guitar, or sleep, or other stuff I like to do).

So, in short, Twitter has been a great way to connect with new people and to get new information about trends in the field.  The downside is that most of my digital output has shifted to Twitter and the longer, reflective writing that I used to do on this blog has shrunk considerably.  I need to find a balance, somehow.