THATCamp Chicago is a user-generated “unconference" where humanists and technologists work together for the common good. As a famous Chicagoan might have said, "THAT is more." Join us November 20, 2010 at Northwestern University for THATCamp, then stay for the 2010 Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science.

Latest Posts

What to bring to THATCamp

Friday, November 19th, 2010 |

Hopefully it’s not too late, but we’ve had a few questions about what to bring…

Your ideas, your laptop/mobile computing device (+vga display adapter if you’re a mac user), and yourself! Flash drives and internet access will be provided, but we will not be in computer labs.

Check out the main THATCamp FAQ here.
(Please note that we are not requesting donations from THATCamp Chicago participants, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.)

See you at 9am tomorrow!

Data Mining, Metadata & New Media

Friday, November 19th, 2010 |

Hello THATCampers,

I am a first year student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  This will be my first THATCamp and I am very excited to be attending.  Before beginning graduate school, I worked in the nonprofit development field in Chicago. I also write about food on my own website and for a Chicago-based online magazine.

I am at the beginning of my career in library and information science and as a result, I am just beginning to formulate my research interests.  I have been inspired by many of your posts and I eagerly look forward to learning more from this wonderful group. My professional interests currently focus on data mining and visualization, metadata standards and interoperability, and the intersection of new media/social media and journalism.

Historical Networks

Friday, November 19th, 2010 |

Wow I meant to do this earlier.  Sorry for the late post, but I thought I should introduce myself before I got on the plane.

I am doctoral candidate in History at the University of Virginia.  I also design databases and write visualization tools for humanities scholars.

I would love to have a discussion about historical networks.  These days there is a great deal of interest in tracing historical networks of communication, kinship, patronage, etc.  Digital tools seem ideal for some of this work (I am building an open source software package, Project Quincy, to do just that).  But as I design databases to trace networks, I wonder more and more about how the technology we use shapes our subsequent analysis.  When I map a network from the Project Quincy, am I mapping a real network that once existed, or am I simply mapping the data structure I put in place?

A conversation about networks could be far ranging (and include modern, social networking packages which I see several other THATCampers are interested in).  It also brings in questions of source gathering, digitization, data structure, interface design, and visualization.

See you tomorrow!

Digitizing pedagogy; interactive narrative

Friday, November 19th, 2010 |

Hi all,

I’m excited for what will be my first THATCamp, and regret the tardiness of this post. It sounds like I’m greener to these topics than most of you, and I’m looking forward to learning a great deal. I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago (hello, fellow UIC-ers!) — in the Program for Writers (part of the English department). I teach a composition course on the social impact of technology and am eager to learn about new ways of incorporating technology into my curriculum and assignments. I also teach an intro fiction writing course and require my students to produce an online collaborative fiction project — an assignment I’d like to revamp given all the different kinds of narrative forms available online. So – I’m interested in digital pedagogy and collaborative learning/writing, esp through the use of online media forms.

I’m also interested in gaming theory and interactive narrative-  coming at it from the perspective of an experimental writer who has only made a few stabs at getting off the page. I have written some stories that play around with appropriating video game causality, am very much interested in how the kind of causal/contingent systems set up in games can inform fiction — but I’m by no means a gamer and admit to being something of a tourist in this realm.

All to say, I imagine I’m behind the curve on a lot of this stuff, and will do my best to keep up. See you on Saturday.

History of social computing

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 |

Hello! I have recently completed a PhD in Communication (in a Science and Technology Studies perspective) at University of Quebec at Montréal (UQAM) and just started a post-doc in the Communication Department of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I’m interested in the emergence of early “social software” in PLATO, a pioneering e-learning platform developed at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s and 1970s. Some applications developped on that platform were very influential, like, for instance, PLATO Notes, which became later Lotus Notes, and which began as a hybrid e-mail/forum communication system. Also many early computer games (including multiuser arcade games and MUD-like games) were developped on PLATO long before the first Internet games. The question I am exploring with this case study is : under what conditions an educational platform becomes social? Symmetrically, it would be interesting to know how social networking applications can become educational.

Like for my doctoral research which was on the development of the Internet Relay Chat in the 1990s, my research project on PLATO is heavily relying on the gathering and the content analysis of e-archives, i.e. collections of preserved digital sources : from technical notes and RFCs to historical narratives to the ‘logs’ of online group communications in ‘forums of development’. The main difficulty I am facing with PLATO is the scarcity of such archives, and when some are available (ex : at the UoI Archive Center), they are not in digital format. If any one has hints, feel free to contact me ;-)

I would also be very interested in learning and sharing ideas on gathering digital archives and making them processable for content analysis and accessible/usable for other researchers in digital repositories (e.g., a concrete problem I’m facing is how to digitize and process forum messages hat have been printed out in the early ’70s on computer paper with print consoles).

Also, if there are some STS folks here using DH tools for their research, I would be glad to meet you.

Looking forward to meeting you all at the camp,


NYT: Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 |

A timely article in yesterday’s New York Times:

“A history of the humanities in the 20th century could be chronicled in “isms” — formalism, Freudianism, structuralism, postcolonialism — grand intellectual cathedrals from which assorted interpretations of literature, politics and culture spread.

“The next big idea in language, history and the arts? Data.”

Gaming the Unconference

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 |

Hi folks,

My name is Anastasia Salter, and I’m currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Information Arts and Technologies at the University of Baltimore. I recently finished my Doctorate in Communications Design at UB, focusing on emergent communities of interactive narratives that have followed in the wake of classic adventure games. I tweet as MsAnastasia.

“Gamification,” (or “gamefication,” if you prefer, either way spell-check isn’t going to like it) is a buzzword right now that, for better or for worse, suggests that the motivation systems of games can be used to all sorts of purposes. I’m interested in going beyond the replication of achievement systems or the inclusion of experience points for mundane activities and thinking about the ways that game structures, particularly narratives, can be used to give actions not only clear rewards but also greater meaning. (I’d also love to talk about how the ThatCamp model encourages playfulness that traditional conferences decidedly lack, and what we can do about that disconnect.)

One of my current projects is modifying a BuddyPress install to run my spring Social Media and Games course as a meaningful social game–it’s a riff on the many approaches to trying gaming in the classroom, and I’d love to discuss ideas with anyone else trying similar projects. I’m constantly integrating technology in the classroom, from Twitter to wikis to blogs to Prezi, but this will be my first time running a class as a game despite several years of teaching game design and digital culture courses. (Perhaps the closest I’ve come in the past is running a WoW guild as part of a Myths of Cyberspace class–ask me about the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Friends” :-)

I’ll also be collaborating with J.J. Pionke on the Intro to Omeka BootCamp session. We co-moderate a small project, HackGender, using the Omeka platform and experimenting with different ways to examine and encourage marginalized gender voices online. Our latest attempt is a holiday themed contest that we just launched this week.

International Collaboration and Digital Access to Unique Collections

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 |

I manage digital initiatives at the University of Miami Libraries, where I frequently collaborate on special projects with humanists from our teaching faculty. My own scholarly background is in modern European languages and literature, particularly French and German.

I’m currently interested in exploring models for international collaboration in the documentation of the arts, as well as in methods for overcoming instututional, political, and intellectual property barriers to build and provide access to collections of contemporary digital materials. These challenges are becoming especially relevant to us in Miami as we begin to establish a long-term organizational infrastructure and software solution for a project called the Cuban Theater Digital Archive.

I’m also very interested in exploring creative ways of providing access to special collections and archives, both from the perspective of the archivist and the scholar, and would love to learn more about what’s going on in Chicago-area libraries and archives.  Northwestern has recently been publicizing some of their work with EAD and Blacklight, for example, which I’d like to know more about.

Sharing, play, collaboration

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 |

It’s coming. There are so many threads to tug on later this week, I can’t wait to see what we’ll unravel. Allow me to toss some ideas into the ring.

First, a selfish one. My major work in recent years has been in the area of crowdsourcing: most basically when disparate groups of people organize toward the accomplishment of a common goal, usually and most effectively online. What I’m curious about these days, however, is the role of expertise in such systems. Even in functionally egalitarian systems, how do users elect authority or recognize expertise? Do such actions work to the benefit or the detriment of the task, and is there a balance that can be struck?

Luddic labour. Along the crowdsourcing line, how can the spirit of play be captured toward meaningful task. Systems like ReCaptcha and the ESP Game were inspiring early examples, but there has not been nearly enough attention on such things in the traditional venues.

Caged omniscience. How do video game players, accustomed to structure, deal with games that give the unusual amounts of freedom over the narrative? Games like Scribblenauts and Sleep is Death: there appear to be very particular reactions to games that offer such freedom, and these ways of play do not match the spontaneity of gameplay when a user subverts the regular rules of the game through glitches, tricks, or hacks.

If the splendor of an unconference is exploring the parts of a community behind the professional mask, one curiosity of mine is discussing the ways that humanists hack together solutions to their needs with popular, non-function specific tools. Have you found Google Spreadsheets to be your tool of choice for processing data, or do you have a script for splitting double page PDF scans? These tips and tricks are nearly always useful, but there’s few ways of sharing them.

Speaking of sharing, I fear that among technocentric humanists, we have a tendency to re-tread ground and create similar tools over and over. There needs to be a communal space for documenting and discovering tools, code, and processes. I think small versions of such a website have often been attempted, but nothing has emerged as a repository of record. At the very least, it’s worth a discussion how such an implementation could succeed: my impression is most of it is would simply be PR and careful community management.

I must apologize for the random selection of thoughts, in the spirit, I simply typed what was on the surface of my thoughts, without much second thought. I look forward to Saturday, by which point I’ll certainly be enthusiastic about something else.

Session ideas so far

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 |

Computational processes applied to a growing archive of scholarship linked with rhetoric and composition

Conceptual value of data-mining and visualization for apprehending patterns that are not obvious at the customary scales of reading (e.g., one article at a time).