Why a THATCamp @ the International Congress on Medieval Studies?

It seems a waste not to harness the intellect that is found in Kalamazoo during the annual migration of Medievalists in May of each year.  We would like to offer time and space to the conversation of the Digital Humanities. The agenda is vague at this point, perhaps equally elusive as the definition of DH. The medievalist perspective does not have to dictate the content of the day.  We can open it up as broadly or close it down as narrowly as we like.

I’ve proposed the date of May 7, 2014, the day before the Congress opens so not to interfere with the sessions during the Congress itself.

ff0000;">It will be held at the Lee Honor’s College from 4-9 pm, May 7. 

Think about some topics you would like to propose and use the “Propose” page to start the conversation. Then on May 7, we will collectively decide which topics to address.

What is a THATCamp?

THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a party at your house is to a church wedding, what a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee is to an NBA game, what a jam band is to a symphony orchestra: it’s more informal and more participatory. Here are the key characteristics of a THATCamp:

  • FREE or CHEAP to attend (registration fees of up to $30 USD are fine)
  • OPEN to anyone who wishes to apply or register (no restricting registration to members of a particular institution, association, organization, discipline, or rank)
  • INFORMAL and participatory (no presentations, papers, or demos longer than 5 minutes with the possible exception of skills training workshops, which should also allow hands-on practice)
  • PUBLIC on the open web (sessions can be blogged, twittered, photographed, recorded, and posted)
  • SELF-ORGANIZING (no program committee: all participants are given a chance to help set the agenda, either before or during the unconference.
  • COLLABORATIVE: there are no spectators at a THATCamp. Everyone participates, including in the task of setting an agenda or program.

What is an “unconference”?

The shortest answer is this: an unconference is a highly informal conference. Two differences are particularly notable. First, at an unconference, the program isn’t set beforehand: it’s created on the first day with the help of all the participants rather than beforehand by a program committee. Second, at an unconference, there are no presentations — all participants in an unconference are expected to talk and work with fellow participants in every session. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture; going to an unconference is like being a member of an improv troupe where going to a conference is (mostly) like being a member of an audience. Unconferences are also free or cheap and open to all. For more information, see Wikipedia’s entry on the unconference.

Some say that the first unconference was BarCamp, which is the model for THATCamp. Read more about BarCamp at barcamp.org, radar.oreilly.com/2005/08/bar-camp.html, and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BarCamp.

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