THATCamp Was All THAT, And More

I was hoping to provide a wrap-up of THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) in this space many days ago, but other commitments got in the way of my blogging.

Let me just say in summary that I completely agree with Mills Kelly’s sense (echoed by Tom Scheinfeldt and Marjorie McLellan, among many others) that going to THATCamp made me yearn for a serious makeover of the standard professional conferences I’ve gone to my entire career, especially the annual conference of the American Historical Association. (The digital humanities are not immune, by the way: the panels-and-papers format has infected these meetings as well.) In my opinion, such conferences tend to focus too much on the job market, padding the CV, and showing how clever you are, rather than building the discipline collaboratively. THATCamp showed how informative, engaging, and constructive a conference can be when everyone participates, there are no lectures or read papers, the format is highly flexible, and everyone feels open to speak—including candidly about the gaps in one’s knowledge as well as what one feels knowledgeable about.

For those looking for a more comprehensive sense of what happened, check out the Google Blog Search feed for THATCamp posts or scan the raw feed of our IRC channel. And if you’re interested in the digital humanities, it’s really worth making your way through the entire THATCamp blog for ideas and perspectives from THATCampers on the state of the art and the issues we face.

Hope to see you at THATCamp 2009!


Dan: it’s not only the conferences that need a makeover, but the profession. It’s an old topic, I know, but history departments are typically behind the times where organization is concerned. Like almost everywhere else in the world, Boise State’s history department is organized by geography.

We have our Asian scholar, our African scholar, and our ME scholar, etc. But if you look back at the last 20 years of work by the grad students, the vast majority of work done is in urban history, environmental history, social history (gender and ethnicity), regional history, and public history. So why not organize history departments that way?

Some schools seem to be moving toward that model, but the profession is slow to change.

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