Welcome to Great Lakes THATCamp

Great Lakes THATCamp (The Humanities And Technology Camp) is a user-generated "unconference" on digital humanities originally inspired by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University. Great Lakes THATCamp will be held on the beautiful campus of Michigan State University on April 30th & May 1st, 2011 in the Residential College of Arts & Humanities.
  • Meaningful and accessible digital oral collections


    I am working on providing web-based access to several oral history collections and would be interested in trading ideas about how best to make these materials as useful as possible for researchers, scholars, teachers, and students.  There are many approaches to providing meaningful access to this collection domain — some previously mentioned by other campers (Will Cowen and Megan McCullen).  But how can we afford to annotate the content, generate metadata, and link the histories to curriculum benchmarks?  How can we afford not to do this when the consequence might be that our target audiences can’t find these rich resources.

  • Digital Databases, Oral History and K-12 Education


    My interests are twofold.  First, I am interested in knowing how individuals have made oral histories available in a digital format.  What programs have you used and found successful or problematic for audio files? What meta-data do you include with your recordings? How do you tag your materials to make the database useful to users?  Have you had to make decisions to exclude certain materials from access to the general public?

    My second interest is in discussing how we make digital databases accessible AND useful to K-12 instructors.  In particular, I am interested in linking databased objects to State Educational Standards, so that teachers can quickly and easily find materials to supplement their curriculum.  Are there other ways to make digital databases useful for K-12 classrooms?  Should a certain level of contextual information be included with each object?  I’d like to discuss successes and failures that others have had interacting with K-12 instructors while trying to make their digital databases useful to a varied public.

  • Words we didn’t know we didn’t know


    We would like to talk about some of the terms we commonly use, and how their meanings vary across disciplines.  As an artist and an astrophysicist we’ve been working on digital projects together since grad school, and we’re repeatedly surprised at how differently our disciplines use the same terms.  We’d like to talk about some of the things we have learned by having to create a workable hybrid terminology and discuss some of the most meaningful instances of this discussion.

    We’d also like to hear about others’ experiences with terminology and communication as we work toward more efficient and meaningful collaboration.

  • Digital Video for Research and Teaching: Annotating, Accessing, Archiving


    I have worked on several projects involving digital video and audio based on field work, collected by ethnographers and oral historians. And while at times this material can be compelling, for the most part, these academics are not film makers. So often there is not a story to be told. It is the ritual or the musical performance or the language that needs to be described. And often the most straight forward way to do that is through annotation. But annotation is a time consuming process. Segmenting and annotating several hours of video can take several weeks.

    And when the annotation is complete, how do you get this annotated video to your colleagues, your students, your department head? Most of the faculty that I have worked with are extremely interested in sharing their research with their students. But streaming video requires more infrastructure than the average academic either possesses or wants to have to deal with. And the skills necessary to make both the video and the annotations available online are also of little interest. So why not YouTube? From what I can see most online services have limited metadata and limited file size. Consequently, it is difficult to place the small segments you upload into the context of a larger research project.

    And, especially if you have started with analog materials, while you are digitizing, you might as well make the best copy you can. Uncompressed seems to be the way to go and while the price of disk storage is low, an hour of uncompressed video is at least 100 gigs or more if it’s HD. And then add on top of this all the other issues with creating and maintaining the metadata for your archived materials.

    So creating, using and storing digital video in an academic research environment is not as simple as it may seem. You need tools to do the segmentation and annotation. An infrastructure to support streaming digital video and displaying corresponding annotation. And large amounts of disk storage.

    At various times I have thought that I had the answers to the problem of digital video in the academy. I am less sure of myself now. But I think there is a lot to discuss. And I keep thinking there is a solution out there.

  • Engaging and Serving Diverse User Communities


    I am interested in continuing and enlarging upon a discussion that began last year on serving diverse user communities.  My institution is a history museum complex (and under its umbrella, our research library and archives) serving a broad general public.  We serve a diverse set of user communities, including a range of staff, academic researchers, amateur researchers and enthusiasts, and casual visitors, both in person and remotely.

    This topic may be more geared towards archivists and librarians, but I welcome the input of other campers and their experiences in engaging and working with different audiences.  I would also be very interested in hearing from researchers about their experiences from “the other side of the desk” and how research libraries and archives can make our spaces more accessible and inviting through technology or other means.  I’d also like to discuss what kinds of expertise we can gain from our users.

    Where are we to date?  We are in the beginning stages of a major collections digitization initiative and transitioning to a new collections management system which will allow improved remote access to our collections, and possibly more integration of our artifact and archival collections.  Some of the issues raised in my colleagues’ LAM discussion (q.v.) may also dovetail with this one, as we explore ways not only to make history and our collections more accessible to our museum visitors, but also provide remote access to researchers needing to make a deeper dive into our collections (currently by the means of creating PDFs of our paper finding aids and linking them to our online catalog records).  As to social media, we have a unified social media presence that is managed by public relations, with input from other units, plus individuals on Twitter.  We are interested in doing user studies, but have not yet implemented this.  We are embarking on a pilot program to allow the use of digital cameras in the reading room.  We have an active and dedicated volunteer corps.  And more…

    But enough about us!  There must be all kinds of ideas and insights out there, and I’d really like to steal hear them.

  • Discipline-specific unconferences


    One of the many aspects I like about THATCamp is the mix of disicplines it brings together. It is hard to think of another place where one can meet historians, archaeologists, comp/rhet people, publishers, media scholars, and museum curators all in the same place (sorry if I left out your discipline).


    It might also be useful to have an unconference in specific fields.  As a film/media scholar, for example, I would love to see some sort of less formal gathering than the annual SCMS conference.  I invite people who have experience with this or those who would be interested in organizing or participating in one to share ideas.  Is it possible, or is the subset of people who might be interested in an unconference too small to have one for a particular field?  Should one try to organize local, regional or national unconferences, or hijack the national conferences (MLA, AHA, SCMS, etc.) and have shadow unconferences?

    (Shoutout to Shana Kimball, who sparked this idea in an enlightening conversation)

  • THATCamp Girl Geek Dinner


    I would like to cordially invite any girl geeks that will be in town for Great Lakes THATCamp to join us for our April Michigan Girl Geek dinner on Saturday, April 30th!

    Join us around 5:30pm and grab a beer. Introductions start at 6:00pm. Stay for dinner! This is our chance to get together and learn from each other. Bring a friend!

    We don’t have a sponsor so you will have to pay for your own meal and beverage.

    You can learn more about Girl Geek dinners here:http://girlgeekdinners.com/

    We’ll have a table reserved! Look for the group of fabulous Girl Geeks. Big thanks to MBC for giving us meeting space!

    Michigan Brewing Company
    402 S Washington Sq
    Lansing, MI

    Men are more than welcome to attend! You just need an invite from a female attending the event!

    See you Friday!! 🙂

  • Bibliographic connective tissue


    “Instead of collecting from the vast information world for our patron base, we will collect unique materials from our patron base to preserve and present to the world” – Dorothea Salo.

    I’m in the small (but mighty) camp of librarians who hold that the future of librarianship is dependent on turning our collections work inside out.  While we deal with this profound re-understanding of our collecting and preservation work,  libraries must also, as Dave Lankes has recently put it, facilitate knowledge creation in our communities.  In other words, we need to re-consider and re-imagine how the library can act as a platform for research, scholarship, teaching, and conversation.

    At my place of work, we have an open source library catalogue (Evergreen), an open source learning management system (Sakai), and an open source course reserves system (Syrup). We are in the process of rebuilding the library website in Drupal 7 and developing our own discovery layer called jamun.  Creating and strengthening the bibliographic connective tissue between these systems so works can be readily found, read, used and re-used is what is consuming me at the moment (…that, and games and maps).

  • Special session on MSU Campus Archaeology


    I am proposing what technically amounts to a special session focuses on the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. We will take participants on a walking tour of the oldest part of the campus, while explaining what it is we do, why, and how we use digital media to do our work and to communicate to our various publics. We suggest that this event occur late in the afternoon on Saturday, so that anyone interested can join without missing much. Please visit our website: http://campusarch.msu.edu to see an overview of our program.

    We would LOVE to get feedback on the program, including your ideas on alternative approaches, new techniques, etc. We hope that at least some of you will want to join us.

  • KORA Contest Info


    MATRIX is giving away 10 accounts to use KORA, our digital repository application, for a year.  This amazing opportunity includes MATRIX hosting up to 10GB (value of $100) and a 1-hour individualized training/consultation session to ensure winners (and their projects) get the most out of KORA.

    To apply for a free account, please provide a short (1 page) overview of your project.  Include a description of your content (types and quantity of media, etc.), target audiences, and what you envision doing with your materials.

    There is a hard deadline of Sun, May 1, at 5am for submitting.  Earlier is better.

    Send your project overview to:

    Matt Geimer (thats me)  via email –  matt [dot] geimer [at] matrix [dot] msu [dot] edu

    Feel free to find me at GLTC ’11 or twitter (@mastermattg) if you have questions about KORA.  Comments on this post will also be answered.

    Good Luck!

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