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.
  • Context Preservation

    I’d like to poke some brains about context preservation.

    For the last couple of years or so, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of context preservation. It happens whenever I check our web log server and see a big spike on a certain page on our website, or when there are many page requests coming from a certain domain/area. What’s going on that day? What makes this particular page suddenly so popular on that day? Did one of the librarians post bibliographic instruction? Has somebody added a link to our web page and announced it somewhere?

    The news that the Library of Congress will archive public tweets is also intriguing, especially when researchers or anthropologists start poring over the content and trying to make any sense of the myriad things people shared on Twitter. How to make sense of a conversation when it’s done between somebody with public tweets and another who has his Twitter account protected (and thus his tweets are not archived by the Library of Congress)? Do any of the hashtags make any sense at all? When a hastag is trending, does it get captured and preserved, too?

    My questions about context preservation have more to do with how scholarly communication seems to change. In addition to the traditional methods (writing journal articles and presenting at conferences), the communication is also happening in multiple, simultaneous channels such as unconferences, blogs, social media, even THATCamp. There is a high volume of relatively unorganized information, due partly to the preference for spontaneity. There are users who want to make personal connections across broader and broader groups. Discourse will take in multi-directional conversations. Given that trend, how do we preserve the context of information or conversations?

    Terry Brock’s (@brockter) blog post, Remembering the People Behind the Things, nicely explains context preservation from an archaeological perspective.  Many of you probably already know about this YouTube video about the Beatles, 1000 years later.  This is a fake video, but it points out precisely the problem of interpreting what’s happening in the past.

    P.S. I can’t resist including this as well: Turtles have it figured out. http://xkcd.com/889/
  • Helpathon for digital projects and digital publishing


    According to the information on how to propose a session from the original THATCamp (“THATCamp Prime”), one session genre is a helpathon, where you “describe problems you want solved and questions you want answered, and strangers magically show up to hear about what you’re doing and to give you their perspective and advice.”  This is the opposite: I would like to offer help for people trying to translate a fuzzy idea into something more specific, approaching a data model and set of recommended tools for making it happen.  If you have some source material that you’d like to put online but don’t know where to start, or you’d like to create some sort of born-digital resource but are having trouble conceptualizing it, I’m your man.  My expertise is in documents and metadata but I can say a thing or two about non-textual documents and interactive resources.

  • Kinect hack


    At a recent conference, I watched this performance type presentation that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. (Stick with me, it might be tough to describe!) The speakers mined Twitter feeds that used the conference’s hashtag. Using the words from only those posts, other users were able to create new Tweets from only those terms. The cool thing about it was the way someone actually Tweeted. The presenters hacked a Kinect so that the conference feed would project on a screen, allowing the users standing in front of the screen to actually “grab” and “move” the words into a new Tweet. (If you’re struggling with a visual, it looked very Minority Report-y.) I’m interested in talking about some of the ways we’re hacking (recreating? remaking?) new technologies to invent new ways of making text.

  • Putting Content in Context: Geo-Locating Images and Audio with WhatWasThere and Broadcastr


    In this era of rapid digitization, I fear that we may be losing our sense of place. Comments such as “It’s the content, not the carrier,” imply that no significance should be attached to previous technologies, but does the same hold true for location? Photos stripped of their origin often lose their significance, especially those of places and events. Being able to leverage technologies such as WhatWasThere.com to see the changes between the past and the present can provide significant platforms for discussion (e.g. the loss of buildings and commerce in Detroit) in addition to chronicling local history.

    Aural history faces similar problems, which I will illustrate through my local bands project that features ska, alternative, and punk music from Livingston County in the 1990s. Originally designed for storytelling, Broadcastr.com can handle 4 MB audio clips, which you can use to preserve and disseminate a variety of aural content including (but not limited to) oral histories, campus walks, music, poetry readings, birdcalls, or any material could be enhanced by cartographic context.

    Both WhatWasThere and Broadcastr have iPhone apps and Broadcastr just released their Android app. For example, with the WhatWasThere app, you can take a virtual walk through the history of Ann Arbor and other cities as an immersive experience.

  • Scholars’ engagement with digital collections and DH tools


    Hello all,

    I have a couple topics that I’d like to discuss: First, I’m interested in examining how humanities scholars use digital collections and digitized objects in their research projects and research workflows. To this end, I’m launching a study this summer to explore this research topic that will involve surveys and interviews with humanities scholars who work with digitized materials and digital collections in their scholarly research. I have a couple initial research questions that I think would be good points of discussion for THATcamp session:  What are the features and services that would optimize a digital collection for scholarly research?  How do scholars use digital collections in their research workflows?  And by the way, if there are THATcampers who’d like to participate in this study as a humanities scholar, let me know. . . .

    Also of note: this study is initially being conducted as a sub-project of the Bamboo Technology Project (http://www.projectbamboo.org/), a multi-institutional research partnership that is developing an e-research environment for humanities scholars.  This study will assist us we prepare to develop digital collections for research within the Bamboo e-research environment (and I’d be happy to talk about what we’re doing with that too).  But I will then will expand the data collection and analysis for a more general study on scholars’ use of digital collections.

    My second topic I’d like to discuss is similar to this: I’m conducting a user study of MONK, the web-based text mining software (https://monk.library.illinois.edu) that was launched as a public instance last year at the University of Illinois Library.  I’m using transaction log analysis from web statistics software and now am getting feedback from actual users of MONK through interviews. The driving question behind this is:  How well are digital humanities tools developed for actual scholarly research use? If anyone has used MONK and has something to say about it, or if people would like to discuss how other digital humanities tools out there (TAPoR, Philologic, TILE, etc.) do and don’t work so well, I’d be interested in starting a discussion.

  • Serious Games & Archaeology, History


    Hi everyone,

    I find myself at the moment up to my neck in game related work. In one project, I’m trying to develope an immersive archaeological application that would draw from archaeological repositories (eventually); in another, I find myself the project manager of a project to develop a game around ideas of ‘first contact’ between first nations and europeans here in Canada. So… what I’m hoping to glean from the collective wisdom of THATCamp, is how to manage these projects. What have other people done? What works, what doesn’t.  From a larger point of view, there are obvious paedegogical ends to these kinds of projects – but what about research? What does building an argument-in-a-game allow us to do that a straightforward article etc couldn’t accomplish more easily? These are the kinds of questions swirling around my head these days…

  • KORA, Archaeology, Access, etc…


    I am currently working on a digital repository for materials relating to major Mississippian archaeological sites. My project involves the collection, digitization, and organization of materials such as maps, photographs, field notes, publications, gray literature, bibliographies, websites, and raw data within a single digital repository, which will be generally organized by site. The repository will function to preserve materials in a digital format while improving scholarly accessibility and providing an integrated, searchable network of relationships between diverse types and sets of information.

    I propose that we have a session on KORA and/or other digital repository platforms. I know that Matt Geimer already posted about it, and he obviously knows what he is talking about (unlike me), but I feel like this will be a great opportunity for me to get the information I need  directly from the experts, while hopefully contributing a little something to a discussion/consideration of the ways that these repositories can help researchers from a broad range of disciplines.  As far as I know, this will be the first time that KORA has been used for an archaeology project, and I am excited to share my ideas and get feedback/advice.

    Beyond the technical/organizational issues I have been working on, I am also interested in learning more about creating an outward facing website that would serve to publicize the existence of the repository among scholars and research, as well as to provide general public access to a limited amount of the materials. Although I envision the creation of some avenue for researchers to secure permission to access all materials, I anticipate that copyright, author permissions, and special issues particular to archaeological materials will likely prevent me from making the entire repository available to the public. I guess what I’m really getting at is that, in addition to the technical aspects of all this, I am also really interested in participating in a philosophical discussion of the ethics of access in the digital humanities, as a discussion of the costs and benefits of public repositories will eventually/inevitably lead to issues of ownership of intellectual property and control over cultural materials/heritage. This is the kind of stuff I really like to learn about. I’m excited. Let’s do this.

  • Transmedia to Encourage Creative Thinking in Adolescents


    I spent two years teaching English Language Arts to seventh and eighth grade students before coming to Michigan State to study Serious Game Design. One of the things that struck me is that my boys and girls were consuming a lot of media in their free time, especially video games.

    But as I have been here, sitting and soaking in theories and practices for serious game design, I’ve seen a bigger push than ever toward transmedia. As an educator, the possibilities of this multimedia concept, intrigues me. Teens in particular, are engaged not just in games, but music, comic books or manga, and movies. What would a project that combines these formats look like? How would teens access it? What would they want or expect?

    In addition, the old English major in me is very interested in how one could create such a transmedia project with the purpose of inciting creative writing within this age group. Text prompts were never enough in my room to get them going. I was always needing to “gamify” creative activities to motivate a good 2/3s of my classroom.

    So for this session, I would like to explore transmedia opportunities for developing creative citizens (or wordsmiths) of tomorrow. I think it could be interesting to explore small scale transmedia projects in existence as well (rather than the big budget worlds out of reach for aspiring game changers). I rather took a meandering walk to the point. This session would be part helpathon, part general discussion, and part solvathon, I think.

  • LAM Convergence in the Real World


    (This proposal goes both for me and my colleague, archivist Lance Stuchell.)

    Visitors and users of our cultural heritage materials generally don’t care whether the artifacts they’re encountering are from a library, archives, or museum.  But each kind of material and each profession that stewards them have different legacy models for thinking about what things are and how to find them.  So how can we increase discovery across collections, especially digital and digitized collections?  Can we build union catalogs without killing each other?

    Cultural heritage institutions large and small often house materials and aspects of all three LAMs under one roof, and are thus theoretically already “convergent institutions.”  But we do as bad a job talking within institutions as we do amongthem.  There are tensions between archivists and museum people, for instance, in the granularity of description—archivists describe at the collection level, museum registrars at the artifact level.  Our large history institution has recently made it a priority to present archival and museum materials in the same digital catalog, using a set of standard metadata.  Using our institution as a case study, we’d like to talk about the challenges of LAM convergence, especially around issues of description and metadata.

  • Film and Digital Humanities


    With the development of new and cheaper film technology the ability to tell stories and reach a broader audience with academic research is expanding. I want to use the example of my experience as a first time filmmaker to discuss some of these challenges and opportunities. Filmmaking poses some unique challenges and requires thoughtful adaptation of content. Telling stories on film requires more than merely reading a conference paper over some video images. One bonus it that film presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to control and communicate our message to a much wider audience.
    Using my film, Cahokia: Native American City of Mystery, I want explore the potential of digital media, including but not limited to film, to tell stories that engage multiple audiences. More specifically I am hoping generate discussion on ways to make the project accessible across multiple formats as there is a good possibility it will expand into a longer series of films.
    You can watch a 3 1/2 minute trailer of the film click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLGL9V4VNUw

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