Archive for February, 2011

Multimedia ebooks

As part of my job, I speak to a lot of grad students about what tech projects they’d like to see happen. Increasingly, students are describing something like this: “I work with a text that I know better than anyone else. I’d like the ability to add video, text, and audio annotation to the text — like a multimedia annotated edition.”

The technology to make this happen does exist. A recent Chronicle article describes something similar, and this company is working on “books” that are perhaps even more advanced than my students are imagining.

The problem is, as far as I can tell, creating these multimedia ebooks requires comfort with XML. Much as I’d like for every grad student to possess this knowledge, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

So in this session, I’d love to hear ideas for ways to create multimedia ebooks that might be accessible to the tech-curious grad student who is nonetheless not prepared to invest the time in learning XML. Perhaps these techniques already exist, or perhaps we need to build them ourselves.

Some notes:

  • Adobe InDesign is (purportedly) one way to create multimedia epubs, but my experience with it suggests that learning to create epubs in InDesign is little easier than learning XML
  • The Anthologize plugin for WordPress seems to offer intriguing possibilities. WP is a CMS that many students are already comfortable using, and they’re comfortable embedding video in posts. Perhaps Anthologize could be extended to handle video and audio.
  • I asked a question on this topic over at DH Answers and got some really good responses.
  • I found the Wikipedia article on epub helpful in understanding the standard

Wanted: A New Teaching/Learning Landscape [Session Idea]

Course management systems put educators and their students within electronic reach of each other, but are rarely enjoyable to use. Systemically applied platforms like ULearn (formerly Web CT) and Blackboard seem clunky and outdated. The open-source Sakai Project provides interesting options, but must be customized by the institution and sometimes loses pedagogical effectiveness in that standardization. Textbook publishers like Bedford/St. Martin’s, Pearson/Longman, and Cengage all develop more usable tools tailored to individual disciplines, but those tools are often bound to the use of a particular textbook and cannot remain open for student use indefinitely.

Currently, I am researching alternatives to current course management systems. I want to learn about and help build a pedagogical landscape that jumps the fence of institutional and commercial boundaries and involves dynamic research capabilities and collaborative components. I have been teaching with a digital course space for three years, but I want to grow past it. At THAT Camp I would like gather data on what the best digital teaching environment might look like if it could harness other applications on the web, while still offering a few uniquely useful and adaptable tools within its framework.

Philosophically, this discussion might veer into evaluating the dissolution of boundaries around learning institutions. As we contemplate the impact of new digital systems, we might wonder how much teaching and learning can or should happen on the open web — outside of a log-in screen or behind the digital fence of a school. I would love to hear discussion. Functionally though,  I would like to learn about what things are currently missing from course management systems so that, collectively, we can imagine a new one(s). Even more specifically, I want to discuss how new uses of social media tools and re-imagined assessment methods can augment an online course landscape.

Add points to gamify? My concerns…

Anastasia Salter’s guest post on ProfHacker talks about “gamifying” a course by adding various plug-ins to existing packages (e.g., CubePoints to BuddyPress). Does adding intangible rewards (points and badges) make it a game? Here’s the “yes” perspective from one student:

I think if anything the points system has forced me to participate in class more than I normally would… I don’t respond only to get points, but I actually enjoy responding to what I read. I like giving my point of view and hearing others.

Since Salter’s course is Social Media and Games, I have a suspicion that many of her students are self-selected to look positively on points as a way of “gamifying” a class. All the more power to her if she can get such easy buy-in! I’m a little concerned about the possibility some readers might look at a simple game mechanism (points) and think that’s gamification. If you could make something fun by adding points, taking the SAT would be a barrel of laughs.

Jane McGonigal argues for a different definition of a game: a system with a goal, a set of rules, and feedback that users enter into voluntarily. Yes, points are feedback, but that’s not the only structure one can create.

This morning, the students in my undergraduate history of education class confronted an almost completely-dark room except three spots. I asked them to turn in their clearance forms, said that they were committed to the mission, and that while they always had the choice to use Option 6, I hoped they wouldn’t. Then I explained the mission: saving the world from a horrible unwinding of time that had to be fixed when top physicists in this secret organization had pinpointed the trouble (or at least a point of leverage in the past). I told them they had to make education a universally recognized right in the United States by 1900 (and the window open to them was roughly between 1850 and 1900). They could use the organization’s temporal vortex manipulator (i.e., time machine), but they could only take themselves and natural fibers (so no fancy technology), and headquarters could only be guaranteed to be stable for about two months. So they had to lay plans that could be completed with two months of “operations” in the past. They had to be shrewd. They had to brainstorm what to propose for Operation Nudge.

You may recognize that this is a setup for a standard counterfactual discussion in a history class. Except it’s anything but standard as a setup–my students had to solve the puzzle or see the world ripped apart by this temporal anomaly. It was completely hokey, but I stayed in character through the whole exercise, and my (wonderful) class got down to work in short order and tried to figure out in groups what their best targets were. No points. No big win (okay, they voted on which team’s project they wanted to see attempted, but they didn’t know I’d do that). Does it count as a game?

Where are the Humanities in the Digital Humanities? [Session Idea]

Well, I’ve been pondering this little bit for a little while. Feel free to comment, critique, rebuild…

This session idea was inspired by a few things coming out of the recent “Rise of the Digital Humanities” MLA 2011, and two related discussions/provocations.

  1. The first is by Alan Liu (“Where’s the Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?”). Liu argues that “[h]ow the digital humanities advance, channel, or resist the great postindustrial, neoliberal, corporatist, and globalist flows of information-cum-capital, for instance, is a question rarely heard in the digital humanities associations, conferences, journals, and projects with which I am familiar.”
  2. The second is an interesting provocation by fellow THATCamper and Brittain Fellow Andy Famiglietti (“What Does it Mean to do the Humanities?”) in which he poses a question about the model of teaching values: “as much as I like this definition [humanities teach important artistic, cultural, and critical values], I don’t always sleep comfortably with it. It seems to imply that, without the organized study of the humanities, cultures would lapse into collections of mechanistic drones, unable to consider questions of truth or beauty. This simply isn’t true. I’ve seen the inside of technical cultures, geek enclaves and hacker freeholds and they are full of wonder and poetry. Algorithms for decrypting DVDs transformed into epic poems. Romantic jokes about the Fibonacci sequence. Furthermore, again, ask any anthropologist and cultural value is what they do. What’s our niche?”

I think that Famiglietti’s question can open a fruitful discussion for how digital applications can transform or redefine what the humanities do. If, as Bruno Latour recently argued in “An Attempt at a ‘Compositionist Manifesto’,” critique “ran out of steam” because “it was predicated on the discovery of a true world of realities lying behind a veil of appearances,” what can the emphasis on building and creating in the digital humanities do to address the issues Liu presents above (474-5)? Or, alternatively, do the digital humanities need to identify with something essentially “humanistic” or have something to do with “cultural criticism” in order to be worthy of the name? If not, what’s the niche of the digital humanities? What do digital humanists do?

Latour, Bruno. “An Attempt at a ‘Compositionist Manifesto’.” New Literary History. 41 (2010): 471-90.

Do your THATCamp Duty!

One of the things that is most exciting about THATCamps is the unconference format. If you’ve ever wanted to go to a conference without papers or presentations, then TCSE will knock your socks off. But if we’re going to have a conference without those ordinary conference trappings, we all have to pull our own weight. That means we all have two duties:

  1. Write a session proposal. What we’ll talk about at THATCamp depends on what you propose. Writing out your session proposals in advance is crucial, because we’ll decide which sessions to hold in the first hour of THATCamp on Saturday. So let’s hear your ideas!

    Remember, do not prepare a paper or presentation. Instead, we’re looking for some ideas of what you’d like to work on and talk about at TCSE. In some ways, this isn’t that hard since you already told us your ideas in your application. You can feel free to post those ideas to share with the whole group or to expand. Or you could go in a completely different direction, based on where your focus has been recently. If you need a model, see these early proposals by Sherman and Adelle, as well as this great overview of THATCamp session genres that includes links to many other session proposals. Remember, everyone who goes to a THATCamp proposes a session.

  2. Read and comment on others’ proposals. Since a THATCamp runs on love (as well as the occasional donation), you’ll want to be aware of what your fellow Campers plan to discuss. Read their session proposals to see what might interest you at THATCamp. If there’s a session that particularly intrigues you, start a discussion on the website. See, for example, the comments that Sherman’s post has already provoked. You can easily find all the session proposals here, and you can also subscribe to the site’s RSS feed so new posts come to you.

If you need help with doing any of this, send an e-mail to thatcamp.southeast [ut], and we’ll be glad to be of service.

The sooner you publish your session proposals and start discussing them online, the better prepared we will all be. And we might just start building a learning community in advance, which is what THATCamp is all about.

(It’s worth acknowledging this post’s indebtedness to Lincoln Mullen’s similar call to arms for THATCamp New England.)

Donations to THATCamp Southeast

It’s absolutely true that a THATCamp runs on love. This is one of the reasons why there is no registration fee for a THATCamp. We want to make sure that money isn’t a barrier to graduate students, librarians, faculty, or anyone else from attending. After all, we know as well as you do that money is tight.

But it’s also true that a THATCamp runs on coffee. And pastries. And sandwiches and monkeys. It’s for this reason that we’ll pass the hat (literally) at our THATCamp. We’ll be accepting cash donations and checks made out to “Emory Library” as tax-deductible contributions toward the Camp. As you’ve no doubt seen on our About page, we are suggesting $25 donations per Camper.

Of course, we know that not everyone carries cash in this brave new world of ours. For that reason, we’ve harnessed the power of the Internet! You can now click on the button to the right to make a donation (via credit card, if you’d like) to THATCamp Southeast! And then we can feed the monkeys. Thanks!

Apply to BootCamp SE

Applications for BootCamp are now open. Please remember to rank your choices for the tracks. As mentioned previously, we’ll largely be admitting people on a first-come, first-served basis.

BootCamp SE Schedules

One of the things that’s been most exciting to us while planning THATCamp Southeast has been our BootCamp. Early on we decided that we wanted to hold BootCamp on a different day than the rest of the Camp so that people got both hands-on training in digital skills and got the opportunity to experience the unconference excitement of THATCamp. (In this, we’re following the lead of our good friends at THATCamp Virginia.)

Working out the schedule has taken a while, but we’re pleased to announce it here. We will have three tracks at BootCamp SE: a Digital Humanities Project track, in which participants will learn digital skills by beginning a real DH project; an Introduction to Programming track, in which Campers will learn some of the basics of programming using the Python programming language and the Django framework; and a Pedagogy track, in which participants will consider the use of digital technologies in conjunction with their teaching. The Digital Humanities track will last all day. The Programming and Pedagogy tracks will follow different schedules in the morning but convene in the afternoon. (Yes, we’re aware that this means that these two tracks are in some ways only half tracks. So it goes.)

Unfortunately, the number of BootCampers that we can accommodate in each track is limited. We plan to accept Campers on a first-come, first-served basis via a webform that we’ll post at noon EST on Friday, February 18. This of course means that we won’t be able to guarantee that you’ll get your first choice of tracks–or even (unfortunately) that you’ll get in. We will make exceptions for those who have been awarded BootCamp fellowships and for those traveling long distances.

We know that we may have more people interested in attending BootCamp than we will be able to accommodate. However, we will be opening the afternoon sessions of the Programming and Pedagogy tracks to everyone. In other words, even if there isn’t room for you in the regular tracks at BootCamp, you should feel free to attend the “Intro to CMSes” and “Creating a Web Presence” sessions.

In case you haven’t already been planning to do so, you’ll certainly want to bring a laptop with you. Laptops are required for the Digital Humanities Project and Programming tracks, and you will have to install some free software ahead of time.

Digital Humanities Project Track (30 people, laptops required)

8:15 – 9:00 Breakfast
9:00 – 10:30 Visualizing Time and Space with Simile Widgets and Google (Brian Croxall)
10:30 – 12:30 The Civil War Papers Project I: Intro to Encoding Texts (Alice Hickox)
12:30 – 1:00 Break
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
2:00 – 4:00 The Civil War Papers Project II: Intro to GIS (Michael Page and Brian Croxall)
4:00 – 5:00 The Civil War Papers Project III: Presenting Research
(and its Metadata) on the Web (Chris Pollette, Kim Durante, Laura Akerman)

Session Descriptions

Visualizing Time and Space with Simile Widgets and Google: In this session, you’ll learn to build dynamic, interactive geospatial timelines using some simple tools: basic HTML, Google Docs, and the Simile Widgets. No previous coding experience is necessary!

The Civil War Papers Project: Learn about digital scholarship by encoding, geolocating, and then presenting a page from a Civil War-era letter or diary on a site you create together. Participants will be credited on the website.

  1. Intro to Encoding Texts: Encoding texts allows you to do amazing things by making them accessible and searchable. You will learn how to mark up text using the TEI encoding scheme.
  2. Intro to GIS: Maps can reveal spatial and temporal relationships that transform your scholarship. In this workshop you’ll learn how to use Google Earth to tie artifacts to their associated locations.
  3. Presenting Research on the Web: You’ll learn how to put all your work together by presenting text, maps, and images on one interactive website.

Programming Track (15 people, laptops required)

8:15 – 9:00 Breakfast
9:00 – 11:00 Introduction to Programming I, using Python (Scott Turnbull)
11:00 – 1:00 Introduction to the Django Framework using Python (Scott Turnbull)
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
2:00 – 3:30 Introduction to Content Management Systems:
WordPress, Drupal, Omeka (Tim Bryson, Andy Famiglietti, Roger Whitson)
4:00 – 5:00 Creating a Web Presence for Yourself or Your Projects
(Miriam Posner, Stewart Varner, Brian Croxall)

Session Descriptions

Introduction to Programming I, using Python: In this session, you’ll learn the basics of programming using Python. Using the interactive shell or a simple text editor you will move from the very simple “hello world” script up through simple parsing and manipulation of XML files.

Introduction to the Django Framework using Python:In this session, you will learn the basics of using the Django Framework to rapidly develop simple web applications. The session will cover the basic design of Models, rapid access to the application through the Administration Module and creation of various views for a simple Poetry Portal.

Introduction to Content Management Systems: What are the advantages and disadvantages to different content management systems? Is there something that one can do and the others can’t? What tasks are particular CMSes designed for? You’ll learn about the ins and outs of WordPress, Drupal, and Omeka.

Creating a Web Presence for Yourself or Your Projects: You know you’re supposed to take control of your online presence, but how? This workshop will cover basics like professionalizing your Facebook profile, using RSS feeds, and why anyone would bother with Twitter. We’ll also touch on creating your own professional-looking website.

Pedagogy Track (16 people)

8:15 – 9:00 Breakfast
9:00 – 10:15 Teaching with the Cloud (Wayne Morse and Chris Fearington)
10:15 – 11:30 Visualizing Course Content (Wayne Morse and Chris Fearington)
11:45 – 1:00 Engaging Students through Digital Storytelling
(Wayne Morse and Chris Fearington)
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch
2:00 – 3:30 Introduction to Content Management Systems:
WordPress, Drupal, Omeka (Tim Bryson, Andy Famiglietti, Roger Whitson)
3:30 – 5:00 Creating a Web Presence for Yourself or Your Projects
(Miriam Posner, Stewart Varner, Brian Croxall)

Session Descriptions

Teaching with the Cloud: In this session, you’ll learn about collaboration and presentation work tools that live online “in the cloud” and their use in teaching. We’ll cover include PBWorks, Blogger, and GoogleDocs.

Visualizing Course Content: There are many tools you can use to build a visual component to course content. This session includes hands-on learning with Google Gadgets, Prezi, and Simile-powered timelines.

Engaging Students through Digital Storytelling: Discover how Digital Storytelling can be used to engage students differently. We’ll discuss key elements of a successful digital story and explore using Camtasia and iMovie to create digital stories.

Introduction to Content Management Systems: What are the advantages and disadvantages to different content management systems? Is there something that one can do and the others can’t? What tasks are particular CMSes designed for? You’ll learn about the ins and outs of WordPress, Drupal, and Omeka.

Creating a Web Presence for Yourself or Your Projects: You know you’re supposed to take control of your online presence, but how? This workshop will cover basics like professionalizing your Facebook profile, using RSS feeds, and why anyone would bother with Twitter. We’ll also touch on creating your own professional-looking website.

THATCamp SE Organizers

We’ve recently heard that we could have been a bit more clear about who exactly is organizing TCSE. Who are these people behind the veil of secrecy that is thatcamp.southeast [at] gmail [dut] com? In the interest of transparency, then, we’ve decided to come clean. You can read all about the chief shenanigan-ers on our updated About page.

THATCamp Schedule

Believe it or not, we’ve been discovering that an unconference takes a lot of organizing. We mention this as a sort of mea culpa to acknowledge that we have not been as fast as getting information out to our Campers as we would like to be. So look for a flurry of posts in the next few days with as many details as we can get out to you.

First things first: the schedule for BootCamp and THATCamp Southeast!


Friday, March 4
8:30-9:00 breakfast
9:00-1:00 Sessions 1 and 2
1:00-2:00 Lunch
2:00-5:00 Sessions 3 and 4


Saturday, March 5
8:30-9:30 breakfast, session organizing
9:30-10:15 Welcome, Logistics, etc.
10:30-11:45 Session 1
12:00-1:00 Lunch/dork shorts
1:00-2:15 Session 2 
2:30-3:45 Session 3
4:00-5:15 Session 4

Sunday, March 6
8:30-9:00 Breakfast
9:15-10:30 Session 5
10:45-12:00 Session 6
12:15-12:30 Goodbyes

Look for more details very shortly.

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