Archive for category Session Ideas

Providing Access to Born Digital Records Online

I am actively working with born digital records in a special collections archives right now, and one of the issues I continue with is how best to provide online access for researchers to view born digital records.  Although we receive digital images,  I am more focused on databases, textual documents like e-mail and items created in word processing software like Microsoft Word.

Digital Humanities and Special Collections Libraries

I am interested in a session about Digital Humanities and special collections libraries. Archives can play a central role in the DH because they are stuffed to the ceilings with the raw materials for a staggering range of DH projects but . . . special collections repository haven’t been to keep up with the “insatiable” user demand for digitized materials. So I want to hear ideas (and even complaints) from my fellow THATCampers about what they want from archives or wish they had. How do DH-ers want to access and use data and digital materials from special collections? What types of devices do you want to use these materials on in the classroom, in your own research or – heaven forbid – just for fun?

Writing for the Web


How is writing for the web different than writing for print? Prevailing wisdom says that web-readers scan until they find the specific information they seek.

My question is: how can we engage people on the web and offer meaningful, substantive, responsible, yet accessible encounters with humanities scholarship? And how can we take full advantage of the possibilities that the web now affords? Here are some issues we might explore:

  • How do we best anticipate and satisfy [goal-oriented] search queries?
  • How do we take people in new and unanticipated directions?
  • How do we help readers to “unlearn” what they think they know about a subject and be open to new perspectives? (See NATURE article by Dan Kahan, “Fixing the Communications Failure,” Vol 463, 21 January, 2010.)
  • How do we manage comments sections?
  • What are reasonable lengths for copy on the web? And frequency of updating text on a home page?
  • How should first paragraphs be written to optimize search engine results, grab and orient the reader, and get them to the heart of the matter? [We could give ourselves a writing exercise here, each bringing a fairly complex topic that needs to be introduced in 200 words or less.]
  • How would you think through the designing of an interactive piece or game with the goal of teaching a new concept? [Again, we could each bring an example and try to write a script for it– a game that teaches/tests how to identify a certain type of pottery… or an interactive puzzle based on manuscript fragments…]
  • How can we offer differentiated levels of content so that novices and more sophisticated readers both have something to learn?
  • If there is time, I’m also interested in the merits/drawbacks and practical aspects of producing video content for the web.

I have a demo site from a project at work (Bible Odyssey) that can illustrate some of these questions.

Accessibility and Shifting Academic Expectations

As digital media scholars interested in accessible theory, how do we start to shift academic expectations of disciplinary and peer reviewed material as we try to reach broader audiences? Do we as scholars have a responsibility to engage debates of net neutrality, the digital divide, and open source products for the good of our communities? Specifically should we also think about the type of advocacy needed to shift tenure policies so that University see digital scholarship and pedagogy as important elements of our work as a scholars? I am also interested in thinking about accessibility along the axis of disability and supporting students who may have different needs related to digital technologies employed in the classroom.

Tools and Techniques for Dealing with Digital Traces

Recently I’ve been interested in the idea of “Trace Ethnography,” as developed by David Ribes and R.S. Geiger (a pdf of their article is available here). In a nutshell, Trace Ethnography describes a method for studying the actions of an online community “by combining a fine grained analysis of the various ‘traces’ that are automatically recorded by the [community’s] software alongside an ethnographically-derived understanding of the tools, techniques, practices, and procedures that generate such traces.” Trace ethnography provides an elegant name for the hybrid archival/ethnographic methods that have been used by both Joseph Reagle and myself to study WIkipedia. In addition, I have been trying to extend the idea to develop “trace pedagogy,” which would inform techniques for using wikis and related technology in the composition classroom.

In this session, I would like to begin a conversation about the best tools and techniques for reading and interpreting the traces left by users of a wiki community, or other online community. The archive of traces left by such communities can be large and diverse, making them both extremely informative and quite difficult to navigate. A discussion of how to select cases, how to read traces, and what sorts of tools might make it easier to derive both quantitative and qualitative information from trace archives might help both novice and experienced researchers engage with these techniques.

Guided tour of exhibition – “The Future Belongs to the Discontented: The Life and Legacy of Robert W. Woodruff”

I would like to offer THATCamp-ers a guided tour of “The Future Belongs to the Discontented: The Life and Legacy of Robert W. Woodruff,” an exhibition in the Schatten Gallery of the Woodruff Library. Robert W. Woodruff was Atlanta’s most successful businessman and most generous philanthropist; he was the longtime head of The Coca-Cola Company. Let me know if y’all are interested.

More information about the exhibit here:

Session idea: Zotero

I’m the librarian for the Communication department at GSU. For the last several months I’ve been working on a book about the open-source citation manager Zotero. I’m wondering whether there would be interest in a discussion session about teaching and collaborative applications for Zotero. I’ll bring some sample classroom assignments and collaborative projects that teaching faculty and librarians have shared with me, like the New Orleans Research Collaborative (about which several Emory campers know more than I do), and talk a little about GSU Library’s plans for using Zotero group libraries.

I can start with a demo for those who haven’t used Zotero before. Other discussion points could include advantages and disadvantages of Zotero’s nature as an open-source application, best practices for teaching and supporting Zotero in libraries and in the classroom.


Session proposal: Teaching (with) Technology

I am interested in a session focused on discussing some of the issues involved in teaching with and about technology. I work as a librarian in a theological library in which we offer both hour-long workshops and a credit-bearing course titled “Technology for Ministry.” The students in that course are primarily masters’ level students in divinity who are interested in both practical and theological considerations for the use of technology in their work. We discuss not only how to use particular tools, but also hope to engage in a broader discussion that begins by examining the purposes for which tools are being considered. In the course, students develop projects based on their own contexts and interests, and examine the tools we consider during the semester with an eye to those projects. In the workshops, although we don’t have time for same kind of reflection, we do try to bring the question of purpose into the discussion where appropriate. We use a few criteria for selecting the tools we use for both workshops and in the class, but I would like to engage in a broader discussion about how each of us selects which tools to teach and how we discuss their uses. Here are a few questions to begin:
• What criteria do you use for selecting a tool to assign as part of a class assignment?
• How do you choose the tools you use in your own classroom presentations?
• How do you account for students’ differing levels of comfort and experience with a particular tool when choosing if and how to teach with it (perhaps particularly when this is not the focus of the assignment or the session)?
• How do you help students consider the biases of a particular tool or form of communication, and its appropriateness for a particular context?
• How do you discuss the limits of technology, and/or the places where a new or popular option may not be the best option for a student’s intended purpose?

Session: Building with Spare Parts

I want to second Brian Croxall’s “show and tell” proposal and suggest another way it might be productively framed. There’s been a lot of discussion (sometimes outright debate) in the wake of the 2011 MLA Convention about the necessity of coding, programming, building, or doing technical stuff vis-à-vis the digital humanities. In a blog post that followed up his own comments at the convention, Stephen Ramsay claims that

DH-ers insist — again and again — that this process of creation yields insights that are difficult to acquire otherwise. […] People who mark up texts say it, as do those who build software, hack social networks, create visualizations, and pursue the dozens of other forms of haptic engagement that bring DH-ers to the same table. Building is, for us, a new kind of hermeneutic. (original emphasis, “On Building”)

Such “building” does not have to require arcane or specialized knowledge. (Suspicions that it does have likely generated much of the anxious backlash about DH as an exclusive and computational domain.) It does not have to take place at an institute for digital scholarship or be funded by a major grant. It can happen with the parts one finds virtually lying around. This session invites participants to “show and tell” about their favorite apps, APIs, websites, digital resources, wooden blocks, whatever with which to “build.” Its goal would not necessarily be to create an electronic tool shed, of which there are already some wonderful examples (e.g. Alan Liu’s Toy Chest wiki). Rather, its goal would be “haptic engagement” itself, giving every participant inspiration and some practical strategies for a building project of their own, whether in designing an interpretive machine, a personal/professional hack, and/or a pedagogy. Such a session would also allow participants to apply and customize the lessons from their particular BootCamp tracks.


Public History and Digital Access

As a grad student interested in how museums make their exhibits palatable to diverse publics, I’d like to put together a session on public history and digital access. Some of you might be familiar with the Smithsonian’s planned American Enterprise exhibition, which will solicit ideas for content on its blog:

I’m curious about some of the implications of this venture. In his book Consuming History, Jerome de Groot seems to suggest that technology (broadly defined) will improve access to public history (also broadly defined)–even to the point of “democratizing” public history. The Smithsonian’s approach certainly marks a shift away from older forms of exhibit construction, but what are the implications for curating, displaying, and experiencing exhibits and other forms of public history?

Perhaps using this cases as a starting point, I’d like to propose a session that examines what digital access and democratization mean in the context of public history. Are these approaches significant departures from old ways of thinking about public history, or are there continuities and complications? I’d like to cast a pretty wide net here–I can certainly see these questions being applicable to archives and libraries, as well.


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