The “Digital Humanities”—Whazzat?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-sentence answer to this question yet. The term “Digital Humanities” describes a field still defining itself. For some guidance, however, you can refer to these articles that wrestle with that very question:


This one’s a little easier. THATCamps are “unconferences” that seek up upend (and hopefully thereby improve) the standard model for academic conferences. The first was sponsored a few years ago by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Since then, due to excitement among participants and generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the THATCamp model has spread around the country and around the world. THATCamp LAC will be the first THATCamp to focus on the Liberal Arts College community. For a full description of what a THATCamp looks like, and the philosophy that grounds the movement, visit thatcamp.org. The key principles that make a THATCamp are:

  • There are no spectators at a THATCamp; everyone participates.
  • It is small and intimate, having anywhere from 25 or 50 to no more than 100 participants. Most THATCamps aim for about 75 participants.
  • It lasts no more than two days.
  • It is not-for-profit and inexpensive; it’s funded by small sponsorships (e.g., for breakfast) and by passing the hat around to the participants. Attendance should be free, but attendees can donate to cover expenses if they want.
  • It’s informal: there are no lengthy proposals, papers, or presentations. The emphasis is on discussion or on productive, collegial work.
  • It is also non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary: THATCamps welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, administrators, managers, and funders; people from the non-profit sector, the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs.
  • Participants make sure to share their notes, slides, and other materials from THATCamp discussions before and after the event on the web and via social media.
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About Ryan Cordell

I'm currently Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Writing-Across-the-Curriculum at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. In the fall of 2012 I will join the English faculty at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. I'm building a digital edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Celestial Railroad" at http://celestialrailroad.org that will aim to allow scholars, teachers, and students to follow the rich history of publication and editing "The Celestial Railroad" in American periodicals during the 1840s and 50s. This site will provide images and the text of each printing of the story, highlighting significant amendments or deletions, as well as any editorial introductions appended to the texts. I hope to build a web version of Juxta into the site, which will allow users to compare the text of reprintings on the fly and draw their own conclusions about the story's reception and influence. I'm also hoping to build an interface to the texts that will incorporate timeline and geospatial data, so that users can correlate changes made to the story with its progress through the nineteenth century and across the United States. I maintain a "Celestial Railroad" development blog on which I report new historical and textual findings, discuss the technologies that I'm using to create the site, and update visitors on the project's progress. I write about technology in higher education for the group blog ProfHacker at the Chronicle of Higher Education.