Update: THATCamp AHA Locations

new schoolMorning sessions will take place at the Theresa Lang Center at The New School’s Arnhold Hall located at 55 West 13th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Afternoon sessions will be scheduled in The New School’s Arnhold Hall on 13th Street and around the corner at Johnson/Kaplan Hall, 66 West 12th Street. There will be a room for storing luggage until 4:30pm at Arnhold Hall.

[The New School campus map]

For lunch, we recommend a quick walk west to Sixth Avenue, or the stretch of eateries two blocks east on University Place.

If you’re staying at the conference hotels, The New School is a short subway ride from Midtown, on the downtown F train (which you can catch from West 57th Street and Sixth Avenue). Get off the train at 14th Street (Union Square) — The New School is just a quick walk south.

[Google Maps]

Last minute questions? Tweet us at #AHA2015!

Session Proposal: Open Access and the History Dissertation

Scheduled for 2:30-3:20 in Room 601, 66 W 12th Street

In 2013, the American Historical Association put out a statement encouraging graduate programs and university libraries to allow students to embargo their dissertations for up to 6 years. They wrote, “History has been and remains a book-based discipline, and the requirement that dissertations be published online poses a tangible threat to the interests and careers of junior scholars in particular.” I propose a session where we talk about open access and the history dissertation. I’d like the conversation to include many different voices, from grad students to librarians to professors. Some potential questions I’m interested in exploring include:

Why might graduate students want to make their dissertation open access?

How can history departments and libraries work together to ensure that graduate students know and understand the different options for distributing their work?

What’s the main purpose of a history dissertation anyways?


Session Proposal: Source Discovery for Historical Scholarship

Scheduled for 2:30-3:20pm in Theresa Lang Auditorium (202) 55 W 13th Street

With the massive digitization of primary sources that has taken place over the past decade or so there are far more resources available online for research and teaching than was even imaginable a short time ago. This work by libraries, archives, commercial entities and even researchers themselves has led to availability of materials that were once only obtainable in a few research libraries or a single archive somewhere in the world. This abundance provides scholars who might otherwise not be able to obtain research materials with access that’s vital to their research. But with this abundance has come a proliferation of platforms and a loss of coherence in the means for discovery of primary sources. This dispersal means that today’s scholar has a much more difficult time knowing where to look for sources.

What I’d like to talk about in this session is what kinds of tools and mechanisms historians will need to discover primary sources as ever larger parts of the historical record are available and dispersed on many platforms across the web. What is the future of discovery of archival materials and other kinds of sources? How is scholarship based on primary sources changing and what implications will these changes have for the tools that researchers use to find these sources?

Session Proposal: Digital Dawdle — Smartphones for Historic Sites

Scheduled for 1:30-2:20 in Theresa Lang Auditorium (202), 55 W 13th Street

Digital Dawdle: Walk and Talk around a Historic Site, connecting via Social Media. We scurry by statues, buildings, and historic spots every day without slowing down to take in the atmosphere or soak up the history. How do we slow down the urban walker and animate the flow in the field? Kathleen Hulser and Steve Bull are working on stimulating conversations via augmented reality and audio about women’s history in NYC’s public spaces in a project called “Caught in the Act: Restoring Women’s Memory in Public Space.”  We would like to brainstorm how people have used devices in the field to spark conversations, what are the best participation paradigms, scale, techniques for involvement, size and complexity of layers. We see how the Talking Statues of London work but have a more dialogue-oriented approach in mind.

Here’s map of the London Talking Statues. http://static.guim.co.uk/ni/1408118379892/London’s-talking-statues.pdf This is a pertinent model, but not exactly what we want to do, since we are using different types of sound, and augmented reality, along with social media components that are intended to make this a cumulative, live archive of experiences.

Session Proposal: Visualization

This session will take place from 3:30-4:20pm in the Theresa Lang Auditorium (202), 55 W 13th Street

This is an unformed suggestion written as I sit here in the visualization session in the last AHA time slot on Monday. At 12:45 there are still some 40 people in the room. This wasn’t the only well-attended visualization session of the conference either. Maybe there’s more conversation to be had on this topic?

I have no particular expertise but would be interested in participating. Right now I’m thinking about what types of visualizations can help to answer what types of historical questions.

Session Proposal: MOOCs Now–Specializations and the Skills of the Humanities

This session is scheduled for 3:30-4:20 in the Hirshon Suite (205), 55 W. 13th Street

The report of MOOCs’ death was an exaggeration.  They may no longer be featured in the Times on a weekly basis and some companies (cough … Udacity … cough) may have abandoned their original missions to provide free education.  But hundreds of universities on dozens of platforms continue to offer thousands of courses.  And enrollments totals have entered the tens of millions (usual caveats about “completion” still apply).  While the hype around MOOCs has died down, their continued, indeed, strengthened presence means we must continue to pay them mind.  In fact, it may be more important than ever for the humanities to critically consider the present and future of MOOCs as administrations start seeking concrete evidence of return on (an often large) investment.

In this session, I’d like to consider a burgeoning trend in MOOCs as they enter their latest phase: the push toward specialization(s).  In 2014, Coursera introduced series of courses–dubbed Specializations–that promised to teach “marketable” skill sets in the most popular fields.  Conspicuously absent from these tracks was the humanities.  Of Coursera’s initial 18 and current 27 specializations, zero came from disciplines or interdisciplines in the humanist fields.
Think what you will of MOOCs, but I am dismayed (if not surprised) by the humanities’ absence from this new evolution in massive, open courses and suspect many of you, too, see it as troublesome.  To address this trend, I propose that we discuss strategies for future participation in or conscious resistance of specialization(s).  I see this session as an opportunity to think through the skill sets and specialties the humanities have to offer (they are many, I believe) and the promises and pitfalls of participating in structured series of MOOCs may mean for the field–especially given that this turn is unabashedly driven by promoting fee-generating “verified” certificates.  While this session will start as a discussion, I hope it can plant the seeds for a collaborative, written strategy document–a white paper, perhaps.

Session proposal: What Should the Next THATCamp(s) Look Like?

Scheduled for 1:30-2:20pm in the Hirshon Suite (205), 55 W. 13th Street

Whether this is your first THATCamp or your 20th, you are participating in a remarkably wide-reaching process of talking, making, learning, and sharing the digital humanities.  Since the first THATCamp in May 2008 at George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media there have been well over 150 THATCamp unconferences all over the world, reaching thousands of people.

As one of the members of THATCamp Council (elected under a community-produced THATCamp Council Charter), I’m particularly interested in what both new and experienced THATCampers would like to see from future THATCamps.  So, I’m proposing a session where we talk broadly about the future of THATCamp.  What role can and should these unconferences serve in reaching and serving people interested in the digital humanities?

Session proposal: What should the ideal Digital Humanities course look like?

Scheduled as part of teaching conversations from 10:45-11:20am at Theresa Lang auditorium, 55 W 13th Street

I am wondering how one would design the perfect course for a degree in digital humanities. Should it have technical and non-technical modules at equal measure? Should it have more humanistic modules for those with a stronger technical background, and more technical modules for those with a first degree in a humanities discipline? Should it train students to master the commonly encountered technologies in DH, such as NLP, Text Mining or GIS? Should it teach programming skills, or just software usage? Focus on collaborative tools/software, or teach basic technical skills so that students can extend their expertise into new areas? Should it include modules on hacking/making (i.e. Arduino/RaspberryPi projects)? What about project management and modules on legal issues, such as copyright laws, given that many DH projects are big digitization projects?

While I am fully aware that DH is broad (a.ka. the “big tent”), it leaves me wondering what kind of teaching a university degree course should offer. I’d be interested to hear/discuss what people (both novices and experts) think about this.

Session proposal: Humanities GIS. Is there a point(x,y)?

Scheduled for 2:30-3:20 in Hirshon Suite (205), 55 W. 13th Street

While the use of GIS for the humanities (particularly history) has been discussed for quite some time now, it still seems to be unclear to many scholars what kind of fundamental new insights GIS is supposed to deliver. Given its nature as positivistic tool that allows one only to deal with Euclidean geometries and Cartesian spaces, it seems somewhat implausible that GIS can offer more than trivial visualizations of locations and quantitative data. I would like to have a session where we could discuss these issues, i.e. what epistemic value GIS offers for the humanities, what kind of space it represents (i.e. predominantly Western, male spaces?), or what the alternative to the existing GIS software could be.

Looking at the kind of visualizations that GIS offers — most of the time, thematic maps — I wonder what the deal is. These kind of maps have been produced for over  a hundred years now, but they often lack context and provide for little more than banal illustrations with little to no explanatory power. Frankly, what can we learn from a GIS in the humanities we couldn’t learn otherwise? We have been told that there is a “Spatial Turn” in the humanities for two decades now or so, so why is there not more GIS in scholarly work?

I have both argued for alternative software (and developed it) and for alternative approaches (e.g. use GIS as paint program rather than as scientific tool, and interpret its visualizations accordingly). I’d like to discuss/hear other people’s opinions and experiences.