On ThatCAMP LAC 2012 and the Digital Humanities
During the June 1 – 3 weekend I went to Austin, TX to participate in ThatCAMP LAC 2012. This being an “unconference” – ie. not a traditional conference – I didn’t present a paper. Instead, I participated actively in all the talks I went to. Before I start writing about the two concerns that I have, let me say that the talk on creating ARGs was interesting and broadened my horizons. Thanks to that one session I can now make ARGs to use with my students, and over the summer I’ll be teaching on ways to integrate them into rhetoric and composition courses.
Anyway, while on ThatCAMP I heard several things that have been working on me since. And so, I now have two concerns I would like to address here. My first concern is regarding the legitimacy of the ThatCAMP unconferences. My second concern is about the definition of Digital Humanities as a field and how it holds up against fields like Digital Media Studies, Digital Pedagogy, and other fields. Tonight I’ll write about my first concern, and I’ll comment on my second concern afterwards.
On the very first ThatCAMP session – the one on the main room where everyone decides what topics will be discussed and who will lead the discussion – the organizer said (I paraphrase) “remember that this is a ThatCAMP. A ThatCAMP is not a conference, it is an unconference, so don’t put yourself as a speaker in your CV because it might get you in trouble.” I would like to make an argument against this train of thought.
Even though ThatCAMP has developed a reputation as a non-traditional conference, thus the concept of “unconference”, ThatCAMP is still a gathering of academics. In ThatCAMP, as in traditional conferences, academics gather to share and discuss ideas. As in other conferences, ThatCAMP has sessions that explore concepts relevant to the field. Very much like the PCA has panels exploring topics like the influence of Comedia Del’Arte in Japanese Anime characters (I just made this session up), ThatCAMP has sessions exploring, for example, issues of gamification in the teaching of literature. The difference between ThatCAMP and traditional conferences is that, while in traditional conferences there are formally organized panels of speakers who present formal papers and the panels are chaired by authorities in the field, in ThatCAMP there are (a) workshops on how to use specific technologies in the humanities and (b) spontaneous sessions that discuss theories, technologies, and issues of curricula. The workshops are offered by academics who know how to use the software and have become experts on their educational applications. There is no reason why these individuals should not put in their CVs that they offered a workshop on the humanities applications of a software in a conference. I will use the same reasoning for including spontaneous sessions to the CV.
In both ThatCAMPS that I have attended, the breakout sessions have a moderator that is assigned in the organization period. These moderators lead the conversation, offer ideas, and often end up running the entire session as if it were a traditional conference. On ThatCAMP Texas 2012 – earlier this year – a colleague, Fanny Ramirez, suggested a session which she moderated. It was a session on creating a programming course for non-computer sciences students. On the way to the session she asked another colleague, one Tricia Dupey, and myself to help her lead the session. Most of the sessions involved Fanny talking about programming application for the humanities, Tricia talking about web applications for the humanities, and myself talking about game creation software and their use in digital humanities. Is there any reason why we should not put in our CVs that we led this session? No. Is there any reason why the young lady from UT Dallas who led the Digital Pedagogy session at the same ThatCAMP should not put the fact in her CV? No. There is absolutely no reason why someone who takes the lead and chairs a panel discussion in a ThatCAMP should not put it on their CV. If anything, the fact that these discussion leaders were chosen democratically by a team of scholars speaks volumes as far as their ability and level of participation is concerned. The same is true to those who participate in the Dork Shorts mini presentations. And so, I will be proud to put in my CV that I co-facilitated two sessions in two ThatCAMPS, and I encourage anyone who has ever attended one to include the fact in your CV. Perhaps you shouldn’t put them as “papers presented”, but certainly under some sort of label that acknowledges your participation.