@THATCamp @AARweb 2013; Or, Acronyms for the Digerati

By Chris Cantwell

"When you start talking about the internet, you never run out of internet to talk about."
Last year's annual meeting of the American Historical Association featured, for the first time, one of the more interesting phenomena to come out of the collaborative network of scholars working in what's called the digital humanities: a THATCamp. For those that are unfamiliar with the acronym, THATCamp stands for a "The Humanities and Technology Camp" and is the brainchild of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. (For those of you unsure what the appellation "digital humanities" refers to, join...the...discussion.) THATCamps are, as there name suggests, a gathering of scholars, librarians, and other members of the academy interested in discussing how technology has affected, will effect, and can enhance teaching and research in the humanities. But unlike other scholarly gatherings, THATCamps are less about presentations and more about hands-on, collaborative learning. A program of sessions is not planned in advance, but emerges organically from the needs and interests of the audience. Want to learn how to devise digital research projects for your class? Propose a session. Need help using some software to dig into your research material? Call for a working group. Want to learn basic computer code? Ask for a workshop. Hence, the "Camp." Or, as THATCampers like to call them, an "unconferences."

I was fortunate enough to attend the AHA's THATCamp last year in Chicago and found the experience enormously beneficial. I left the event not only with new ideas, but also with a new set of scholarly skills. There were sessions or workshops on teaching digital history classes, introductory HTML and CSS, scholarly blogging, and the path to publishing in the digital age. I left only wishing there was a THATCamp for scholars to discuss the methodological and theoretical issues specific to the study of religion. How, for example, does the increased use of digital technology not only in teaching and research, but also amongst religious practitioners, shape how we study these practices?

Which brings me to this blog post. I've been corresponding with a handful of scholars and #twitterstorians on Twitter about exploring the possibility of organizing a THATCamp for the American Academy of Religion's 2013 Annual Meeting in Baltimore. Absolutely nothing has been written in stone yet. I'm simply trying to gather a critical mass of individuals who would be interested in putting in some time over the next year to make this happen. Several folks have already signed on, and we even have a potential sponsor. I'm simply hoping to get a few more committed individuals on board to help see the AAR follow in the AHA's, the OAH's, the NCPH's, and the MLA's footsteps by  hosting THATCamps alongside its annual meeting.

So if you're interested, learn more. Then, check out THATCamp's thorough step-by-step instructions on planning. If you're still interested, then send me an email. Hope to hear from some of you!


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