What is a THATCamp?
THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a party at your house is to a church wedding, what a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee is to an NBA game, what a jam band is to a symphony orchestra: it’s more informal and more participatory. Here are the key characteristics of a THATCamp:
- It’s collaborative: there are no spectators at a THATCamp. Everyone participates, including in the task of setting an agenda or program.
- It’s informal: there are no lengthy proposals, papers, presentations, or product demos. The emphasis is on productive, collegial work or free-form discussion.
- It’s spontaneous and timely, with the agenda / schedule / program being mostly or entirely created by all the participants during the first session of the first day, rather than weeks or months beforehand by a program committee.
- It’s productive: participants are encouraged to use session time to create, build, write, hack, and solve problems.
- It’s lightweight and inexpensive to organize: we generally estimate that a THATCamp takes about 100 hours over the course of six months and about $4000.
- It’s not-for-profit and either free or inexpensive (under $30) to attend: it’s funded by small sponsorships, donations of space and labor, and by passing the hat around to the participants.
- It’s small, having anywhere from 25 or 50 to about 150 participants: most THATCamps aim for about 75 participants.
- It’s non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary and inter-professional: THATCamps welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, K-12 teachers, administrators, managers, and funders as well as people from the non-profit sector, people from the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs. The topic “the humanities and technology” contains multitudes.
- It’s open and online: participants make sure to share their notes, documents, pictures, and other materials from THATCamp discussions before and after the event on the web and via social media.
- It’s fun, intellectually engaging, and a little exhausting.
What is an “unconference”?
The shortest answer is this: an unconference is a highly informal conference. Two differences are particularly notable. First, at an unconference, the program isn’t set beforehand: it’s created on the first day with the help of all the participants rather than beforehand by a program committee. Second, at an unconference, there are no presentations — all participants in an unconference are expected to talk and work with fellow participants in every session. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture; going to an unconference is like being a member of an improv troupe where going to a conference is (mostly) like being a member of an audience. Unconferences are also free or cheap and open to all. For more information, see Wikipedia’s entry on the unconference.
Who should attend?
Anyone with energy and an interest in the humanities and/or technology.
What are “the humanities”?
Good question. Turns out there’s a legal definition! As the National Endowment for the Humanities puts it:
According to the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, “The term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”
What is “technology”?
We suggest you read this brilliant article by Professor Leo Marx, American cultural historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept.” (Side note: those who love technology should be those who are most aware of its hazards.)
What should I propose?
Sessions at THATCamp usually range from general discussions (Talk sessions) to project-based hackathons or writeathons (Make sessions) to technology skills workshops (Teach sessions) to miscellaneous experiments (Play sessions). There should be no full-blown papers; we’re not here to read or be read to. See the list of sample sessions at thatcamp.org/proposals/ for ideas, or come up with a creative idea of your own for a session genre or topic. Ideally, you should come to THATCamp with something in mind, and on the first day find a time, a place, and people to share it with.
Is a THATCamp only for scholars / grad students / librarians / archivists / programmers / instructional technologists? Can scholars / grad students / librarians / archivists / programmers / instructional technologists apply?
No to the first, yes to the second. THATCamp aims at the broadest diversity of backgrounds and skills possible.
Is my event a THATCamp?
The term “THATCamp,” as mentioned above, is trademarked. You can call your event a THATCamp as long as you register it and agree to the terms, which are as follows:
I agree that our THATCamp will be…
- FREE or CHEAP to attend (registration fees of up to $30 USD are fine)
- OPEN to anyone who wishes to apply or register (no restricting registration to members of a particular institution, association, organization, discipline, or rank)
- PUBLIC on the open web (sessions can be blogged, twittered, photographed, recorded, and posted)
- SELF-ORGANIZING (no program committee: all participants together will set the agenda, either before or during the unconference)
- PARTICIPATORY and spontaneous (most sessions are group discussions, productive co-working sessions, or joyous collaborations of any kind; there should be few if any prepared, monologuing presentations, papers, or demonstrations with the exception of skills training workshops, and even workshops should generally allow for hands-on exercises by the group)
- SAFE for and welcoming to all participants; THATCamps are required to adopt our anti-harassment policy and to abide by its procedures.