THATCamp Austin reflections

With THATCamp Pacific Northwest coming up next month, it’s about time I posted about my experiences at THATCamp Austin. I think I’ve been delaying this post for a while out of simultaneous excitement that I got to participate and fear that I’ll be exposed as a big groupie of all the amazing folks who participated in THATCamp.

This year was the first regional session of the original THATCamp, or “The Humanities and Technology Camp,” first held by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As a user-generated “unconference” consisting of discussion groups, training sessions, and “dork shorts” demonstrating new projects, THATCamp is an ideal kind of spontaneous, creative outlet for  newbie archivists/digital humanists/historians.  Lisa Grimm was one of the archivists in attendance in June and wrote this inspiring post about the potential for THATCamp in Austin.

A few weeks later, THATCamp Austin was  born (care of Lisa Grimm, Ben Brumfield, Peter Keane, and Jeanne Kramer-Smyth). As I read the excited tweets about the program and encouraging news that anyone interested in digital humanities could apply, my hesitation about being a public library archivist/special collections librarian among digital humanities folks began to subside.  I applied and my idea to discuss redefining the  boundaries of memory institutions was accepted!

Overall, I could sense that the environment at THATCamp would be supportive, energetic, and a lot of fun. My enthusiasm grew as I got to the UT-Austin lecture hall where our event would be held. A narrow hallway was filled with smiling faces, free pizza, and free t-shirts thanks to some angel sponsors and a few incredibly hardworking organizers.

We settled ourselves in an auditorium in the basement of the building, with live tweets popping up on the overhead screen. Open discussion, creativity, and freedom of thought was the order of the evening — I was overjoyed! We shouted out our potential topics and organized ourselves on loosely-related themes. I chose to participate in the session on crowdsourcing in digital projects and was a discussion leader for the session on “web x.x and diversity and community.”

I didn’t take notes. For the first time in my career, my ubiquitous notebook sits devoid of scribbled entries, doodles, or quotes. Perhaps it’s because I found it faster to type than to write…so most of my remarks, in reverse chronological order, can be seen via tweets:

Perhaps the best thing about THATCamp was being given the opportunity to speak freely about new concepts with intelligent, creative folks in a non-competitive, relatively unstructured environment. No one had to submit a proposal a year in advance (many of these projects and ideas will have morphed multiple times within a few months). I relished the chance to meet some of the emerging contributors to my field and have conversations with my colleagues without the constraints of a formal panel. I am so grateful to have been there and cannot wait to see what concepts and innovations come out of future THATCamps!


3 Responses to “THATCamp Austin reflections”

  1. 1 terryx
    September 3, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Nice post, Audra. I was just happy to ride along with the smart and sassy crew of the good ship web x.x. Tons of fun and i was really glad to have met you in person.

  2. December 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks for this post, Audra! It’s a good view of how THATcamp works. It sounds fun!! 🙂

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