• From Nebulous Idea to Actionable First Steps


    Basically, it’s in the title: a session for relative newbies, or people who’ve been active participants in larger scale projects but are looking to set out on their own small-scale project,  to brainstorm how you get from the most nebulous of ideas—”here’s a text I think I’d like to work on/present using DH tools but I don’t know if that will be worthwhile,” “I know I want to do something with maps, but I don’t know how to get started,” “text analysis seems neat, but would it actually do anything for my project”—to the actual first steps of making such a project happen.

    So, in many ways, tagging along here with cedwards’s post about DIY in the digital humanities… but also wondering how to get from merely being interested to actually doing things. Vague, yes, but perhaps it would be an opportunity for some of us to hash out possibilities floating around in our heads and finding a way forward.

    And I’m into the ngrams, too, and would find the Omeka/Wordpress theme sessions incredibly useful.

  • Documentation as Pedagogy and Community


    Wow.  That is a really buzz-wordy title.  I had better explain myself.

    As a tool builder and user I have become really interested in finding ways to improve technical documentation, particularly for the tools we as digital humanists build to do our work.  Good documentation helps a project at every stage of its development.  But we all hate to write (or sketch) documentation.  Instead of thinking of documentation as a final chore, one more thing to do after the program works, maybe we could integrate it into the process of the developing the software.  Highly commented code and up-to-date diagrams would dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to put together a useful README file once the coding stops.

    I see documentation as a chance to explain our work as digital humanists.  Writing good documentation requires getting into the mindset of your users (often non-technically trained humanities scholars) and explaining what you’ve done from their point of view.  As educators, this is a familiar exercise.  We can teach our colleagues and students through how we explain our projects.

    If we are building open source tools we will also encourage a community of users by providing them with a helpful place to find answers.  There is a generosity and even warmth that comes from thoughtful, helpful documentation, just as inadequate documentation can make someone feel stupid, slighted, or unwanted as a user/developer.

    I’ve created a schema visualization tool (DAVILA) to help me create better documentation for my own relational databases.  If anyone else has suggestions I would love to hear them.


  • Open Open Open


    THATCamp Open Street Map session anyone?  OSM is a wiki-style map of the world that anyone can edit and it’s one of the few sources of free GIS data for many parts of our world.

    This week there’s big news from the Open Street Map community as MapQuest launches their United States OSM collaboration at Open.Mapquest.com.   This seems certain to attract a new crop of OSM contributors and editors to the 300,000 plus already working to crowdsource data that can be reused without restrictive copyright limitations.

    Topic ideas for a THATCamp Virginia OSM discussion:

    • How can I contribute to OSM?  What’s the workflow?  Do I need to be a GIS expert or Cartographic Guru?
    • Take the new open.mapquest.com site for a spin and learn to edit some data in your neck of the woods.
    • Compare this new site to other OSM editor tools
    • What mobile tools exist for accessing and editing OSM data – iPhone, Android…
    • OSM Mapping Parties – ever organize one or participate?
    • Walking Papers – what’s that and why?
    • GPS – tips and tricks for collecting and adding your own data
    • Hands-on walk-around to improve the OSM data for the UNESCO World Heritage Site outside the front door of Alderman Library
    • CloudMade OSM downloads and their wonderfulness when asked for GIS data for (fill in Euro city name).
    • ESRI’s ArcMap Version 10 OSM editor
    • OSM blankets – yes warm and snuggly OSM blankets – ideas for other OSM merch?

  • the embodied materiality of digital cultures


    “Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it is caught in the fabric of the world” –Merleau-Ponty

    My body is “visible, and mobile;” it also hears, tastes, touches, interacts, and can be sedentary and blind at times. It is “a thing among things,” one object among many, “caught in fabric of the world.”  To be caught is to be contained; the world is always already in motion, ready to enfold, envelope, enframe; always already producing, doing, learning, reconfiguring, erasing, removing, unbecoming; filled with potentiality and change.

    The ‘fabric of the world’ invites texture and color, rhythm and weaving, resistance and movement; the haptic senses are fully incorporated in the body’s interactions within space and time.

    How then can this texture, this materiality, this haptic fabric of space and our very physical bodies be rendered in a digital space? How do raced and gendered and sexualized inequities get carried over wholesale to digital spaces? What are the possibilities for an inclusive digitally embodied materiality that allows and embraces self-expression at the margins while also allowing information about bodies to be useful at meta-levels? How can this be defined at a systems level in order to create an inclusive practice for digital culture creation?

    I’m interested in a discursive digitally embodied materiality- how can we think about information differently when designing databases? What current best practices might be tweaked to enable meaning at the level of personal meaning for the user, while still providing meaningful data at other levels of granularity? What standards do we take for granted, and what would the center look like if we designed for the margins?

    keywords: systems, categories, classifications, standards, best practices, database design, discursive materiality, queerness, marginality

  • N-Grams


    Lump me in with Chris Forster and Jeff Drouin, because I wanna talk about this sort of thing:

    Reason v. Imagination in Long 18th C.


  • How do you herd your cats?


    One of my responsibilities at work is managing a FileMaker relational database which captures correspondence, documents, objects, theoretical objects, individuals, institutions, keywords, and a myriad of relationship forms between them.  As a result, I’ve started to think about all information which has to be organized in terms of relational databases.

    We all deal with a lot of information – data – in our work. So, how do you herd your cats? Relational database, fancy app, mindmap, home-made database? Are you still using 3×5 cards (or use them in addition)? It would be fun to yak about databases, etc, (especially with Jean, who just recently released her awesome historical database), but I’m also interested in taking someone’s dataset and having everyone propose ways to organize it.

  • Learning DH the DIY Way


    This session idea comes out of the experience of working this semester, with Matt Gold, to launch the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative. It’s a brand new group that aims to build community among CUNY DHers, and raise awareness of DH at CUNY more  generally. We emphasize that all are welcome to join – “faculty, students, and technologists, experienced practitioners and beginning DHers, enthusiasts and skeptics” – and there’s been a great response so far.

    With this though comes some anxiety (especially if you’re a born worrier). We built a Resource Guide to help introduce newcomers to the field, but then there’s the next set of questions: “How do I get started? What do I need to learn? How do I learn it?”

    On the one hand I’m convinced that the DIY model of DH – DHer as self-motivated tinkerer – is the right one, at least for us. And since we’re funding-free we couldn’t support a more passive model anyway. But I feel responsibility too for providing new DHers (I’m one myself) with some help on the way up the learning curve. There’s a lot of work in progress on DH education but, in the meantime, what can we do to make the DIY model more practically accessible for new DHers in our group, and other groups like ours?

    Very excited to see Julie Meloni on the Camper list – it would be great to get her thoughts on the best approaches, given her project to “Develop self-paced open access DH curriculum for mid-career scholars otherwise untrained.”

    I’d also be very keen to pick up from Chris Forster’s post on HASTAC about this issue and its relationship to how, and how quickly, DH might develop as a field (what the Landscape of Digital Humanists might look like, if you will).

    And, in hack mode, would love to hear your ideas on how can we enhance the Guide to provide or point to some better answers here.

  • Omeka in the classroom


    In the spring I will be teaching the second-semester, second-part to “Introduction to Digital Cultures and Creativity.” In the class, we’ll focus on creating a digital archive of letters from the Civil War (currently housed in special collections at the University of Maryland) from soup to nuts–from creating transcriptions and metadata to developing databases and designing interactive interfaces. The semester will culminate in an Omeka-powered site featuring the Civil War letters and will eventually become part of the University of Maryland Library’s permanent Fedora repository.

    The program behind this class, Digital Cultures and Creativity, comprises humanities and computer science students. The class is intended to familiarize students with these technologies and to help them develop some basic skill sets they can use towards possible final projects around the archive which will include Omeka exhibits and plug-ins as well as associated multi-media projects and possibly a conceptual plan for an Omeka mobile app.

    I’d like to see a session where we discuss how folks have used Omeka in the classroom. What skill sets are needed for one to feel comfortable tinkering around in Omeka and how one manages students under the hood, so to speak.

  • Intro to CMSs 1


    Here’s a link to Raf’s part of the Intro to CMSs BootCamp session

    Here’s links and images from Patrick’s parts of the Intro to CMSs BootCamp session.

    WP example sites

    UMW History Department
    UMW Geography Department

    Serena Epstein (freelance web design)

    Omeka example sites

    Lincoln at 200
    Civil War Hospitals (student site)
    E Belle’s Omeka Sandbox

  • Join Dzian! for a Night of Nakashi Dance Overload on Saturday


    I’m excited to announce that my band Dzian! — this year’s THATCampVA house band — has prepared a Nakashi Go-Go Dance Overload for Saturday night. At 12th Street Tap House, We will play two sets of vintage pan-Asian surf and garage rock, some obscure, some among your favorites perhaps. A few numbers will feature our very Nakashi Dancers, who will be performing their own brilliant (and historically accurate) dance choreography. As the night deepens, we expect to host a go-go dance-off. If you’re curious about the format of the dance-off, check out this video, circa 1966, Japan.

    Geek Bash with Dzian!
    Time: 9pm – midnight or later
    Location: 12th Street Tap House, 1202 W. Main Street, Charlottesville
    Attire: Dress to Dance – Think 1960s
    RSVP: Facebook Event

    Tags: ,

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