Propose a Session

Technical details

Once you are registered, you should receive login information for the site. To propose a session, log in and go to Posts –> Add New. Write your session proposal as a blog post and publish it to the blog. (It’s helpful if you categorize it as “Session Proposal.”) In the first time slot on Saturday morning, all of us will go over all the proposals together and create an agenda for the day. We encourage all participants to propose a session.

Content details

Some session genres and examples are given below. The best tip: do not prepare a paper or presentation. Plan instead to have a conversation, to get some work done, or to have fun. An unconference, in Tom Scheinfeldt’s words, is fun, productive, and collegial, and at THATCamp, therefore, “[W]e’re not here to listen and be listened to. We’re here to work, to participate actively.[…] We’re here to get stuff done.” Listen further:

Everyone should feel equally free to participate and everyone should let everyone else feel equally free to participate. You are not students and professors, management and staff here at THATCamp. At most conferences, the game we play is one in which I, the speaker, try desperately to prove to you how smart I am, and you, the audience member, tries desperately in the question and answer period to show how stupid I am by comparison. Not here. At THATCamp we’re here to be supportive of one another as we all struggle with the challenges and opportunities of incorporating technology in our work, departments, disciplines, and humanist missions.

Note that while we will arrange for some hands-on skills training workshops, and there may be some smidgen of presenting going on therein, you can also propose to teach a workshop at the last minute. As long as you know something and others don’t, it will likely be productive for all concerned, even if you haven’t prepared much. And, if it isn’t, we encourage participants to invoke the law of two feet to find a more productive session.

Session proposers are session facilitators

If you propose a session, you should be prepared to run it. If you propose a hacking session, you should have the germ of a project to work on; if you propose a workshop, you should be prepared to teach it; if you propose a discussion of the Digital Public Library of America, you should be prepared to summarize what that is, begin the discussion, keep it going, and end it. But don’t worry — with the possible exception of workshops you’ve offered to teach, THATCamp sessions don’t really need to be prepared for; in fact, we infinitely prefer that you don’t prepare.

At most, you should come with one or two questions, problems, or goals, and you should be prepared to spend the session working on and working out those one or two points informally with a group of people who (believe me) are not there to judge your performance. Even last-minute workshops can be terrifically useful for others if you know the tool or skill you’re teaching inside and out. As long as you take responsibility for running the session, that’s usually all that’s needed. Read about the Open Space Technology approach to organizing meetings for a longer discussion of why we don’t adopt or encourage more structured forms of facilitation.

Session genres

  1. General discussion— Sometimes people just want to get together and talk informally, with no agenda, about something they’re all interested in. Nothing wrong with that; it’s certainly a much better way of meeting people than addressing them from behind a podium. Propose a session on a topic that interests you, and if other people are interested, they’ll show up to talk about it with you.
  2. Hacking session— Several coders gather in a room to work on a particular project. These should usually take more than an hour or even two; if you propose such a session, you might want to ask that one room or swing space be dedicated to it for the entire day.
  3. Writing session— A group of people get together to start writing something. Writing can be collaborative or parallel: everyone can work together (probably in Google Docs) or by themselves (yet with a writing vibe filling the air) to write an article, a manifesto, a book, a blog post, a plan, or what you will.
  4. Working session — You’re working on something, and you suspect that some of the various people who come to THATCamp might be able to help you with it. You describe problems you want solved and questions you want answered, and strangers magically show up to hear about what you’re doing and to give you their perspective and advice. This is notan hour-long demo; you should come with specific questions or tasks you want to work on with others for most of the session.
  5. Workshop— A traditional workshop session with an instructor who leads students through a short introduction to and hands-on exercise in a particular skill. A workshop may be arranged beforehand by the organizers or proposed by a participant who agrees to teach it.
  6. Grab bag— Ah, miscellany. One of our favorite categories. Indefinable by definition. It’s astonishing how creative people can be when you give them permission; performances and games are welcome.
    • David Staley, An installation, THATCamp Prime 2009.
    • Mark Sample, Zen Scavenger Hunt, THATCamp Prime 2010 (N.B.: The Zen Scavenger Hunt didn’t actually happen, but it was still a great idea).

2 Responses to Propose a Session

  1. If we want a tool-based workshop (seriously every time I write tool I think WHO is going to write the paper analyzing phallogocentrism language in DH?) I’d be willing to do one on topic modeling using Mallet and my forays into computational linguistic analysis using AntConc.

  2. Mia Zamora says:

    I would like to propose a “Best Practices and Advice” discussion, or “What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in the Development Process” to support anyone who might be embarking on their first DH project. (Especially a DH Project which has an explicit activist component meant to engage the public in societal change.) When taking the big leap and developing a new DH resource, how can we best foster the practical principles of -information design, -collaboration, -access to sources, -analytic and visualization tools, -user interface, -community-building, -reader contributions, -methodology, and -critical apparatus that are so important to the success of a digital humanities project? I would like to hear from those who have been down this road and gained certain experience developing a long-term DH project. What have you learned along the way? …What has worked, what has not, etc.? (i.e. What have been your best resources? Most supportive professional learning communities? Advice on project timelines? Advice on securing grant support for development phases?). Also, I would love to hear thoughts on the simultaneous juggle of developing a new DH project (i.e. “making something”) and formally writing about that process. Advice on particular editorial/scholarly writing venues that can be considered when planning to write about project development?

Leave a Reply