Mobile Digital History and Tool Building

Howdy campers, my name’s Dave and I work at George Mason University‘s Center for History & New Media as the Omeka Developer Community Coordinator. I also help organize our annual THATCamp at GMU with other talented folks at CHNM.

Here are two topics that I’m itching to discuss with others:

Mobile Digital History
There have been several blog posts recently about mobile digital history, including Larry Cebula’s post “The Promise of Mobile History” and Cameron Blevins’ “The Mobile Historian.” I’ve been working on a research project of my own called HistoryPlot [slideshare presentation online] that aims to connect digital artifacts geospatially, and deliver them via both a mobile and web interface.

I’d like to address larger ideas and projects about how we could use mobile devices to connect archives, libraries, scholars, and the public. Augmented Reality? Social applications? What do you think the future looks like?

Digital Humanities Tool Building
I know a few coder/hacker-types will be at THATCamp PNW, and I’d love to chat about anything relating to digital humanities software development and tool building. What are people working on, how are they organizing their code, sharing it with others? What kind of unit test coverage do you have? Do you know what unit tests are? Do you keep your code under version control?  What’s your favorite text editor?  You use vim, really?  I think this type of knowledge sharing is critical, and what better place than a THATCamp to discuss!

Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to scoot out immediately after the sessions end on Saturday and can’t make dinner with the group, however I hope to have the chance to meet you all in person. I’m also staying in Seattle from Thursday through Monday if anyone is interested in a pre/post-thatcamp meetup there.

Categories: thatcamppnw09 | 1 Comment

The Writer’s Archive and The Networked Book


Hello! I’m Hannah Palmer, a writer and web designer from Atlanta.

I am working on my MFA thesis in Creative Nonfiction. For the first time, I’m trying to write a long-form, research-heavy manuscript– in other words, a book!  Considering my background in publishing and e-books, it’s no surprise that I’ve become completely sidetracked by the technologies available to help writers like me assemble and interact with our research.

I’ve found that archiving methods mirror the idiosyncratic writers themselves. The legendary New Yorker scribe John McPhee teaches an old school method that involves binders of logged and tagged material. Tech guru Steven Johnson is convinced that he can no longer write without the semantic connections provided by his archive in DevonThink. I’ve met writers that swear by Scrivener, others that stash notes in Tumblr. I’ve played with creative writing software that breaks the process down into a set of formulas, personal databases (Bento, Evernote, and now defunct Google Notes) and the hilarious segment of programs dedicated to making your PC feel more like a typewriter.

Again and again, I’ve landed on the blog as the cheap, democratic, no-brainer CMS for compiling research in a networked environment, but it doesn’t offer the semantic connections or the freedom to remix data. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of all these options, when it comes to true synthesis and the hard work of actual writing, what do any of them offer over the Remington or Microsoft Word?

So what do I do with my piles of research– interviews, clips, photos, maps, and quotes? How do I create an archive that is as meaningful in its creation as the completed book? I love these questions because it’s a practical illustration of how technologies enhance and interfere with the creative process. If we view the writing process (blog, archive, etc.) as just as critical as the final product, we redefine “book” as the thing by which we move big ideas around.

I’m no expert, but if other people want to talk about these issues, I would be happy to facilitate a discussion. I’m looking forward to learning from y’all on this and many other subjects.

Categories: thatcamppnw09 | 2 Comments

Regional Collaboration

I would like to have a discussion about how we can collaborate to advance digital scholarship in the Northwest. How can we share and aggregate ideas, expertise, content, and tools? And, looking beyond the development of particular projects, how can we sustain and preserve our work over time?

As a resource manager, I am interested in developing sustainable programs. Northwest libraries and archives have an impressive record of collaboration (e.g., the Orbis Cascade Alliance ( and the Northwest Digital Archives ( How can digital scholarship achieve similar success and scale in the Northwest?

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Session Topics: Keep ’em Coming, Here are More

In the interest of time, I’m taking a moment to add some bullet points of ideas for sessions that come from the information people submitted with their applications. We’re off to a good start with the extended descriptions of session ideas, below, and please take a moment to jot down something about a session you’d like to lead, or a session in which you’d like to have the floor for a time. Or, if you just plan to participate in the discussion from the audience (or just listen), give a thumbs up in the comments section of blog posts.

I noted in a comment that I can see an entire track (3 sessions) devoted to tech tools and pedagogy—a session on implementation issues (e.g. access issues, student buy-in, etc), then one on sort of common tools (LMSes, GDocs, blogging), and one on building new tools. But that is but one idea of many. Although I will say that it is a tremendously popular common theme…

Additional session ideas:

  • gaming: gaming cultures, rhetorical analysis, teaching w/ & through games (and virtual worlds)
  • library collaboration with students, instructors and the community; role of libraries in digital age
  • uses of mobile technologies; extended to issues of embodiment and identity in mixed reality spaces, implications for research and teaching
  • technology and social justice
  • technology and the creative process
  • career paths related to Digital Humanities and New Media
  • the importance of play with regards to digital tools
  • technologies that allow for the discovery and access of great collections
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Data Visualization and DIY Technologies

Hello, everyone!  Looking forward to this weekend!  My name’s Jentery, and I’m a PhD candidate in English at the University of Washington.

For the purposes of organization and aggregation, I’ll keep things broad.  I’m generally interested in chatting about:

  • data visualization tools for literary and cultural history, and
  • the use of DIY technologies in courses/projects that collaboratively create and/or contribute to authoring platforms for public knowledge.

I will echo Larry and Julie and say that I, too, am curious about questions and inquiries such as these:

  • I want to teach a course on the history of one-room schoolhouses. I want my student to gather oral histories, collect documents and photographs, survey the current condition of the sites, and create little web projects for each school. How do we present that information to the public?
  • Or, I could discuss a tool that I am creating, which is designed to involve students in the investigation of literary genres through folksonomy.

While both of those examples stress pedagogy, I’d also like to hear from others on what data visualization tools (e.g., ManyEyes and SIMILE) they are using in their research and to what effects.

I’m happy to speak, or I can facilitate a conversation.  Just let me know what you need!

(On a different register, I can also speak to my recent involvement in HASTAC’s forum on “Democratizing Knowledge.” )

Again, looking forward!

Categories: thatcamppnw09 | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Session: A database of prices in literary and non-literary sources.

I work with texts that present imaginative interpretations of economic principles and systems in 18th and 19th century England so, for example, Addison’s Vision of Public Credit, Shelley’s Mask of Anarchy and Queen Mab, and a variety of works by William Blake. But it can be very challenging to tease out these interpretations: sometimes they are obvious, and at other times, it’s very challenging to see one individual against the panorama of the rest — the poverty-stricken, the wealthy, and the millions in between.

My students have a similar problem. When I teach works like Jane Eyre, and Mansfield Park, I can almost guarantee that all the references to money will go straight over my students’ heads. And who can blame them for not understanding the significance of what someone’s annual income or salary? Even I find it difficult to keep straight in my head, not having lived in 19th-century England.

What I want to discuss, then, is a tool that I’m working to build: a website to collect data on prices listed in both literary and non-literary sources, arranged by region, chronology, and source. Ideally, a user would be able to search for a price, a source, a region, or a range of dates, and the result would be a list (or a visual representation) of the prices mentioned — from greatest to least expense, or vice-versa. Perhaps a student reading Jane Eyre, seeing that the tuition at the charity school where Jane is sent is 15 pounds per annum, would be curious about what else cost 15 pounds in 1847, or between 1847 and 1850.
Continue reading

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DH Grants & Institutional Models

As I wrote in my application blurb, I would be interested in getting information on how to write successful grant proposals for digital humanities projects and find sources of funding. Also, I am interested in seeing models of collaborative, multi-institutional projects in digital humanities scholarship and/or teaching.

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Session: Digital History, Regional History

I coordinate the Public History program at Eastern Washington University and am Assistant Digital Archivist at the Washington State Digital Archives.

Right not one of my big questions is how to present local history on the web in a way that is collaborative, open to the community, has a low technical barrier, and takes advantage of mobile computing.

Example 1: I want to teach a course on the history of one-room schoolhouses. I want my student to gather oral histories, collect documents and photographs, survey the current condition of the sites, and create little web projects for each school. How do we present that information to the public?

Example 2: I would like my students to create podcast tours (with audio and images) of historic sites in the region. I want people taking a stroll at, let’s say, Spokane House to be able to pull out there smart phones and have the phone say “I see you are at Spokane House. EWU has created a historic tour of the site with 7 stops. Would you like to see a map of the stops? Would you like to do the tour?” What technology platform do we use? I want to create a database of such podcasts that can grow over the years and that will be accessible to any smart phone–I don’t want to create an iPhone app.

In so far as possible I want to use open-source or at least free technologies (think Flickr, Google Maps, etc.), and harness crowdsourcing and user feedback to prevent any bottlenecks in the content review and delivery.

Categories: thatcamppnw09 | 2 Comments

Tech Tools & Pedagogy

I have a few different ideas for things I can definitely talk about in session format, although I honestly don’t know if I should since I’m organizing this event and will be running around making sure you’re all happy—and I want all of you to have as much time as possible to talk about the things you want to discuss. As seen in the topics I write about for Prof. Hacker, I can talk about specific tools for use in the classroom, developing new tools, and the place of programming in one’s life/scholarly work.

I could revisit the subject of a presentation I did at another conference, on Google Docs and student responses, or the different ways one can implement Google applications in general in the classroom. Part of that discussion would be the myth of the digital native and the roles that instructors must play in the classroom if integrating technology is going to work.

Or, I could discuss a tool that I am creating, which is designed to involve students in the investigation of literary genres through folksonomy. I just developed it in my head the other day, and it will form part of my dissertation plus hopefully be presented in prototype form at a conference in May 2010. In other words, I don’t even have a digital wireframe although I could draw it out on the whiteboard, but I could talk about what it is and what I hope to achieve with it (and have students achieve with it).

Categories: thatcamppnw09 | 3 Comments

Watch this Space for Session Ideas!

This blog will now turn into the space in which THATCamp participants post and comment on session ideas. All participants should have received a username and password for the blog, as well as a ton of information about the event in general.

If you are an already-accepted participant and you did not receive an e-mail with the subject “THATCamp PNW: Everything You Need to Know (plus two things WE need to know)” then please e-mail us.

If you wanted to be a participant but didn’t gt your application in, please and we will do our best to find a space for you.

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