This is similar in tone to Celia’s topic proposal, so perhaps we could combine them or have them run back to back?
Last year’s ThatCamp resulted in some great discussions of DH theory, project goals, and lots of “well, we built it but now what do we do/how do we do it better” thinking. But as a relatively new archivist, I’m more interested in how these projects happen in the first place. I’d like to attend a session that covers the basics of getting a digital project off the ground, including but not limited to:
- web hosting (who do you recommend?)
- servers, scanners, cameras, and hardware (what kind? how many?)
- do you need a dedicated IT/tech man or lady?
- web development and design software
- choosing your topic and audience
- would you use existing online resources like Flickr, Pinterest, or Facebook?
Horror and success stories both encouraged. Talking about the theory behind these projects is always inspiring, but I’d like to leave ThatCamp this year with a better handle on the practicalities of putting these theories into practice. And since we have a great mixed crowd of developers, archivist, academics, and people who have been through various kinds of projects, this seems like an especially good venue for this conversation.
As Christa noted in an earlier Session Idea, last year at THATCamp Philly there was a session on how one might set up a Digital Humanities Center for the Greater Delaware Valley. Among the possibilities that were discussed at that session was that digital humanists with particular skills might pool their talents as consultants to local public humanities sites that otherwise would not be able to do digital work, either from unfamiliarity with what is possible, lack of technical skills, or lack of time to undertake digital work.
That aspiration is admirable, but perhaps hard to achieve with the varied affiliations and responsibilities of campers at THATCamp. So I wish to propose a more modest aid to the small public humanities site community: a list of technical service vendors (soup-to-nuts website design firms, audio guide developers, database designers, digital photographers) with whom they might work to increase their familiarity with digital media and develop grant applications to support digital projects. The site would link to service providers and link to representative projects to illustrate their work. Ideally, such a list would make it easier for small sites to find technically skilled partners and also expand their imagination of what is possible in the digital realm.
I propose this as a separate session idea, but it could also be considered as part of the renewal of the Regional Digital Humanities Center idea that Christa proposed.
I’m familiar with lots of small historical societies–volunteer-run, mostly–who have photographs and historical documents they would like to share but are not sure how. Some scan the photos and put them on their own websites and some add them to Facebook, but their methods often don’t produce high-quality visual representations, have poor metadata, and don’t disseminate the content effectively. This is probably similarly the case for other sorts of non-profit, non-professional humanities groups or arts organizations.
How can the professional community help these small, non-professional groups? Can we help train them in the use of available tools, like Omeka or PastPerfect’s exhibit plug-in? Is it possible to effectively utilize social media like Facebook and Pinterest? When discussing the proposed Delaware Valley Digital Humanities Center, can we afford to provide services to the little guys? Could the DV DH Center look something like the Maine Memory Network or North Carolina’s DigitalNC? Could we have a Philly-based scannebago?
I would like to propose a session on what the middle ground of DH might look like. To me it feels like those in DH are in one of two camps- those with the technical training to create and those with academic degrees/authority that create the idea of the project (faculty). Perhaps this a simplification of the two roles but in my limited experience, it is what I have witnessed. Is there a middle space? What are the qualifications that lead to a career in the middle space.
How can we evaluate digital humanities projects? Funders often require some sort of evaluation, and as practitioners we want to know that we are accomplishing our project goals. Yet there are no clear measures for evaluation. Digital humanities projects don’t go through the same sort of peer review as traditional print scholarship. Evaluation is important for academic scholars wishing to build credibility for digital humanities projects within an academic portfolio and for public historians and others who wish to learn how to most effectively reach target audiences. How can we design and build effective tools for evaluation into our projects so that we can measure their scholarship, their accessibility, their impact, and more.
UPDATE: And if read this and you’re thinking “Count Me In,” you can help get the ball rolling by visiting PhillyDH.org and signing up for the Google Group.
Last year, one of our most popular sessions was prompted by this question, originally posed by Seth Bruggeman. One year later, let’s revisit this idea and make some plans. Among THATCamp organizers, there is definite interest in continuing DH-related learning and discussion opportunities throughout the calendar year.
For this session, I’ll suggest we:
- Find a date, time, and location for a winter Delaware Valley Digital Humanities meet-up/workshop/hackathon
- Set a tentative agenda for this event, settling upon a speaker or topic of wide interest to the THATCamp Philly community
- Come up with a list of other possible DH-related topics or activities worthy of meeting up to discuss/do
- Take names of people willing to help organize and run these events, deciding who could handle space coordination, catering, speaker coordination, publicity, etc.
If doing something like this in a session might interest you, let us know in a comment.