Multiple (Competing?) Digital Literacies

There have already been several proposals for sessions on developing functional digital literacy and meeting the needs of people with low technology skills, and I’d like to add a similar-yet-different idea to the pack.

In recent years I’ve been told—and trained to expect—that incoming college students are “digital natives” and are entering college campuses with the highest levels of digital literacy ever.  In many ways this is obviously true. However, what exactly constitutes digital literacy for my students is somewhat less clear to me.  For example, it hasn’t worked for me to assume that “digital literacy” means that students will have the same set of commonplace, ordinary, and everyday digital competencies that I do.  In fact, I’m routinely surprised to discover my students’ unfamiliarity with basic features of common digital tools (like Google Maps or Google Books), even while I know my students spend a tremendous amount of time inhabiting complex digital environments.

What seems clear, then, is that there are multiple digital literacies at play in my classroom—and that they don’t necessarily overlap in predictable or common-sense ways.  The skill sets I imagine when I think of digitally literate students entering my classroom are not necessarily the same sets of skills those students actually bring into my classroom—or that they consider digitally necessary/desirable.  While I’m personally thinking about digital literacy in the context of the college classroom, I imagine this is a broadly applicable issue affecting libraries, museums, and other humanities-oriented institutions.

The questions I would propose to meditate on, then, are these: What do we mean when we say “digital literacy”?  To what degree to we mean familiarity with specific tools or applications?  To what degree do we mean certain attitudes or approaches to digital information?  And how important is it to come to agreement on these terms and expectations, anyway?


Linked Open Data and the “New Humanities”

One of the grails of digital humanities research is being able to demonstrate that new technologies are changing the way we do research and the kinds of knowledge we create. There’s currently lots of excitement about Linked Open Data and the potential that semantic technologies have for humanities research. The #lodlam hashtag has gained significant traction among members of the digital cultural heritage and digital humanities communities through the efforts of advocates such as Jon Voss from Historypin. The number of sites and organizations that are exposing their data in linked formats is growing rapidly. Projects like wikidata, dbpedia, and the use of linked data formats by a number of important open data sites ( etc) are potentially of enormous benefit to historians and other humanities scholars.

Despite the excitement around semantic technologies, it currently feels like the promise of linked data is yet to be realized. This session would consider the promise and potential future of research using linked data. Rather than focussing on the production of data it would be about how linked data is consumed by scholars. I’m interested in discussing the ways in which Linked Open Data is or could begin to be used by scholars to produce new knowledge. As always with THATCamps the conversation will be open ended and related to the concerns of the people in the room, but some questions we might think about:

– What is linked data?
– How is it different from earlier ways of exposing information on the web?
– Is there current research that is being enabled by linked data?
– What kinds of questions that might be fruitfully posed as the semantic web continues to grow?
– With the increasing power of technologies that can make sense of unstructured data are linked standards necessary?

Session Idea: Exploring ways in which social media can support or engage digital storytelling

We propose a general discussion focused on the topic of social media and digital storytelling.  In Web 2.0 storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre, Alexander and Levine talk about the emergence of storytelling as “open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, exploratory, and unpredictable” (2008) experience.   But social media also provides opportunities to develop narratives that embrace multiple authoritative and personal voices, provide multi-layered experiences, inspire learning and creativity, and an opportunity to capture otherwise unheard stories.

For our purposes storytelling is interdisciplinary and can include but is not limited to historical narratives, personal narratives, art narratives, fiction, nonfiction, and collaborative writing projects and whatever else you define as storytelling.

We invite you to join us in an open conversation about the role of social media in storytelling; share best practices, resources and inspirational projects; as well as to explore the challenges posed in the quest to facilitate meaningful narratives through social media.

The conversation will be open-ended based on participants interests, however, possible topics of conversation may include:

  • how are social media platforms being used for digital storytelling
  • what is the best way to frame content to make it desirable
  • how can social media engage multiple authoritative and personal voices
  • how do we facilitate meaningful conversation on social media channels
  • how can storytelling  through social media unlock creativity and empower learning
  • what are the challenges posted by storying telling through social media
  • how can we preserve this stories for the future
  • how can we link together stories and conversations created on multiple platforms

We would like to hear what your interests are in this area.


Maureen Lane & Brittany Baksa, Phillips Museum of Art-Franklin & Marshall College

Session Idea: DH for n00bs

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.


Session Idea: Desiderata for a Guide to Digital Service Vendors to Small Public Humanities Sites

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.

Getting Started with a Small-Scale Database

We are two history of childhood scholars interested in developing a small-scale relational database to represent available biographical data of past winners of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. We are relatively new to DH and would like to use this project to develop some DH skills–learning by doing, in this case. One of us is a librarian who took a course in database management in library school (several years ago now) but her knowledge, having gone largely unused, has grown fairly rusty (we are, however, in contact with her database management professor). We have identified several possible software programs, including Bento and Amazon’s RDS service (both cost money) and Microsoft’s SQL Server Express (free),
and are interested in using a session to explore the pros and cons of using database software. We’d like to learn what’s involved and find out what kinds of questions we should be asking, resources we need to muster, and decisions we need to make. We see this as a learning-by-doing session and would welcome both fellow learners and especially those with expertise in this area who’d be interested in helping guide the learning process.

Session Idea: Discussion – Outside the Classroom, but On Campus: New Media, DH, and Campus Culture

My session idea for last year was how campuses might help support new media / transmedia student publications, and after a year of working with students on my own campus, I’ve started to think more broadly about campus cultures as a whole, and how new media and/or DH might fit into them.

It’s clear that the arts and humanities are part of the fabric of college campuses in ways that exceed the classroom–campuses have their own theatres, their own music scenes, their own art museums and entertainment venues, they have political societies and improv groups, dance troupes and poetry journals, all fostered and cultivated by university support and guidance. How might arts and humanities computing be supported in similar ways outside the structure of a classroom but within the culture of a campus? What kinds of publications, installations, events or archives might be possible? And how might universities encourage students to be producers, curators and project managers as well as users and clients?

Session Idea: Literacy – True, Functional & Tech

The Techmobile and Free Library Hot Spots are part of the effort to spread digital literacy, but we often encounter those with multiple literacy issues.

According to the Center for Literacy, an estimated 550,000 individuals in Philadelphia are considered low literate. And if you’ve been paying attention to the big digital literacy push here in Philly, you’ve probably heard something like 41%-55% of Philadelphians lack access to broadband internet.

With all of these disheartening statistics, how do we keep working to help people make the leap from low literate to functionally literate and help them adopt technology at the same time? How do we look at literacy as a whole? How do we encourage students of all ages to improve?

I’d love to talk about literacy and digital literacy and what I’ve encountered working for the Hot Spots and Techmobile. If you have encountered literacy issues at your institution or workplace, how do you approach it?

Session Idea: Digital Decisions on a Notes Archive

I’ve been thinking for some time about a born-digital version of my ongoing notes on scholarly sources and materials, my own curation of personal ‘digital marginalia’–not project-specific notes, but general notes from an overall generalist practice of “liberal arts” scholarship. I blogged about the concept behind the project earlier this year. The core objectives of the project are, in order of their importance:

a) to document what the ‘lived practice’ of scholarly knowledge consists of, to show what kinds of readings and contemplation goes into interpreting and annotating material on an ongoing basis
b) to provide such notes in a way that is open to long-term sharing, collaboration and repurposing between scholars and wider publics
c) to work towards one possible model of how born-digital notes and marginalia might be incorporated into referencing or cataloging practices

I’m at the stage where I’m testing an implementation of the project, as follows:

a) a flat-file version of the notes deposited in a public folder at Dropbox
b) a publication of the notes to a WordPress or CommentPress blog dedicated to that purpose
c) a publication of the notes to a public Zotero group
d) a publication of the notes to my library on LibraryThing (as ‘reviews’)

I’d love a chance to work through whether these are sound decisions in a collaborative discussion. This is a lot of by-hand effort, for one. I’d like to map some decision trees in concert with a group, as far out as we can take them, and explore some of the ‘roads less taken’ in relation to my own ambitions, the costs and burdens of a project of this kind, and the range of technical and theoretical insight available in a group. I’m particularly interested in thinking about this kind of project against the backdrop of the intellectual history of notation and information management offered by Ann Blair in her book Too Much to Know.

Session Idea: Outcomes of the first OK Festival in Helsinki

The world’s first Open Knowledge Festival was held in Helsinki, Finland from September 17-22. The festival was largely planned by six individuals from the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Finnish Institute in London and the Aalto Media Factory, Forum Virium, EIT ICT Labs, and Otavan Opisto in Helsinki. Planned by a diverse global team, the Open Knowledge Festival was intended to combine the Open Knowledge Foundation’s two annual conferences, the Open Knowledge Conference and the Open Government Data Camp in a week-long celebration. Festival-goers planned 2/3 of the program.

As an example of innovative new conference formats and a forum for important issues surrounding open knowledge, I would like to discuss the significance and outcomes of the OK Festival. Thanks to live streams of all the conference sessions and information on the website, we will be able to discuss the conference without having attended the conference.

Session Idea: Lowering Barriers to Sharing DH Content

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?

Session Idea: The Middle Space

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.

Continuing To Work With Students Who Have Low Technology Skills

Hello Friends,

As you will recall from last year’s ThatCamp Philly, I ran a session on working with students who have low technology skills. I took the wonderful information you gave me and brought it back to my own campus, where I gave a talk to our Center For Learning and Instruction about this issue (with plenty of ThatCamp references).

What followed out of this talk was a few of my colleagues organizing with me here at Burlington County College to create lectures on using technology for the student body at large. Pending administrative approval, we will be doing these starting in October.

What I propose is a session to continue our conversation from last year and also discuss how ti implement these kinds of discussions on a college-wide level can be accomplished. What do students need to know? How do you include faculty not only in your own department, but others across campus? What is the role of administration? How can they be involved?

I look forward to seeing all of you this weekend.

Session Idea: How do we make public art relevant?

The city of Philadelphia has one of the largest collections of public art in the country, but how do we take an existing resource, like Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of artwork, and make it new again?

I am the New Media Manager for the Association for Public Art (aPA, formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association). In 2010, aPA launched Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO — an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture interpretive program for Philadelphia’s public art.  MWW:AUDIO is a “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, audio download, or on the web. It offers the untold histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage. Through first person, oral story telling from multiple viewpoints, the social history of public art is shared.

Although this has been a successful program, it has not been developed for every artwork/sculpture in Philadelphia. What about the sculptures that aren’t included in the program? Or, what other ways can we reconnect audiences with public art?

We recently launched “Open Air” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer currently running nightly from 8pm-11pm on the Parkway through October 14. “Open Air” is a spectacular interactive light experience directed by participants’ voices and GPS locations, illuminating the night sky from the Parkway. How do we share the history of a temporary spectacle like this? How does its history carry on once it’s gone?

I would like to brainstorm with others about how to answer these questions. Let’s get together and come up with ways to collaborate with one another, and make relevant historical connections.

Session Proposal: Evaluating Digital Humanities Projects

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.

Session idea: Improving a Digital Teaching Portfolio

Teaching portfolios can serve myriad purposes in academia:  support for tenure cases, supplementary materials for job applications, inspiration for peers, making sense for ourselves of the big picture that we’d like to emerge out of our day-to-day just keeping up with classroom management, (lecture and other) prep, and grading. 

Putting a teaching portfolio online provides flexibility to demonstrate teaching strengths through multi-media platforms and to constantly update our materials as we change our approaches, refine our skills, teach new classes, engage new generations of students, etc.  The more our classes become dependent and connected to and through internet technologies, the more reason our portfolios should reflect that.

In this working session, we would walk through the teaching portfolio that I created in the fall of 2011 (and since have minimally updated) at , and discuss how to improve it (and hopefully come up with some ideas for your own portfolios or web-based projects in the process!)

It’s a simple site and built on wordpress.  I’m an art historian, and a complete rookie when it comes to software, coding, graphic design, you name it!  I put this site together myself, hacked away (probably for way too long) at the problems I encountered building it, and I’m looking for any and all advice about what would make it work better.

Some of the questions I’m hoping to answer:

How can I make the homepage more engaging, more of an advertisement of my teaching skills and less of an outline? (I’m on the job market presently, so if I manage to get a search committee member on the site, I want it to hook them in, not overwhelm them!)

What is useful to the various constituencies who might visit my site, and what is junky useless filler?  I.e. How can I streamline it?

Do I need to worry about (anonymously) publishing student work on the site if I haven’t received explicit permission to post it (either verbally or in writing–and does that matter)?  Does having a password to protect the site help with this — is a password necessary, and/or does it place an unnecessary barrier to access which might prevent someone who could use the information from getting to it?  What if the work is already available online (say on Youtube) but only to people who have the http?

How much is too much?  (Right now, the site is too much!)  What can I do to more effectively make the site a “teaser” to my teaching rather than a full-out (confusing) demonstration of it?

People who might want to attend this working session include: 

  • teachers looking to develop online portfolios,
  • experienced builders of offline career portfolios (for tenure or other situations),
  • present/former academic search committees,
  • web designers and programmers (especially with wordpress experience) looking to help a rookie out,
  • folks with graphic design / web design aesthetics training
  • … and anyone else who might contribute to or learn something from this conversation!

Session idea: Encouraging the use of DH in K-12 classrooms and beyond

One issue we’ve encountered in developing our digital history project relates to our target audience of grade 6-12 teachers, but it probably applies to college professors as well. We’ve found this audience has varying comfort levels with both primary source documents and technology, meaning that while some teachers certainly seek out these kinds of digital projects for their classrooms, MANY others would not.

What else could/should we be doing as a DH community to encourage teachers to use these primary-source digital resources in the classroom? This may be a simple brainstorm of existing resources that we could collect into one place, or we could begin a larger discussion about how we could cooperate regionally on trainings, print how-to manuals, or other support resources specifically focused on DH in the classroom.

Session Idea: Providing access to audiovisual materials online for digital archives, libraries and other non-profit institutions.

I have noticed when visiting several institutions for graduate school, that valuable film, video or audio media sits on shelves, unable to be used by researchers. The goal of this session is to discuss the possibility of creating a non-profit media center that is either stand alone or maybe part of a university or other organization. To digitize this media at very low cost to make this historical media available to users for the first time. There are several reasons why these organizations have a difficult time transferring this media to digital form:

-Playback issues-Most of this media is outdated, so finding equipment to playback and view/listen can be a large cost in itself.

-Researching standards and compatibility with current library software-Each institution will have different needs as far as which type of files will be compatible with their content management software/hardware.

-Copyright issues-Materials will have different rights issues which will need to be determined before posting online. Possible remedies are watermarked copies or low resolution viewing copies.

Let’s discuss these issues and the many more I’m sure you’ll come up with! To make this material accessible (and searchable) would be a boon to researchers everywhere!

Hackfest Idea: Link up your archive to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Last year, we received great advice for future directions for the digital Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia — we have implemented some THATCamper suggestions already, and more are on the way.  This year we’d like to invite you to help put another of those good ideas into action — that is, help us create a hub that links the encyclopedia’s content with your digital finding aids and collections. Take a look at our WordPress web site,, and bring your stuff!  We can add to the lists of collections that appear with each essay, to the media links, or to the image galleries (jpegs and extended text). Before we’re through, let’s also figure out a way to keep this up as the encyclopedia continues to grow.  We would love to boost your collections through links in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Who’s in?

Update: In addition to the topics already on the web site, we are ready to link collections to the following new topics:

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • The Centennial
  • Flax and Linen
  • French Revolution
  • Indentured Servitude
  • Ladies Association of Philadelphia
  • Laurel Hill Cemetery
  • Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • Spanish-American Revolutions

Session Idea: What Makes Good Material for Simulation Based Learning in the Digital Humanities?

With one of this year’s bootcamps focusing on Gaming and the Humanities I figured it would be a good followup seminar to explore what types of collection materials are suitable for simulation based learning and what areas people would like to see explored using these methods.  The University of Wisconsin has developed ARIS, an opensource mobile platform suitable for tours and gaming.  They demonstrated the possibilities of this technology through their work with Dow Day, an augmented reality game which takes students through two days on the UW-Madison campus during a Vietnam War protest.  There was an article published detailing this project that can mostly be found starting at page 209 on google books (please contact me if you would like to read the entire article without the pages google has ommitted).

What materials lend themselves well to these types of digital humanities experiences?  Do we feel there is a need or desire for more experiences through tools like ARIS?  Is there a better or easier way to implement experiences and tools like this?  Would anyone like to learn how to use a tool like ARIS and use an event or collection materials to try this out?


Idea for a Session: Digital Archives and How to Use Them in Research, Writing, and Teaching

The creation of digital online archives has been a vital part of digital humanities work, transforming everything from practical access to the kinds of questions we can ask of our subject.  Now that we’ve got them…what do we do with them?  The idea for this session comes from a literature person who isn’t a “maker”–I don’t make digital archives, I’m not an archivist–but I do want to use them in my research and writing.  Specifically, I’m interested in the position of the reader/user of digital archives of intimate life writing, like letters (for instance, the online Carlyle and Browning archives); perhaps digital archivists (those who do the making) and those who benefit from their work could come together to explore broader questions like:

+ How do theories of the archive accommodate digital archives?  Do they?  Does the idea/work of the digital archive subvert/interrogate archive theory?

+ Does the position of the reader/user change in the digital/online space?  Are ways of reading transformed?

+ How does access change our experience of the archive: the actual physical experience of the two spaces and how we navigate them and how it impacts our work?

+ Future possibilities for researchers/writers/teachers to take advantage of the work done by digital archivists?  Journals like Archive, etc.

Session idea: What would a Delaware Valley Digital Humanities Center/Organization Look Like? Take 2.

UPDATE: And if read this and you’re thinking “Count Me In,” you can help get the ball rolling by visiting 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:

  1. Find a date, time, and location for a winter Delaware Valley Digital Humanities meet-up/workshop/hackathon
  2. Set a tentative agenda for this event, settling upon a speaker or topic of wide interest to the THATCamp Philly community
  3. Come up with a list of other possible DH-related topics or activities worthy of meeting up to discuss/do
  4. 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.