Toolkit for THATCamp newbies, Dreambook edition


As an academic researcher, teacher and writer in Religious Studies with an avid interest in comparative magic, I earnestly embrace the concept of co-creation.

My goal for this weekend is to come away with a working knowledge of digital humanities fundamentals. I thought it might be useful to propose a session for those of us who are new to the field, in which expertise and knowledge is shared so as to create a toolkit of essentials for use in our research, teaching and writing. My interests are very specific: I am building a new project, and I want to know, step by step, piece by piece, how to proceed. Here are my building materials.

Dreambook number one

Dreambook number one

Dreambook number 2

Dreambook number  two


Dreambook number three

Dreambook number three

These items are images of Dreambooks. The actual books are held publicly in various library collections and some are in my personal collection. Dreambooks are a kind of text from the African American magical tradition known as Hoodoo. Their main function is to increase gambling luck, so they may be considered magical objects, as well as sacred books. With alphabetical lists of objects and situations found in dreams, their interpretations, and an arcane numerological system of prediction, Hoodoo dreambooks, which originated in late nineteenth century America, came into prominence for playing policy, an illegal (and now obsolete) lottery once popular in urban African American communities. They are significant in that they provide a lens into a kind of indigenous magical tradition in the United States that can be dated, located, and followed over time, and they provide insights into culture-specific interpretations of local and folklorized forms of metaphysical practices and ideas.

(As with many things magical, I have found, they also work.)

My question: how might I turn these materials into a dh project? Should I build an archive of these books? How should I treat the texts? How might I organize them? What can be gleaned from these materials so as to create a viable, academic, publishable project? Where do I begin? What do I need to know? And most importantly, before venturing out into a project like this, what are the most important tools that I need to possess?






What Can Digital Humanities Do for Entry Level Job Searches?

…or, I don’t know, the digital humanities adjacent…?

I’m interested in having a fairly broad discussion about the connection between the university and a graduate’s entry level job hunt in the context of technology; what advice can I offer, what should we be teaching, and what tools and resources can I suggest?

I am particularly interested in exploring digital tools used in applying to jobs, presenting resumes or resume-type information, and online portfolios. I would also love to hear from those that have been hiring managers or have been on hiring committees to know what they look for in entry level applicants and how they would like written and digital materials to appear. I suppose I would also like to have a discussion about when and where job hunting skills and etiquette should come into play; for example, learning to save work samples or write down accomplishments are not things that all students know to do. Some students graduate and have no idea how to write a cover letter or resume; should that be woven into classroom assignments or left to career services and the internet? As far as actually creating something, I’ve thought about pitching workshops to career services or creating a digital repository for information that career services does not provide but those are not terribly concrete ideas at this point.

Those are just a few thoughts that I have had. I’m very open to hearing advice, opinions, concerns, and questions from across the board; let me know what you think as a student, a teacher, an administrator, an employer, etc. I also look forward to hearing from people of all technology skill levels as well.

I am coming at this from the perspective of an entry level job seeker myself and also a graduate student in the Higher Education Administration program at GMU. No matter what part of higher education I end up working in, I want to be able to give my students good advice and suggest relevant digital tools for their job searches. I’m not the most tech-savvy person in the world, but I am happy to share the bits of knowledge that I have.

where is DH scholarship on the web?

<a href="" target="_blank">Digital Humanities Now</a> and the <a href="" target="_blank">Journal of Digital Humanities</a> are experimental publications that aim to surface digital humanities scholarship from the open web and highlight work that moves the field forward. But where is this work and how can we discover it? We have a particular editorial and technical method, but are there other possibilities?

It seems fitting to invite an open conversation at THATCamp about how these publications run and what you think we're missing. Are there additional methods or sources we could use to monitor the field and discover non-textual work in particular? Do you have any feedback or suggestions for how we can improve these publications? This could turn into a "what's up with DHNow and JDH" session or we could think broadly about where DH scholarship is and how we find it (and build on it, review it, reference it, etc.). I look forward to the conversation!

Collaboration Across Institutional Boundaries

I’d like to propose a discussion session on the whole issue of collaboration across institutions.  William Pannapacker recently wrote in the Chronicle about the potential value of creating partnerships between research institutions and teaching colleges.  He mentions one good example as his starting point. There are other kinds of examples such as the collaboration between Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore.  What are the best examples out there and why have they worked?  What are the impediments to creating cross institutional projects and alliances and how are they best negotiated?  Can such collaborations grow organically, from the ground up so to speak, through small scale collaborations between individual researchers, or do they require institutional level initiatives on a much larger scale?  If there are collaborations between small colleges and large universities, how can we make sure that the institutional cultures, visions, and priorities of the smaller players are equal partners in the project?  How are cross-institutional projects of any sort best sustained over time so that they don’t die off once individual faculty members go in different directions.

I am in the process of working on a collaborative venture with Harrisburg University and my own institution, Messiah College.  We are hoping to bring together a number of different institutions in the Central PA region–the strong liberal arts colleges in the regions, state cultural institutions, possibly Penn State regional campuses–on larger scale Digital Humanities work than we can accomplish working in isolation.  I’m hoping there will be others interested in discussing what has worked or might work or wouldn’t work during the course of such a venture.

Digital storytelling for humanists

Long long ago….
Once upon a time…

Digital storytelling is buzzy right now, and I think it would be interesting to gather and talk about what that means for the way humanists communicate with the public. This could be in terms of personal or organization branding or presenting research. I’d also like to dig into why scholars revert to common narratives and how thinking with the lens of storytelling can disrupt those narratives for better(?) engagement. There’s an increasing number of storytelling tools (Cowbird and Backspacesto name two) that are circulating as ways for people to tell their own digital transmedia stories. So how do scholars take this into account in how they present themselves and their work?

I propose a session in two parts. First, talk about what’s out there, how ideas of digital storytelling can/cannot help scholars communicate, and then a second part where individuals or groups put together their own short digital stories. At the end we could share the stories around a campfire (or maybe just circle around a screen with this).

Friending and favoriting — try it out

Our deified developer, <a href="/author/boone-gorges">Boone Gorges</a>, has rolled out some terrific updates for just this morning. Notably, when you are logged in to this site, you will be able to Befriend people and to Favorite posts. We're going to use that Favoriting function to collect votes for the <a href="/challenge">Maker Challenge</a>, but it'll also be useful for putting together the schedule tomorrow morning. So, if you read a post you like, be sure to log in and Favorite it! We'll be able to see on the backend how many Favorites each post has gotten. (This'll also help us build the Proceedings of THATCamp this summer.)

Go forth and favorite. 🙂

Mulling Over Markdown

Do Dhers use Markdown? Created by John Gruber in 2004, Markdown is an easy to use text-to-HTMl markup language, one that’s instantly readable on the page and, when pushed through a dingus, becomes beautiful web-friendly prose. I was recently converted to Markdown through the evangelizing efforts of Brett Terpstra and Merlin Mann, and now all of my notes and first drafts are written using the MultiMarkdown syntax in Sublime Text 2. I’ve discovered that writing in Markdown allows me to organize my notes on the fly and, when I’m writing, sloughs off all of the pretensions that come with most writing apps and forces me to just get words down on the page. I’m still a beginner when it comes to living and working in a plain-text world, but if there are any Markdown gurus out there who’d like to come and share their expertise, I’d really appreciate it. I’d also be willing to introduce people to the syntax, if this post has sparked your interest.

Tips and Tricks for 21st-Century Research and Writing

As a complement our discussions about new forms of scholarship and scholarly publication, I’d like to propose a session about how digital tools are already transforming the academic production of knowledge. Despite recent transformations, I think most scholars in the humanities still follow a research and writing model that goes back at least a hundred years:

1.) Collect information
2.) Organize information
3.) Write scholarship

As a history graduate student knee-deep in dissertation research, I’ve been surprised how little my advisors and my peers’ reflect upon their method. I suspect that their approaches to steps two and three have changed very little in the past twenty years. For most, Microsoft Word and notecards still seem to be the “tools of the trade,” with perhaps a nod to citation software (Zotero/EndNote) and data backups (DropBox).

In this session, I’d like to discuss how 21st century scholars should approach both the organizing process and (on good days) the writing process as well. Everyone has their own system I’m sure; this would be an opportunity to share our tips and tricks. How do people fit their messy data –archival photos, interview transcripts, and odd notes– into searchable databases? Or do they? Have people ditched Word for plain-text files or Scrivener? Do people hide their data away on their personal drives, or publish it online? When are digital tools helpful, and when are they just, well, fiddling? Hopefully our conversation will generate some useful guides and blog posts.