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Mellon funds regional THATcamp coordination/training

In 2008, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason created THATCamp—The Humanities and Technology Camp—a yearly user-generated “unconference.” Organized on a shoestring and driven by participant interests, the new style of academic conference attracted a wide range of interest, and it spawned numerous locally-organized regional THATCamps in 2009, including recent events in Austin, TX, Pullman, WA, Columbus, OH, Los Angeles, CA, and East Lansing, MI. In coming months, additional THATCamps are planned for Paris, Toronto, London, Seattle, and other cities around the world.

Until now, the skeleton crew at CHNM (Jeremy Boggs, Dan Cohen, and Tom Scheinfeldt) has worked diligently to meet the many requests for assistance  from prospective organizers. With the announcement of a major grant from the Mellon Foundation, CHNM will finally be able to give local organizers and the regional THATCamp network the attention they deserve.

CHNM’s aim with the new funding is not to alter the essential bootstrap nature of THATCamp or the grassroots character of the regional events. None of the Mellon funding will be directed toward CHNM’s own Fairfax camp, and regional THATCamps will continue to be locally conceived, organized, and financed. Instead the program aims simply to make it easier for regional THATCamps to be established and run and to provide new supports for training aspiring digital humanists.

The program has four essential features.

1/A new Regional Coordinator will be on hand to assist local organizers with whatever aspects of planning and hosting a regional THATCamp (logistics, technology infrastructure, application procedures, publicity, evaluation, etc.) they require, making it vastly easier and more cost-effective to establish and maintain a new regional THATCamp.  Amanda French will be joining CHNM to fill the new Regional Coordinator position. With strong qualifications and connections in both digital history and digital literary studies—as well as a natural collaborative instinct—Amanda has emerged as a keystone of the international digital humanities community, and is well-placed to coordinate a dispersed, self-organized, interdisciplinary network of digital humanists.

2/The new program will support the development of a turn-key package of open source software (“THATCamp-in-a-box”) to enable regionals to get the technology infrastructure of application, registration, and session planning up and running more easily and inexpensively.

3/It will support the development of a basic-training curriculum (“BootCamp”) to run alongside regional THATCamp sessions, providing novices a grounding in the basic skills and methods of the digital humanities and giving them the tools to make the most of their THATCamp experience.

4/Finally, it will support a program of micro-fellowships for graduate students, junior faculty, and other aspiring digital humanists interested in attending a regional THATCamp and participating in the BootCamp program.

CHNM strongly believes these new structures will help expand THATCamp to new audiences, provide much-needed support to local organizers, and improve training opportunities for aspiring scholars.

excerpted/paraphrased from Tom Scheinfeldt’s Found History blog, 3/23


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