• On Like Donkey Kong: Discussing Games at THATCamp Jersey Shore 2011



    Or, A few brief notes on “Games games games!”, a session which took place on Monday, April 4, 2011, a bit after lunch.

    It was a lively discussion, touching on how we experience games, how we analyze games, and how we might teach with games. Thanks to Stockton’s own Lisa Rosner, we even got some insight into how academic institutions are creating games to explain smallpox and vaccination in nineteenth-century Edinburgh!

    Experiencing Games
    Good humanists that we are, we came up with a wide range of things that games are/were/could be about: making choices; simulation; narratives; the experience of playing a character; an immersion in a particular physical space; or the pure pleasure of gathering tchotchkes (the “Pokémon” aspects of location-based services like GoWalla were mentioned). We largely agreed that any given game (especially the fun ones) would likely include parts of many of the above.

    Designing & Analyzing Games
    The conversation ranged a bit widely here, and so I’m sorry to say my notes are a bit more scattered; here are a few of the bon mots (paraphrased!) that flew fast and furious as we chewed over how best to analyze gaming experiences and use that analysis to craft new games:

    “What’s the logic of the historical documents? How can you represent that in the game?”
    “What’s the difference between failure and winning? What’s the failure mode?”
    “Process matters.”
    “A player eventually will focus on figuring out, and mastering the algorithm: so the algorithm has to be the thing you’re trying to get across.”

    Teaching Games
    Some ideas on teaching with games or incorporating game-like incentives into classroom activities included primary source or location-based scavenger hunts, team competition, and using geodesic dome planetariums to project a sense of space.

    Where now?
    The session ended with a discussion of how we might like to organize what we know about what’s being done: in a world with Google and social media, the consensus seemed to be that the “age of clearinghouses,” like the Serious Games Initiative was largely over. That said, a number of useful sites/people were mentioned, most of which were new to me:

    Ian Bogost / Persuasive Games

    Play the Past

    NEH “Humanities Gaming Institute,” Center for Digital Humanities, University of South Carolina, June 7-25, 2010

    “Games, Serious Play, and Digital Pedagogy,” THATCamp New England, June 10, 2010

    Thanks again to all who participated!

  • Reflections on My First THATCamp


    Earlier this week I had the good fortune of attending THATCamp Jersey Shore at Richard Stockton College’s Carnegie Library Center in Atlantic City, NJ. It was my introduction to THATCamp and the strange animal that they bill themselves as – the ‘unconference.’ It all sounds very anti-establishment and even satirical – especially when the lunch session is called “dork shorts” – but the last conference I attended featured an assembly of museum professionals galloping around a ballroom dance-floor with a plush stuffed pony named “Diamond” (Diamond was nominated for a seat on the board the following morning). How bad could THATCamp really be?

    THATCamp turned out to be one of the most insightful and uplifting experiences that I’ve had thus far in cultural resource management. You may say, “What about that cemetery you helped save from destruction? And the smiles on those kids’ faces when you made history fun? And that young lady you helped get into college? All of those things pale in comparison to some ‘unconference’ of humanities hippies sticking it to the man in the home of Snookie and The Situation?!” No. No, they don’t. Those are everyday battles and everyday victories, though. THATCamp is like an “It Gets Better” for the humanities. It’s hope and insight on how to do the things that we know we could and should do to help facilitate these little victories, but don’t have to know-how to carry out.

    Standard conversations at the workplace and in the standard conferences tend to focus on our shared obstacles in the humanities. This ‘gathering of the minds,’ for lack of a more popularly understood description, was all about the solutions to bypass or barrel through those obstacles. The BootCamp component of THATCamp offered vital perspectives and solid footing with which to further broaden the discussion and application of these solutions.

    The Technology Consumer session concentrated on the fundamentals o: purchasing a digital camcorder. Roberto Castillo, of Richard Stockton College’s (RSC) Computer Services department, led a great discussion identifying what criteria to look for in making this purchase and how certain characteristics are more significant for some projects than others. While I am no stranger to digital cameras/camcorders and shopping online through CNET reviews and the like, I am new to having to justify these purchases to a third party or superior. This will help me to put things in perspective on what bullet-points to focus on and how to present them in a language that less-experienced shot-callers would understand.

    Dan Gambert, also of RSC’s Computer Services department, offered a Boot Camp session introduction to “Photoscape , the Photoshop Alternative.” While Photoscape doesn’t pack quite as much punch as Photoshop, the session’s title neglected to include “free” in the description, which definitely presents this program as a viable alternative for any budget-minded professional/student/hobbyist dabble with image-manipulation. Though Picasa has been my chosen poison for several years, this program offers a broader range of features that I may use to supplement my growing suite of free editing programs.

    Beyond the image-editing capabilities, Photoscape offers other nice features, like instant calendars, lined/graph paper, etc., which can make life a bit easier in a quick pinch for any of the above. I couldn’t help but let a smile creep from the inside out when he unveiled the calendar feature. I’ve been battling with Office Suite for some time in an effort to find a quick-and-easy calendar for any given month/year without having to build it myself or filter through templates.

    Above all, the most exciting BootCamp sessions for me were Amanda French’s Introduction to Omeka and the Introduction to VisualEyes led by Bill Fersher, from SHANTI at the University of Virginia, and Lisa Rosner, of RSC. Life can be overwhelming – especially life as we know it today, with all of the processing that the internet tasks us with. Students and professionals in the humanities are no strangers to this numbness bought on by information overload. Both of these sessions and their featured programs offered remedies to help in coping with these strains and challenges.

    Omeka is an incredible program available for the digital management and presentation of collections and data. It’s incredible because it exists and works, but even more so because it’s, again, FREE. Omeka allows you to organize your objects and information in an intelligible online format where you can search and sort your holdings without creating a mess of your office or holdings facilities. It also allows you to share these holdings, images, documents, information with the public and present it in the form of an online exhibit (if you feel so inclined).

    Omeka is exactly the type of program that I have been searching for to supplement an exhibit at work for teachers to use interpretive materials in the classroom and allow their students to contribute to the exhibit themselves. Did I mention it’s FREE? Oh yes, I did mention that… but did I also mention it’s historian-friendly?! You don’t need training in web development and HTML to utilize this program. It could certainly help to add that touch personal panache, but you can generate a beautiful and professional site for the public with the standard tools offered with Omeka.

    In the same light of “information overload,” VisualEyes offers a way to process that information and…well… visualize it through the magic of new-fangled computer technology! If I had a nickel for every time I thought to myself something along the lines of “I just wish that I could SEE where these people lived and traveled” or “If only I could find a clean and comprehensive way to actually map and distinguish the nature this person’s various relationships and then be able to access everything associated with those relationships at the click of a button,” well, I’d probably have enough money to pay someone with the proper training to make that happen.

    I have not been justly compensated for those thoughts, though, and that is why VisualEyes is yet another blessing from THATCamp’s BootCamp which is going to drastically alter my world. I may actually be able to see my office now after I get all of the maps, census records, letters, and photographs off of the floor, walls, and furniture and into some VisualEyes programming. VisualEyes comes from the same people behind Valley of the Shadow, which I’ve been pitching for several years as an example for the potentials of historical research and presentation. This program not only helps our audience make sense of what we’re working with – it helps us to makes sense of what we’re working with! While VisualEyes is a little more challenging to conquer than Omeka, it’s still the same low price – FREE to non-profits and academic institutions – and the BootCamp session outlined the basics and the tutorial in such a manner that I can approach the task with eager confidence.

    My first THATCamp experience has been an invaluable one and I hope that it will be the first of many. The BootCamp sessions provided me with an introduction and perspective that will help me play an even more active role at future THATCamp events and within my own field of cultural resource management. THATCamp is changing the humanities for the better and I’m happy to be a part of it in any way I can. I would like to thank the Mellon Foundation, the Kress Foundation, and IMLS for making it possible for me to attend these BootCamp Sessions through the generosity of their Boot Camp Fellowships. I would also like to thank the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University for beginning and supporting the THATCamp movement, and Richard Stockton College for hosting this event at the Carnegie Library Center. Finally, I would like to thank ‘Diamond,’ the plush stuffed pony, for staying home in the stable this time around. It was great meeting and working with everyone! Good luck! I hope to see you all again in the future!

  • Evaluate THATCamp


    Thanks so much for coming to THATCamp Jersey Shore! Please take a minute and fill out an evaluation.

  • Engaging with massive humanities datasets


    Preparatory to the session I proposed for tomorrow, I thought I’d share the conference paper that I wrote that deals (especially near the end) with how to engage with massive humanities datasets — the key phrase I came up with is “datum love.” The paper is titled “In Praise f Humanities Data”: www.scribd.com/doc/50066437/In-Praise-of-Humanities-Data

  • Some Other Topics to Consider Tomorrow at THATCamp Jersey Shore


    Hi! I’m John Theibault, Director of the South Jersey Center for Digital Humanities and main organizer of THATCamp Jersey Shore. The glitches I mentioned in an earlier post have extended to my own individual login to contribute to this conversation. So I’ll contribute as “Jerseyshore2011” the administrator of the site.

    The previous posts have given us several very interesting ideas to chew on. All will make for interesting sessions. I’ll just add a couple of other ideas that are on my mind as THATCamp starts.

    The first is simply to try to construct an overview of the infrastructure for doing digital humanities. I had even considered offering a BootCamp session on something along the lines of “Navigating the Digital Humanities Landscape” in which we would consider the umbrella organizations and sites dedicated to helping beginners and experts become familiar with the complete toolkit of digital humanities work. If people wish to share stories of how they keep up to date with digital humanities work it might be an enlightening session.

    The second aligns more closely with the digital humanities projects I am working on. I am interested in how new visualization methods can create different forms of both narrative and argumentation in scholarship. Just this evening via Twitter I encountered two new pieces on the transformative power of visualization. Edward Segal’s and Jeffrey Heer’s paper on Narrative Visualizations: Telling Stories with Data and today’s New York Times article “When Data Struts its Stuff.” How can humanists harness these powerful explanatory tools to make arguments and how can we teach people to “read” visualizations effectively?

    Within the applications for THATCamp are suggestions for a number of other very important potential sessions. I’ll list some below in abbreviated form for our consideration during the agenda-setting stage.

    1) What is the future of the book in the digital age?
    2) Text Mining and Advanced Search techniques
    3) Network Analysis and visualization
    4) Geo-Referencing and Analysis
    5) Student Digital Humanities Projects — Opportunities for Collaboration between CS and Humanities
    6) Using Digital Methods to Enhance Communication and Collaboration in Class
    7) Content Management Systems — Drupal, Strengths and Limitations of WordPress
    8) Digital Curation, Building an Online Exhibit
    9) Creating an Organizational Digitization Strategy
    10) Social Networking for Organizational and Project visibility

    I’m looking forward to a very engaging discussion. I hope to see you all tomorrow at 9:15 to help assemble the program.

  • Using Wikis In The Classroom


    Hello To Some Old Friends and Hopefully New Ones,

    What I propose is a discussion of the use of wikis as a CMS. After having previously used WordPress to create classroom blogs (example: eng101mwf.wordpress.com/), I use PBWORKS now to create wikis for each of my classes. Students are given logins, which allows them to edit each page. I use the wiki to store course assignments, copies of lectures, etc. During class discussions, I display the page for that day’s discussion, which is put together by my own notes and a “class leaders” notes. This also allows my classes to be almost completely paperless.

    Examples: eng101wwend.pbworks.com/eng102wwend.pbworks.com/

  • A Gentle Nudge in a Digital Direction…


    I imagine that we all have faced challenges “selling” ideas involving digitally-based initiatives to peers, governing institutions, and staff members. There is an “Old Reich” that is either reluctant of technology or just doesn’t understand a great deal of it. It may be good to just have an open discussion of how to “teach old dogs new tricks” so to speak or just to make them comfortable with other people doing those tricks with their money/resources. We, at THATCamp, are the choir… how do we best evangelize this gospel of technology? Are there better/best practices for incorporating those that have interest but little knowledge? Does anyone know of any new-user-friendly resources that could be shared to introduce people to some of these applications without overwhelming them? Is there a “most trusted name in technology” that we can consult in generating proposals to help defending our cases for digital application to the powers that be? For instance, if I was trying to justify a Survey-Monkey or Facebook account to a skittish board, does academic/third-party research exist to support my case that isn’t comparable to a CNET review? I know the primary focus of THATCamp is the actual application of technology to the humanities, but it does little good if we can’t make the case to our respective check-writers and inevitable staff implementers.

    I’ll go ahead and note off the bat that there is a danger in a session like this in opening the floor to a story-telling/venting session “My boss doesn’t know how to CC” and “This one time…” but if we start off aware of that danger, we might actually be able to avoid it and walk out with some objective results.

  • Preservation and Presentation of Digitized Collections


    The two of us (Catherine Homsey and myself) are from the Delaware Humanities Forum, the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Delaware affiliate, and we have turned increasingly to web-based resources and digital media to help serve our constituents better.

    Recently, we’ve joined forces with the Delaware Division of Libraries on a particular project. DDL recently was awarded a grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to supply the state’s various repositories, archives, and libraries with software and training so they can digitally index their collections, which can then be searched from a single search engine. What is missing is a user interface or portal that will allow these repositories to take some of their digital resources, create online exhibits as they wish, and also support this activity with social media, etc. That’s where we come in.

    We also have created a digital history project, the Delaware Industrial History Initiative, which supports the documentation and preservation of Delawareans’ experience with industry and its decline.

    We’re proposing a conversation on what experience campers have had in devising new ways to digitally support the work of institutions and the publics they serve. Most have us have all experimented with social media and made it work (or not) for our organizations; we’re more interested in discussing strategies and more integrated approaches to preservation, presentation, communication, and publication (e.g., including training, setting or adopting standards, potentially creating opportunities for web publishing).


    Catherine Homsey

    Erik Rau

  • Active Learning in a Web 2.0 environment


    Since I really want to make sure and post something, I am going to post a somewhat incomplete thought in the hopes that I will be able to add to it in the next couple of days!

    As a public services librarian I am interested in discussing the ways digital humanities and web 2.0 tools are being used to enhance active learning models. While I do not think digital surrogates can — or should — completely replace physical objects as education tools, I believe they can be used together to teach and encourage critical thinking in students.

    I went to a really great workshop this past week, “Not Just History Anymore: Using Special Collections and Primary Sources to Teach Critical Thinking,” which was held as a preconference to ACRL.  I found the workshop really engaging and am very excited to implement what I learned into some of my teaching activities.  One thing that was absent from the workshop was a discussion of how Web 2.0 tools could be utilized in conjunction with some of the exercises that were presented to the group.

    “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy,” by Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson that appeared in College & Research Libraries earlier this year (Vol. 72, no.1, pp. 62-78:  crl.acrl.org/content/72/1/62.full.pdf+html) sparked my interest in this topic of rethinking how we define literacy, and therefore how we construct learning exercises.  How we have come to define “information literacy,” is lacking.  Mackey and Jacobson call for a new understanding of what it means to be “literate” today.  Just being “information literate,” as defined in years past, is not enough, in today’s environment individuals need also to be media-, digital-, visual-, and cyberliterate.

    I would like to move away from over-reliance on prefixes such as “trans” and “meta.” While discussions regarding a new definition of “literacy” that embraces all of the various components that go into making one literate in this century are extremely useful in thinking about the marriage between digital and analog, these prefixes tend to fog the development of that definition, rather than clarify it. The development of critical thinking is sorely lacking in the United States. Rather than get bogged down in terminology, we need to address how we — as information professionals, librarians, archivists, digital humanists and professors, etc. — can step up and change this.  With the proliferation of Web 2.0 tools, there is a real opportunity to create new approaches to how we teach.   There are some excellent models of teaching, such as I learned during the workshop I recently attended, and there are some excellent Web 2.0 tools — now how can we merge the two?

  • Digital publications and archives


    I don’t have a proposal per se, just some thoughts about the main topic that interests me, which is digital publishing of scholarly texts and editions and archives.  I’m interested in learning more about best practices for digital publishing, especially the TEI, which seems to be emerging as a standard. I’m concerned with issues regarding access to digital scholarship and the relative merits of open access versus subscription based texts and collections whether based in academic presses (like UVAs Rotunda Press) or commercial operations (like Adam Matthew Digital). Does open access threaten preservation? Do subscription based collections undermine the democratic possibilities of digital scholarship?

    Having just come back from a visit to a collection of 19th century letters and journals preserved at the Massachusetts Historical Society for my own literary research, another issue I’ve been thinking about even more speculatively is the future of archives in the digital age. What will researchers have to look at in the future, when so much of the day to day communication in which people are engaged is unpreserved/preservable? What kinds of written communication are really in the “cloud” (ie. text messages, facebook posts and chats)? This may be a non-issue, but I thought I’d throw it out there!

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