soCal in song

Here’s the song. I hope the image of the inspirational fish will follow…

Thanks to all the THATCampSoCal organizers even though this mentions only one aspect*

What’s the table at THATCamp, SoCal
Full of digital humanists fair?
What’s the table at THATCamp
And what are they making there?

It is inspirational,
Bidirectional, it’s true.
It is shaped just like a fish,
It will make you wish
You could make one too.

With the painting, drawing, posters, podge,
With the stamps and trim and glue,
You could make card or tag
Button, badge or bag
Or two.
GIS, etexts and TEI,
Have their place here that is true,
But creative people know
That our thanks must surely
To you.

(with thanks to Marta for creating the ” inspirational bidirectional pocket fish” highlighted in the song)
Sung to tune of “If He Walked Into My Life”

Categories: General | Comments Off on soCal in song

THATCamp Craft Cabin–the why and the how

art supplies at THATCamp Craft Cabin

art supplies at THATCamp Craft Cabin

It may seem out of place to offer a table full of art supplies at a digital humanities gathering.  Painting and collaging, are, after all, quite firmly analog activities (thus the messy hands, and at least one staple injury).  So what was the deal with the Craft Cabin at THATCamp SoCal?

Part of the thinking was that it would be “unconferency,” in a good way that mirrors the best of digital humanities gatherings.  Craft Cabin would also be an informal, creative, participatory space, where everyone gets a chance to create new things onsite.   The specific materials provided (old books, card catalog cards, historical images, rubber stamps of words and postal marks) were chosen because they offered “texts” to remix and, in the process, discuss.  We also hoped Craft Cabin would be a challenging experience of new tools and unfamiliar processes for some–much as the digital environment challenges many newcomers.  Remembering the “where do I start? what do I do? what will happen if I try this?” stage of learning can be valuable.

We didn’t really know what would happen at the Craft Cabin–it was an experiment.  But here’s some of what did happen:

1.  During registration, folks drifted over and started embellishing their nametags with ink, collage, rubber stamps, and sharpies.  By the time the first session started, several THATCamp participants were already wearing a personalized ID.

2.  A shoebox full of old card catalog cards drew curious visitors to the table, to sort through and share their best finds.  Some of those cards were cut up, and the choicest phrases found their way onto wooden pins, collages, and nametags.  (What else can you do with old card catalog cards?  The Brooklyn Museum is currently asking that question!)

3.  Participants worked on projects between sessions, which left time for their work to dry between steps.  It was fun to watch the collages develop over the course of the meeting.

4.  A printer was onhand, so participants could print images or sentences or names to add to their works, and quite a few did.  But for others, there were pre-printed images (most of them from Flickr Commons), sheet music, and academic journals to cut out.

5.  Modpodge happened.  A lot.  It even featured in the lyrics of a song about Craft Cabin, composed and performed by one of the THATCampers.  (Still hoping to see those lyrics on the blog as promised.)

If someone else ever wants to try a Craft Cabin activity, these are the supplies that seemed to be most useful at ours.  Almost all of it is easy to find at a general craft store.  Get plenty:  people are often more willing to use supplies if they can see that there’s no shortage.

  • canvasboards
  • sharpies
  • acrylic paints
  • inkpads and walnut ink
  • rubberstamps
  • wooden shapes to use in making pins
  • pinbacks
  • stuff to cut up:  music, images, texts, ephemera
  • jumprings
  • brushes
  • xacto knives
  • stencils
  • cardboard
  • paper towels
  • modpodge
  • tape
  • paper punches and die-cuts in different shapes
  • ribbon

It might also be nice to bring interesting papers and cardstocks, brads, a stapler, colored pencils, zip bags, maps.  I’d say it’s worth having someone onsite whose primary responsibility is the Craft Cabin.  That person can still attend sessions (I did!), but they’d be available to help folks at other times, keep track of supplies, etc.  And I think the location of the Craft Cabin was also ideal at the SoCal event:  we were right off the main meeting room, separate but visible–and near the coffee and snacks, which is always an advantage.

Categories: General | 5 Comments

THATCamp Survey

Please fill out the survey on this THATCamp at 


THATCamp 2011 Organizers

Categories: General | Comments Off on THATCamp Survey

Notes on Freebase BootCamp session

I’ve been hearing about Freebase for awhile now, especially from Jon Voss, who organized and ran THATCamp Bay Area, so I figured I’d go to that BootCamp session here at THATCamp SoCal. I’m very, very glad I did. It was taught by Kirrily Robert, who’s Skud on Twitter. As I said on Twitter, I had thought that Freebase was simply a place where people could upload their datasets, and it is that. But it’s also a rather amazing project that’s a bit difficult to explain if you don’t know what open linked data is. And if you don’t know what open linked data is, why then the rather charming animated video that Kirrily showed us might be of use (it’s about “Metaweb,” which is the name of the company that owned Freebase before Google recently bought it, but it gives the idea — will now resolve to

Kirrily is the developer liaison for Freebase, but I thought she did a great job of pitching the workshop to us non-developer humanist types, and I think that the actual developers who were there (including Joyce Ouchida from USC) probably also got a good idea of what Freebase is all about and what they could do with it. We started by looking at the Freebase page for William Blake:

the William Blake Freebase page

You may notice (I did) that a good bit of Freebase content comes from Wikipedia; one of the things that struck me like a hammer about Freebase is how purely factual it is. And, later, how it’s the relations between things that constitutes Freebase’s “entity graph,” not prose — the video above even begins by evoking what a pain words are and how their meanings are contingent. It’s all very poststructuralist. I love it.

We moved quickly into editing, which wasn’t any harder (in fact quite a bit easier) than editing Wikipedia. I did a good bit of work on my pet go-to topic, the villanelle, adding several instances of “poems of this form” (Bishop’s “One Art,” for instance, for which I also had to create a page in Freebase, though others, such as Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song,” already had pages). We then looked at how to construct Freebase queries in MQL, Meta Query Language, and we talked about how to use Google Refine to clean up Excel data sets for use in Freebase. (That alone was a terrific tool to learn about.)

What I’m wondering now is whether Freebase might even be a better site to send students to for factual information research than Wikipedia; I’m not sure. In the session, I asked what Freebase is for: whether it’s a destination research site or a provider of structured semantic data for developers. Kirrily said that they had discussed that very question rather a lot at Freebase, and that their usage statistics show that the latter use is by far the more common. If I did more development, I can definitely see how I’d be all over Freebase’s linked data — so, so useful in building applications. Kirrily mentioned one example at It made me think seriously about building something I’ve had in mind for some time: a site backed by a database of poetic forms in which poems are tagged with their forms (sonnet, triolet, villanelle etc.) and other features, and I can see that sucking in some of the existing Freebase data to that would save a load of work. I went out and registered right away, in fact.

Anyway, thanks Kirrily and THATCamp SoCal — this was a great session.

Categories: General | Comments Off on Notes on Freebase BootCamp session

Dork Shorts

For all who presented DorkShorts at lunchtime, please post the URL for your project in the comments on this post, so we can all follow up on what you spoke about…

Categories: General | 2 Comments

Towards an Open Digital Humanities Notes

Barriers to access:

  • $
  • Suggestion: See “Grant Opportunities” from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities:
  • Lack of understanding/knowledge of topics.
  • DH folks acting as if there ARE stupid questions
  • Suggestion: Check out “Digital Humanities Questions & Answers” –
  • Not making “cultural” (behavioral/rhetorical/etc.) norms transparent
  • Acronyms–in order to do DH outreach we need to be better about jargon
  • Suggestion: A list of acronyms that need defining could be generated to aid in the creation of a DH lexicon
  • Age/generation/skill-level barriers
  • Skill level and timing–can we allow beginners in?
  • disability and tech interfaces
  • Suggestion: See “Getting Started with Web Accessibility” –
  • soundbite/tweet sloganeering easily misunderstood (“If you can’t code…”)
  • Publicity: Making sure Women/Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Cultural Studies, Information Science depts. KNOW about THATCamps and other DH things
  • also technology-based communities including data viz community, creative commons, wikimedia, open streetmap, internet archive, museum 2.0/3.0 community, code4lib, etc.

What gets recognized as DH and what doesn’t?

  • e.g. WOC feminist blogging?
  • How do “we” bring new/other things under the DH umbrella?
  • What practical means can be used to perform outreach to underrepresented people and forms of “DH” production? (Twitter is used more frequently and in more social capacities by black and latino users, yet they are noticeably absent from THATCamp and DH discourse.)
  • DH production outside of academia? (fandom, activism, arts, web2.0/mashups)
  • internal DH divisions – DH or new media studies?
  • Danger of a divide between DH and cultural studies. Cultural studies folk “don’t do” DH.

What are our assumptions about who participates in DH?

  • Main participants in DH are (or are perceived to be) privileged and white
  • Who attends THATCamp?
  • Who attends individual sessions? Self-segregation. e.g. Career talk vs. “tech talk”
  • Assumption: everyone’s at the same place in speaking/volunteering/leading/informality (they’re not for all kinds of reasons)
  • Identity categories and who uses/who makes/who’s comfortable with web 2.0/who’s hacking unique solutions for their own work

“What do I need to know?” Outreach/introductions/welcoming to DH

  • introductory session at start of first day
  • publish session proposals ahead of time? (so people know what to read up on beforehand if they want to)
  • Glossary of digital humanities terms, acronyms
  • Organizer sets the tone
  • look into “open space technologies” principals/practices
  • Basic prelim info: images from previous events

How Do We Get People to THATCamp or Under DH Banner?

  • Day of week
  • Environment (where is it held? what kinds of rooms?)
  • Outreach to existing events, departments (e.g. ethnic studies)
  • THATCamp promotional materials need to be more explanatory
  • People to contact: data visualization bloggers, creative commons, internet archive, open library project.
  • Question: But why would they want to participate? What can we do to make the experience more open and useful?
  • Use a project based approach: present a problem and encourage participation.

This is the link to the diversity in DH Notes (still being edited quite actively!):

Categories: General | 1 Comment

Towards an Open Digital Humanities

We recognize that a wide diversity of people is necessary to make digital humanities function. As such, digital humanities must take active strides to include all the areas of study that comprise the humanities and must strive to include participants of diverse age, generation, skill, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, nationality, culture, discipline, areas of interest. Without open participation and broad outreach, the digital humanities movement limits its capacity for critical engagement.

This is the link to the google doc, still possibly being edited:

Position Statement:

Categories: General | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Using Drupal to facilitate online collaboration

Hello Everyone! Using Drupal and its various modules, we are creating an online collaborative environment where scholars/researchers across the world are able to study a manuscript and share their findings with each other.

We’d love to participate in a session with groups using Drupal specifically for its online collaboration and social media tools.

See you all soon!

Categories: General | Comments Off on Using Drupal to facilitate online collaboration

Ridesharing to/from LA?

I live in central LA, near USC, and am without a car at the moment. I had planned to take the train to and from THATCamp each day… until I looked at the schedule and realized that the last train from Orange to Union Station is at 5.30pm. So now I’m wondering if anyone (perhaps a fellow USC grad student?) is planning to drive up from LA and could give me a ride––even if it’s just back to LA on Tuesday evening, since the train is convenient for all the other journeys. I’ll share the cost of gas, of course!

Categories: General | 2 Comments

Grant Proposals

I’d like to talk about grant proposals. I’m in the process of crafting my frist DH proposal and I’d love to hear from people (A) in the same situation and (B) who have written successful proposals. What are the things we need to think about to get literary DH projects funded?

Categories: session | Comments Off on Grant Proposals