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Feeling Lonely? Go to (THAT)Camp!

campfireDisclosure: I will discuss THATCamp LAC in this post. I’m co-organizing THATCamp LAC with a group that includes fellow ProfHacker Erin Templeton; two other ProfHacker writers plan to attend.

I probably don’t need to explain THATCamp to ProfHacker readers. Ethan wrote about organzing an unconference, Amy wrote about what happens at an unconference, and Brian wrote about the results of an unconference. The THATCamp movement continues to spread: last year, unconferences were held around the country and around the world.

Since starting work at a small liberal arts college, I’ve come to appreciate THATCamps as important developmental opportunities for faculty, librarians, staff, and students from schools without vibrant digital humanities communities. Working at such schools can be challenging: it’s easy to feel isolated when you’re the only digital humanist around. Lone DHers often struggle because:

  1. They must continually explain or even justify the work they do to colleagues who have little context to help them understand it;
  2. They have few resources to help them learn new tools or technical skills;
  3. They have difficulty staying current with the range of DH work going on at major DH centers.

Having just moved from a major digital humanities center to St. Norbert College—a school of around 2,000 undergraduates near Green Bay, Wisconsin—I’ve felt those challenges keenly. Though I brought a digital humanities project with me from my former institution, I’ve struggled to continue developing it without the infrastructure that supported its genesis.

One of the primary principles of THATCamp states that camps should be “non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary.” I have found THATCamps a welcoming place to rejoin the larger discussions happening in the DH community—or simply to catch up with what’s happening. There are camps coming up in New Jersey, Texas, the Great Lakes region, and Western Ontario. If you’re a digital humanist in one of these regions who’s never been to a THATCamp, you should consider applying to one of these.

If you’re particularly interested in collaborating with DHers (or aspiring DHers) from small schools, however, you should apply to THATCamp LAC. The “LAC” stands for Liberal Arts Colleges, a title which I realize now may exclude people who might be interested in our mission. We’re interested in bringing together a wide range of folks who work at colleges where digital research and teaching requires cross-institutional collaboration—folks working at small liberal arts colleges, smaller state schools, or even large schools without a well-developed digital humanities culture. Unlike most of the regional THATCamps, we’re not thinking in geographic terms, but instead trying to meet the needs of a particular subset of academia—we’ll focus on DH work in small college environments as well as on issues of technology and pedagogy.

In fact, we’ve already started to plan one Bootcamp at THATCamp LAC that will speak to both of these priorities. “Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into the Undergraduate Curriculum” should interest DHers at a range of teaching-focused schools: Kathryn Tomasek from Wheaton College (MA) and Rebecca Frost Davis from NITLE will teach participants how they can get their students involved in DH research.

THATCamp LAC will be hosted June 4-5, 2011 at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin (which will be beautiful in June). Applications are open now and will close on April 18, 2011. There will be housing available in the campus hotel and, for budget-conscious campers, in one of the apartment-style dorms on campus. There are even fellowships available from the Center for History and New Media to help folks get to THATCamp LAC (or other THATCamps). Note: the fellowship application is separate from the application to attend. In keeping with the THATCamp philosophy, there will be no conference fee, but a $20 donation toward snacks and coffee will be appreciated by the organizers.

If you’re a DHer who has felt isolated on your campus, apply to THATCamp LAC. We hope to start building a coalition of folks in similar positions around the country: a network of no-longer-isolted DHers who can begin to collaborate and do exciting, inter-institutional work. I, along with the three other ProfHacker writers who will be at THATCamp LAC, hope to meet many ProfHacker readers in Wisconsin this summer.

P.S. For those of you who come to THATCamp LAC and care about such things, I’ll happily point you in the direction of Lambeau Field. It’s about 10 minutes from St. Norbert’s campus.

[Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user Jason Pratt.]

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