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Friday and Saturday I had the great opportunity to visit Philadelphia for THATCamp Philly. THATCamp(The Humanities and Technology Camp) is one of the many outcomes of the creative and innovative minds at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. THATCamp is an “un-conference” where the participants suggest the sessions and vote on what will be in the schedule the morning of the event.

THATCamp Philly was held at the beautiful Chemical Heritage Foundation and was a terrific and centrally located venue for humanists, technologists, librarians, archivists, curators, professors, students, and many other professionals to convene and discuss issues affecting each of these groups.

The first session I attended was titled Digital Humanities for Newbies and was immensely helpful for people new to the profession or still trying to wrap their head around what exactly Digital Humanities is. Some of the takeaways from this session are the fantastic Digital Humanities projects, blogs, and guidelines out there to help people who are new:

The next session Evaluating Digital Humanities Projects included a lively discussion by a large group. The conversation focused on the need for evaluation of digital humanities projects as opposed to the subjective nature of such evaluation. Beyond analytics, the members of the discussion threw out ideas to evaluate projects. The Visual Website Optimizer is a way to implement A/B testing to make small but significant changes to optimize the user experience. Projects like NINES, 18th Century Connect, and MESA includes the traditionally accepted peer review model into Digital Humanities projects. Focus groups came up time and time again as a more effective way of getting user feedback. Participants discussed the success of focus groups in comparison to the challenges of getting survey responses.

The following session was something that is close to home, as we in Special Collections are working on a pilot audio digitization project. Providing Access to Audiovisual Materials Online highlighted the fact that so many archives do not do anything with their backlog of obsolete audiovisual materials. The issues of time, money, and copyright. In addition to actually getting audiovisual materials online, the discussion turned to digital preservation and maintenance of the digital surrogates.

The final session I attended, Outside the Classroom, but on Campus: New Media, DH, and Campus Culture, included a lively discussion of how to engage the students in the activities they are participating in outside of the classroom. What kept coming up was the fact that once the “adults” took charge, students lost interest. It is the spontaneous and organic actions of student groups and engagement on campus that makes the interactions so unique. Some universities assign students blogs or html folders to encourage digital engagement. Unfortunately, the members of the discussion that have this at their University find that the students do not use these spaces. Students are creating their own online spaces (think “WFU-Hey Girl” blog) but not necessarily utilizing what they are being offered.

THATCamp Philly was a great opportunity to have open discussions with professionals across the board. I am thankful for the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia and participate in this innovative conference.