Where We All Ended Up

I don’t know if I can say what impact THATCamp had on (checks notes) Comparative Literature, but I do know, personally, what impact it had on my teaching and my career. A decade ago, I was a contingent faculty member in the middle of nowhere. I had learned how to hand-code in HTML as an undergraduate, did pre-seminar discussion boards as an MA, blogged before it was blogging on my friend’s zine, and even tried a wikipedia assignment in a literature class, but it wasn’t until I got on Twitter and found (among others) the THATCamp community/network that I was finally able to learn about digital pedagogy, digital research, digital teaching and tools.

I looked on enviously as THATCamp after THATCamp happened far away from me, economically and geographically unable to attend. But the spirit of openness and community that infused all of the THATCamps meant that I could follow along at home, following the Twitter thread, visiting the blogs, asking questions, participating however I could from my corner of Appalachia.

As I transitioned into a faculty development/academic technologist role (filled with knowledge and skills that I gained in no small part because of THATCamp), I wanted to radically re-imagine how faculty development had been traditionally done. I still don’t think that the unconference has caught on yet in my professional circles, but the success that THATCamp had in “training” so many made it impossible to ignore.

Most importantly, I think, THATCamp played a large role in pushing the academy to think differently about what “counts” as scholarship. I’ve written about it elsewhere, but I really do think that this explosion of academic podcasts would not have happened, and as quickly gained acceptance as it has, without THATCamp and the community and activism that sprung up from these gatherings.

I work with faculty every day for whom Timeline.js is still a revelation. I learned about it through a THATCamp, one I didn’t attend, but saw on Twitter. THATCamp is still changing teaching and research and technology in academia simply by having existed and opening up a new world to so many of us, people who are still talking about and sharing what we learned, from tools to techniques to just the general ethos. Do not discount the impact that ethos has had. More important that any individual tool, it equipped and empowered us to push, to experiment, to try, to fail, to keep trying, to support one another in our work, to work together.

That is revolutionary. And it will continue to ripple outwards, onward, upwards.

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