A Career Forged in THATCamps

I began by just trying to figure out how many THATCamps I attended.  I knew that I went to the original one at CHNM in 2008, presenting on a class that I had just finished teaching for the first time, and undergraduate Digital History course.

Then I realized that I actually had a section on my c.v. at one point that actually stated “THATCamp Sessions and Workshops”

So, something like 17 THATCamps in 11 years. [I may have missed some.]  I was a THATCamp devotee.  I felt from the beginning that I had found my people, at least some of them.  A significant percentage of my Twitter follows (and followers) came from these sessions.  The people that I met have become colleagues, collaborators, partners in digital pedagogy and work.  I have no doubt that I have been published, have been offered leadership positions, have received grants, have even been a finalist for jobs because of the community and what I learned and what I discovered among and in the THATCamp communities that sprung up around and between the various THATCamps I attended.

Perhaps not surprisingly though, my own experience at THATCamp changed over the years as increasingly my role was not to learn new things, but to teach others new things. Or to teach things I had already learned or at least could speak about from the increasing age and experience (if not wisdom) of a tenured faculty position.  [To be clear, there was (is) still so much for me to learn in DH, but by 2011 I was going to THATCamps as an organizer, as a workshop leader, as a DH-friendly department chair and explainer-of-how-to-get-tenure-promotion-while-doing-DH and not typically to learn new things myself.] Given that almost every time, most of the people who attended THATCamps were new to THATCamp and to DH more generally, so fulfilling those roles with a number of like-minded THATCamp true believers made sense. There were (and still are) people who want and need a low-key, friendly environment in which to learn about DH for teaching, for research, for themselves.  THATCamp’s role always worked best (in my observations) as an introduction.

And I think that’s part of why it has run its course.  [That and the fact that there wasn’t funding underwriting the coordination of it anymore.]  There wasn’t a clear next step for THATCamp to play in people’s own DH development.  THATCamp 2.0, THATCamp at the next level, THATCamp for Advanced Users never took off (for a variety of reasons both philosophical and practical).   Other options have emerged for people who wanted more than the introduction, who wanted to know what was next.

But I will always cherish the connections we made, the work we did, the fun we had, and will always be grateful for the home, the foundation, the scaffolding, THATCamp provided me over the last 12 years.


Categories: General