In 2008 I was an office associate in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, halfway through my Library Master’s, and attempting to build a “professional network” on Twitter (an effort hamstrung to this day by my inability to stay professional on Twitter). I saw an early tweet about the very first THATCamp and said something like “wish I could go to this” to which an organizer replied with an offer of a small scholarship to attend. It was enough for it to make financial sense, and off I went. At THATCamp I found people that were immediately accepting and encouraging, and who pushed everyone to think beyond labels and roles. I proposed and ran a couple of somewhat awkward sessions (since I had never been to an unconference before, I didn’t know quite what to plan for) that led to great discussions and helped me refocus my interests and aspirations.
I liked the first THATCamp so much I attended 2009 and 2010 at RRCHNM, and THATCamp Iowa City in 2012. Every event has been transformative for me: new people, new ideas, new methods, and few barriers to access. My Twitter “network” is filled with fellow attendees/participants – people I talk to, share ideas with, and gripe with near daily. I liked the format so much that I helped run an unconference as part of a local coding group.
It’s hard to overstate the effect THATCamp has had on my professional life. When I look back at twitter posts from that era, I cringe at my inexperience, but the fact that this community nonetheless accepted and encouraged me is humbling. Watching other participants I met as early career scholars and grad students flourish in their careers has been a joy, and has served as inspiration.
At the CDRH, I have since moved on from the office associate role through designer, designer/developer, and development team manager roles. Many of the lessons learned at THATCamp stay with me to this day, especially in the realm of managing projects: iteration; talking through ideas good and bad; and an atmosphere that treats everyone as worthy peers.
Karin at THATCamp Iowa City in 2012, photo taken by Laura Weakly.