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Library hosts camp on humanities and technology

By: Melanie Lefkowitz,  Cornell Chronicle
April 20, 2016

At the Central New York THAT (The Humanities and Technology) Camp held in Olin Library, there were no official presenters, while participants voted on workshop topics and met in collaborative sessions.

The informal structure suited the subject matter, since digital humanities is a relatively new and rapidly evolving field.

“So much of this technology is cutting-edge. Everybody is learning together, so you’re sharing tips and tools,” said Susette Newberry, assistant director of Research and Learning Services for Olin and Uris libraries. “It’s a collaborative learning effort.”

THATCamp is a national series of events promoting digital humanities – broadly defined as the use of technology in the research and teaching of humanities. The Central New York THATCamp took place April 9-10, following a morning graduate student symposium April 9 at which scholars gave brief presentations on their technology-based teaching or research projects.

The camp grew out of growing interest in digital humanities at Cornell, regionally and nationwide. Through the newly formed Digital Humanities Grad Network, humanities graduate students at Cornell meet monthly at the library to discuss digital projects, approaches and resources.

“As long as it involves critical reflection of why one is using certain tools, digital humanities pedagogy offers a range of possibilities, from provoking students to re-evaluate their relationship with the technology they use every day to more interactive and collaborative learning and building in the classroom,” said Mia Tootill, a doctoral candidate in musicology, a Don M. Randel teaching fellow and digital humanities intern. Tootill organized the THATCamp, symposium and, with fellow graduate students Ruth Mullet and Sam Carter, the new graduate network.

Around 50 people attended the two-day event, which followed a similar 2014 event at Syracuse University. Tootill and other organizers envision this as part of an annual or biennial regional gathering.

Many of the symposium presenters and workshop participants were alumni of digital programs at the library, including the four-day January immersion program for graduate students, and the summer digital scholarship humanities fellowship, soon to be in its fourth year.

Digital projects discussed included the use of 3-D printing in archaeology, the possibilities of text encoding in poetry, online crowdsourcing and using citation management software to organize archival research.

A participant from the Rochester Institute of Technology led an exercise in collaborative world building using Wikis and digital maps, in which digital tools are used to envision and analyze invented societies. During a lunchtime session known as “Dork Shorts,” participants presented their work in two- to three-minute bursts.

“That was really engaging,” said Newberry. “It’s the future, we can’t be chained to print anymore. Digital technologies allow us to do so many different things.”

THATCamp and the Digital Humanities Graduate Student Symposium were co-sponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor from an award by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Cornell University Library and the Cornell Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Finance Commission, with administrative support from the Society for the Humanities.

For more information about the Digital Humanities Grad Network, contact Mia Tootill.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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