Why attend THATCamp@Penn?

We expect THATCamp@Penn to provide a rare opportunity for faculty, graduate students and academic professionals in different disciplines—and with diverse backgrounds, roles, skills and interests—from across campus to meet in person for a day of informal discussion and collaboration. The morning begins with a group session where participants propose topics (some of which will have been posted previously on the THATCamp blog), vote on the proposals and then together work out a schedule of sessions for the day. The result could look like this.  We reconvene as a group in the late afternoon to share conversations and perhaps identify those areas where more formal training on campus may be helpful. These blog posts (onetwo , three) provide an idea of how recent THATCamps have unfolded for others. THATCamp@Penn requires a minimal commitment of time and could well lead to new initiatives and campus collaborations in the digital humanities.


THATCamp@Penn first came up as an idea during Dan Cohen’s visit to the University of Pennsylvania in February 2011. Some of us camped at the 2011 THATCamp Philly and we saw potential for an un-conference to catalyze new conversations at Penn. We hope to bring together 100 campers with a diverse set of backgrounds, roles, skills and interests. Please register now and we will confirm registrations on a rolling basis. Once registered, you will receive an email with your username and password for this site. Using that to log in, you can edit your profile/bio, propose sessions, and share ideas with all the campers.

Who should attend?

Anyone with interest in the humanities and/or technology. We welcome all members of the Penn community as well as interested individuals from outside the University.

The questions below are excerpted from the national THATCamp site.


What is a THATCamp?

Here are the key characteristics of a THATCamp:

  • It’s collaborative: there are no spectators at a THATCamp. Everyone participates, including in the task of setting an agenda or program.
  • It’s informal: there are no lengthy proposals, papers, presentations, or product demos. The emphasis is on productive, collegial work or free-form discussion.
  • It’s spontaneous and timely, with the schedule being mostly or entirely created by all the participants first thing that morning, rather than beforehand by a program committee.
  • It’s productive: participants are encouraged to use session time to create, build, write, hack, and solve problems.
  • It’s non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary and inter-professional: THATCamps welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, K-12 teachers, administrators, managers, and funders as well as people from the non-profit sector, people from the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs. The topic “the humanities and technology” contains multitudes.
  • It’s open and online: participants make sure to share their notes, documents, pictures, and other materials from THATCamp discussions before and after the event on the web and via social media.
  • It’s fun, intellectually engaging, and a little exhausting.

What is an “unconference”?

The shortest answer is this: an unconference is a highly informal conference. Two differences are particularly notable. First, at an unconference, the program isn’t set beforehand: it’s created on first thing that morning with the help of all the participants rather than beforehand by a program committee. Second, at an unconference, there are no presentations — all participants in an unconference are expected to talk and work with fellow participants in every session. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture; going to an unconference is like being a member of an improv troupe where going to a conference is (mostly) like being a member of an audience. Unconferences are also free or cheap and open to all. For more information, see Wikipedia’s entry on the unconference.

Some say that the first unconference was BarCamp, which is the model for THATCamp. Read more about BarCamp at barcamp.org, radar.oreilly.com/2005/08/bar-camp.html, and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BarCamp.

What are “the humanities”?

Good question. Turns out there’s a legal definition! As the National Endowment for the Humanities puts it: “According to the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, ‘The term “humanities” includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.’ ”

What is “technology”?

We suggest you read this brilliant article by Professor Leo Marx, American cultural historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept.” (Side note: those who love technology should be those who are most aware of its hazards.)

What should I propose?

Sessions at THATCamp will range from software demos to training sessions to discussions of research findings to half-baked rants (but please no full-blown papers; we’re not here to read or be read to). See the list of sample sessions at thatcamp.org/proposals/ for ideas, or come up with a creative idea of your own for a session genre or topic. You should come to THATCamp with something in mind, and find a time, a place, and people to share it with. Once you’re at THATCamp, you may also find people with similar topics and interests to team up with for a joint session.

Is a THATCamp only for scholars / grad students / undergrad students / librarians / archivists / programmers / instructional technologists? Can scholars / grad students / undergrad students / librarians / archivists / programmers / instructional technologists apply?

No to the first, yes to the second. THATCamp aims at the broadest diversity of backgrounds and skills possible.