What to Propose?

September 17, 2009 by

A common question for prospective THATcampers is what to propose.  While we offer some general guidelines on our home page, I thought it would be useful to share some of my experiences from this year’s THATcamp at George Mason to perhaps provide some more assistance.

The most important thing I learned about THATcamp proposals, as both a presenter and an audience member, is that interactivity is essential.  No one wants to sit around and be read to, least of all us hip, fast paced Digital Humanists.  The best sessions by far had the feel of an engaging graduate seminar class, with contributions coming from everyone and where there was freedom for even the topic to evolve with the discussion.

Along with this, it cannot be stressed enough that big ideas are welcome at THATcamp.  Even if these ideas, as is often the case, are challenging to define, explain or put into practical terms.  Remember that because these discussions can be free flowing, there is no need to arrive at THATcamp with pre determined conclusions.  Simply asking the interesting question is all that we require.

On the other hand, some sessions were remarkably down to earth and practical.   This was especially true when talking about technicalities, coding, implementation, etc.  Sessions devoted to institutional barriers facing the Digital Humanities and how to provide Digital Humanities training provide examples of topics that encompass both “big ideas” and practical strategies.  The point is, while “big ideas” are encouraged, practicality and pragmatism are also important components to many excellent THATcamp proposals.

Finally, I would like to offer a word of caution.  While it is both natural and acceptable to talk about personal projects, its very important that presenters do not turn their sessions into an advertisement or infomerical for themselves, their institutions or even their (probably very interesting) Digital Humanities pet projects.  Thus, instead of basing a proposal on “I am doing this, and its really neat. . .” try “I’m doing this, and these are the wider ramifications, common problems, etc. and I hope the group could discuss. . .”  It is a seemingly minor, but very important distinction.  Of course, feel free to promote the cool things you or your institution are doing while at THATcamp, just not as the basis of session.

That’s all for now.  I hope this has been helpful for those with questions.  If you have more questions, please send us an email at moc.l1505937149iamg@1505937149submu1505937149locpm1505937149actah1505937149t1505937149.

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