Nov 11

From Punch Cards to BootCamp

This isn’t a session proposal; that can be found here. Rather, this is a reflection that I recently posted to my much neglected blog and was invited  to post here as well.  

My experience at THATCAMP New England promises to be quite different than my first un-conference encounter back in May at the Center for History and New Media. That first exposure felt like a dizzying plunge off the deep end into a freewheeling yet purposeful culture of conversation, creative energy and camaraderie.

Yes, “more hack, less yack” emerged as the unofficial theme for that spring weekend but, for a relative newcomer like me, who has plenty of yack but very little hack, talking about ideas, projects and the issues confronting digital humanities seemed within reach whereas hacking did not. (This said, I still sat in on a few of the programming-oriented sessions, if only to absorb the spirit of things while the content soared over my head.)  Overall, I observed much, contributed a little and came away inspired by the different models of digital scholarship that I’d encountered—in both human and project form.

My lack of technical know-how continued to nag at me, however. For this reason, I kept thinking back to a session on BootCamp organizing that I sat in on briefly. How great would it be, I thought, if I could attend a series of workshops designed to help folks like me build some of the basic technical skills needed not only to do the work of digital humanities but also to collaborate more effectively with the technical experts who support and partner with us?  Well, I’ll soon find out exactly what it is like to attend such workshops.  The chief reason my THATCamp New England experience promises to be different than my first un-conference is that I will be participating in all the BootCamp sessions being offered.

I plan report on my experiences as part of my contributions as a HASTAC scholar this year. Since I first stumbled upon this enterprise that (some of us) call digital humanities or digital scholarship, I’ve been interested in how it is (beyond DIY) that one acquires useful skills and becomes a part of this dynamic, diffuse, diverse community. So, I hope by chronicling my journey that I’ll help demystify the process for anyone else out there who is drawn by the buzz of excitement but uncertain about how to find their footing on unfamiliar terrain. Heck, the last time I made a foray into the hack side of things it involved an undergraduate class “CIS 197: Introduction to Computer Programming: Pascal” in the punch-card era!

Now, if I can only decide on the appropriate footwear. Boots at Bootcamp too last season?

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