‘Unconference’ comes to Queen’s

Students organize digital humanities camp for scholars, archivists, students, librarians

A group of students, scholars, librarians and archivists will descend to Douglas Library next month to go back to “camp.”

The Humanities and Technology Camp, or THATcamp, brings together humanists and technologists to share knowledge in informal sessions. Queen’s first THATcamp will take place on Feb. 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Maya Bielinski, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in English at Queen’s, is bringing the event to campus with Emily Murphy, a PhD candidate in the department of English.

THATcamp is known as an “unconference.” Sessions are decided upon and formed the first day of the camp, rather than beforehand by program coordinators.

“’Unconferences are a more informal gathering of people, where things are made up on the spot, unlike conventional conferences with presentations and formal speakers and sort of top down organization.” Digital humanities, the camp’s focus, is the intersection of the humanities and technology as it relates to education and research. Bielinski said she thinks the digital humanities are increasingly present on campus.

“We’re seeing it in the work that’s already being done on Queen’s campus but we’re also seeing it in the classes that are being offered,” she said.

She added that a class she and Murphy are currently enrolled in involves designing an academic website that focuses on the literature of the Middle Ages.

The camp is open to anyone, and 25 people have registered so far, with registration extended to Feb. 1.

“In the registrants that have signed up so far we have everyone from the head of Douglas Library to grad students to people from Queen’s Archives and people coming from Western,” Bielinski said.

Participants also come from a variety of disciplines, from art history to music to classics.

She added that she first heard about THATcamp, which is comprised of a global network of participants, when she first started getting interested in the digital humanities about two and a half years ago. Murphy said she heard about the camp while attending the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria.

Queen’s inaugural THATcamp is being supported by the library — which is providing coffee, snacks and free space — as well as the Graduate English Society. As such, the “unconference” will be free to participants.

Murphy said she thinks the camp is part of a growing community of digital humanists at Queen’s.

“We definitely want to have continued events and continued community building,” she said.

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