Blog Post

THATCamp RTP 2012: interview with participant Whitney Trettien (Duke)

THATCamp RTP 2012: interview with participant Whitney Trettien (Duke)

In September, Dr. Joyce Rudinsky (my HASTAC mentor) HASTAC Scholar Jade Davis and I co-organized and then attended an exciting THATCamp Research Triangle Park un-conference in September 2012. I met fascinating researchers, teachers, and practitioners, including American Studies scholar Dr. Tammy L. Brown (Duke), who uses game design to teach African-American history, and Whitney Trettien (also at Duke), who shares my interest in compilation of digital editions. I plan to follow up on the brainstorming and dialogue in which I took part.  In the meantime, for those who aren’t quite sure what THATCamp is, but are curious, I asked Whitney to share her impression. Here they are.

REBECCA: Whitney, had you been to a THATCamp before? When/where?

WHITNEY: I went to THATCamp RTP at Duke in 2010.

REBECCA: What did you hope or expect from THATCamp RTP 2012?

WHITNEY: I wanted to meet new people in the area who were interested in digital humanities.

REBECCA:  What do you think of THATCamp’s un-conference format?

WHITNEY: Its strength is its openness. You can let conversations productively meander in ways you can't at a traditional conference. It also allows for a nice "mindshare" vibe. But its strength is also its weakness: meandering conversations sometimes don't leave one with the sense of having accomplished or learned anything new, and it can be hard to identify tangible achieved goals at the end of the day. 

REBECCA: What did you learn or accomplish at THATCamp RTP 2012?

WHITNEY: I definitely met many people I hadn't known before -- especially those working in libraries and publishing. As a grad student, it can be difficult to find spaces in which to make contact with people 1) who aren't grad students in your field, and 2) who work in alt-academic capacities. THATCamp definitely fostered these connections. 

REBECCA: What advice do you have for other organizers and participants?

WHITNEY: I think it's important to find ways to facilitate follow-up. One day is both too much time (too many topics! so much to explore!) and too little (not enough time to go in-depth). The Semaphore funding has helped with follow-up to some extent -- but there may be other ways to encourage long-term professional relationships through online networking, etc.

REBECCA:  Did you discuss your own research? If so, what is it? Has your experience at the un-conference transformed it in any way?

WHITNEY: Yes, I talked about Soundbox, a collaborative project I'm working on with Mary Caton Lingold and Darren Mueller, and which is funded by the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge at Duke. I learned about other digital projects in the area that involve sound and found potential future collaborators, so yes, THATCamp proved quite transformative!



Thanks for your post, Rebecca. I was at THATCamp in September too (I think we were in the same first session), and I'm glad you provided this nice follow-up and introduction to THATCamps. I would certainly echo Whitney's comments about the benefits of a THATCamp and encourage more scholars, particularly in DH, to attend one. For me, the collaborative, dynamic nature of the conference aligns with the trends and themes of DH in ways that traditional academic conferences fail to. In many ways, THATCamps are in the same spirit as HASTAC - the spontanaity and democratization of knowledge production and dissemination is both remarkable and exciting.


Thanks, Bethany. I'm so glad that you and Whitney  Trettien found THATCamp useful. I hope you'll get involved in helping to plan the next RTP session.