Blog Post

HASTAC Scholars Unconference 2015

The HASTAC Scholars unconference kicked off HASTAC 2015 today with much success! With a wide-range of scholars in attendance (from scholars from English to library sciences to architecture), a flurry of intellectual rigor, excitement, and engagement propelled us through the day. Beginning at 1 p.m. at the Michigan State Union and lasting until 5 p.m., the day consisted of an introduction and schedule-planning session and three breakout sessions. 

For the first breakout session of the day, scholars could join in on conversations centered loosely around the following three topics (and dip in and out as they saw fit):

1) Ethics and responsible methods
2) Race/ethnic studies 
3) Designing assignments to have a life outside of the classroom

I attended the last of these three and we had a great discussion about how to teach tool-based approaches within the classroom and how to get students to use those skills beyond the classroom. We asked what digital humanities looks like at the undergraduate and graduate level and what it means to effectively teach DH tools. We talked about the different models of DH courses-- those which provide a tool-a-week approach and offer an introduction to the discipline or those which specialize in one or two key tools and build them up slowly throughout the semester. We did not arrive at any definitive answer as to which offered the "best model" of teaching DH, but we all decided that it is most important to isolate tangible takeaways for your students and build from there. Do you want your students to have a working page, have a working knowledge of how to write code, use DH methodologies to supplement close readings or do you want them to be conversant in the field? 

After a brief break, we returned for a second breakout session in which scholars could attend sessions on either:

1) Pedagogy and effective online learning and accessibility
2) Connecting Digital Humanities across institutions and between undergraduates and graduates

While participating in the latter of these two roundtable discussions, I learned a lot from my fellow scholars about the sustainability of collaboration models. We asked how does one incentivize participation and encourage participation across departments and what happens with the money runs out? We all discussed the various successful programs we had participated in and explored what avenues there were for future participation, within and beyond the HASTAC Scholars program.

During our final breakout session of the day, scholars were invited to take part in conversations about:

1) Tools
2) What is data?
3) Lack of support for digital projects

As is the case with many conferences (and HASTAC in particular), I got joyfully wrapped up in a conversation with a peer about shared interests and we had a nice one-on-one chat during the third session so I did not attend one of the third breakouts. This sort of guided distraction, though, is what the HASTAC community is all about. It’s about being open to conversations, connections, convergences (and divergences), and collaboration. I look forward to the conference kicking into full swing tomorrow and to having many conversations with the rest of you.

In the meantime, check out this google doc from our unconference today and pay special attention to the list of tools that was created during the third session as it provides a comprehensive overview of the tools with which HASTAC scholars are currently engaging:

Here's also a categorized and tagged version of that list of tools: 

See everyone tomorrow and don’t forget to Tweet #hastac2015


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