THATCamp CBR – Summary report

9 09 2010

THATCamp CBR Report

On 28-29 August, I participated in a very interesting event titled THATcamp Canberra, which was organised by Tim Sherratt (@wragge), Cath Styles (@cathstyles) and Mitchell Whitelaw (@mtchl) and hosted by University of Canberra.

This blog post is a summary of all the posts that were published on the mediakult blog about THATCamp, in an effort to keep the content together.

To explain, THATCamp Canberra was a user-generated ‘unconference’ on digital humanities. It was inspired by the original THATCamp, organised by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and is one of a growing number of regional THATCamps springing up around the world. (‘THAT’ = ‘The Humanities And Technology’.)

The unconference model works on the idea that the participants generate the sessions, based on individual interests and research. In the lead up to THATCamp, participants blogged suggestions and then when we met on Saturday morning, the program was decided as a group, facilitated by Tim.

The sessions covered a broad range of topics including data visualisation to digital mapping to semantic web to augmented/digital space. Here is link to the THATCamp CBRprogram from Cath Styles Flickr page.

The sessions I attended were:

I missed the data visualisation session, but thanks to Michael Honey, this list of data viz links is a great resource of information about projects and tools focused on the visualisation of data.

As a general comment, the content of the sessions I attended was very rich, which was achieved by sharing experiences and tools in the spirit of collaboration. I have referred to some of the tools and projects in my reports on the workshops I attended. I went to THATcamp hoping to gain some practical skills and I found this, plus much more. I think the unconference model is a great way to focus on what participants want to explore, which was a big contributor to the success of the event.

THATCamp CBR – Semantic web session

The semantic web session was hugely popular, facilitated by Corey Wallis a software engineer who is involved in the development of additional services for the AusStage system as part of the Aus-e-Stage project.

I am particularly interested in the development of semantic web tools as an opportunity for LivingGreener to visualise data about sustainability issues. In addition to this as an artist and researcher I am starting to explore the use of semantic web and mapping tools as a way of developing creative work about family, identity. migration and place.

In short, Corey proposed a session that explored the potential use of semantic web technologies, such as the Resource Description Framework RDF, in supporting research and other projects in the humanities. Some initial questions to start the discussion include:

  • What are these types of technologies used for?
  • What kinds of activities in the humanities do they support?
  • What are the kinds of problems that we’ve used these technologies to solve?
  • What kinds of issues have been explored in using these types of technologies?
  • Sharing thoughts on success stories, war stories and other experiences with these types of technologies.

THATCamp CBR – Open linked data session

The main focus on this session was the access and use of PSI (Public Sector Information). Asa LeTourneau, from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) led this discussion.

This discussion focused on a range of issues including, developing APIs, data scaping from websites, and making data available and different institutions that have made their data available in different formats.

In many ways, this discussion ended up being more about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and I was hoping for more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ on a technical level. That said, I did learn that it is important to write good XML and to have strong URIs 🙂

There was a general comment that Australian government archives ahead of the game because of the ‘series system’ developed in the 1960s. This is a great opportunity for access and visualisation of open data on a global scale. There were also comments that there had been some very good work in this area in New Zealand.

THATCamp CBR – Digital mapping session

BootCamp: Putting the Digital Humanities in its place … what, why and how to map
Presented by Ian Johnson.

This session was an excellent practical introduction into digital mapping. Ian provided some very good information about the basics of GIS (Geographic Information System) and the types of tools and databases used to generate visualisations that intersected data with mapping.

To begin with, the group was taken through an overview of GIS, which I found particularly helpful as I have not had any formal training in this area and have a great interest in learning skills in mapping and GIS.

The presentation then focused on a number of projects that have used GIS technologies, for example: Macquarie map of Indigenous Australia 2007; South Seas Project; Digital Harlem 1915 – 1930 and Dictionary of Sydney.

Ian then provided a list of tools that are used for developing these projects – most significantly Time Maps and Heurist.

I am looking forward to learning much more about digital mapping and building technical skills with some of the tools mentioned in the blog post.

THATCamp CBR – Digital/Augmented space session

In this session, the focus was on how we can traverse physical space with digital tools, map our location and connect with others. There was a particular focus on who has been in the same location and what this could mean for sharing an experience of a space or idea of place. The discussion was led by Dr Chris Chesher, who initiated the discussion by sharing his interest in robots and augmented space.

This topic is close to my heart as it is related to my creative practice as well as my PhD research.

This discussion covered a lot of ground in terms of covering tools, conceptual issues, future possibilities and challenges. For this reason, the majority of this blog post is a list of dot points which are split into three sections – concepts/issues, tools and references. The best aspect of this session was that there was a lot of blue sky thinking about what was imagined, what was possible and what is already emerging. Thanks to @ellenforsyth for providing the initial list of discussion points.

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