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For more information about THATCamp in general, see the central THATCamp website at and/or write the central THATCamp Coordinator at gro.p1498287871macta1498287871ht@of1498287871ni1498287871.

What is a THATCamp?

THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is an unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot. Here are the key characteristics of a THATCamp:

  • It’s collaborative: there are no spectators at a THATCamp. Everyone participates, including in the task of setting an agenda or program.
  • It’s informal: there are no lengthy proposals, papers, presentations, or product demos. The emphasis is on productive, collegial work or free-form discussion.
  • It’s spontaneous and timely, with the agenda / schedule / program being mostly or entirely created by all the participants during the first session of the first day, rather than weeks or months beforehand by a program committee.
  • It’s productive: participants are encouraged to use session time to create, build, write, hack, and solve problems.
  • It’s lightweight and inexpensive to organize: we generally estimate that a THATCamp takes about 100 hours over the course of six months and about $4000 to organize.
  • It’s not-for-profit and either free or inexpensive (under $30) to attend: it’s funded by small sponsorships, donations of space and labor, and by passing the hat around to the participants.
  • It’s small, having anywhere from 25 or 50 to about 150 participants: most THATCamps aim for about 75 participants.
  • It’s non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary and inter-professional: THATCamps welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, K-12 teachers, administrators, managers, and funders as well as people from the non-profit sector, people from the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs. The topic “the humanities and technology” contains multitudes.
  • It’s open and online: participants make sure to share their notes, documents, pictures, and other materials from THATCamp discussions before and after the event on the web and via social media.
  • It’s fun, intellectually engaging, and a little exhausting.

What is THATCamp Theory?

Wikipedia defines Critical Theory as

an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism. This has led to the very literal use of ‘critical theory’ as an umbrella term to describe any theory founded upon critique.

Many people think that critical theory is a discourse that is practiced only in the ivory tower. But anyone can theorize and anyone can engage in cultural critique, as is currently being seen in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Students make up this movement, sure, but so do veterans, plumbers, unemployed, Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Their continuing presence is a critique of Wall Street’s culture of greed and the rocketing gap between the rich and the poor. THATCamp is itself a movement working to expand the humanities beyond lecture halls and academic conferences. We believe that the unconference model can have a democratizing effect on how critical theory is practiced and understood.

THATCamp Theory is many things to many people, but we are inspired by two separate ideas. In her consideration of the early ideas surrounding THATCamp Theory, Jean Bauer provided a fascinating anecdote:

Just this week I was presenting The Early American Foreign Service Database and got the question “So where is the theory in all of this?” Before I could answer with my standard, diplomatic but hopefully though-provoking, response a longtime DHer called out “The database is the theory! This is real theoretical work!” I could have hugged her.

What might it mean to do “real theoretical work” as a database? How is the database the theory? 

Second, the Situationist International believed that in order to fully critique culture they needed to hack art and literature. Situationism is not simply critique but practice, not simply yack but also hack. THATCamp Theory follows the contrarian spirit of the situationists by, on the one hand, asking what might it mean to relate to technology in theoretically transformed ways and, on the other hand, asking what it might look like to use technology to transform the practice of theoretical exploration. The motto of THATCamp Theory is, to quote Matthew Kirchenbaum, “more hack more yack.”

For more information, check out the conversation already occuring about THATCamp Theory from Natalia Cecire (“When DH was in Vogue; or, THATCamp Theory“; “American Nerds go to THATCamp“), Roger Whitson (“Hacking THATCamp Theory“; “THATCamp Theory Bunnies“), Ted Underwood (“On transitive and intransitive uses of the verb ‘theorize.’“), Amanda Phillips (“#transformDH: A Call to Action Following ASA 2011“), Ben Schmidt (“Theory First“),  Jean Bauer (“Who Are You Calling Untheoretical?“), and Patrick Murray-John (“Theory, DH, and Noticing“). In a related conversation, Fred Gibbs talks about the need for critical theory in “Critical Discourse in the Digital Humanities.”

Who should attend?

Anyone with energy and an interest in the humanities and/or technology. We would like to encourage professors, adjuncts, undergrads, coders, archivists, librarians, members of the public, etc., to submit an application.

What should I propose?

Sessions at THATCamp will range from software demos to training sessions to discussions of research findings to half-baked rants (but please no full-blown papers; we’re not here to read or be read to). See the list of sample sessions at for ideas, or come up with a creative idea of your own for a session genre or topic. You should come to THATCamp with something in mind, and on the first day, all THATCamp participants will figure out together what goes on the schedule.

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