THATCamp Theory 2012 The Humanities and Technology Camp Mon, 15 Oct 2012 14:27:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 THATCamp Theory roundups, results, and more! Mon, 15 Oct 2012 14:24:22 +0000

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Thank you, everyone, for an energizing and thought-provoking weekend!

Here are some of the follow-ups I’ve seen so far:

Mia Zamora’s excellent notes from Saturday

Michelle Moravec’s Storify gives a non-attendee’s perspective by showing what a “crazy day on the Twitterverse” we produced when combined with concurrent events like NEASA and THATCamp OHA.

The session on “failure,” convened by Andrew Ferguson, produced a collaborative Google doc.

The session on “THAT theories,” theories that can help students develop a critical framework for understanding how humans and technology interrelate, convened by Maria Cecire, also produced a Google doc.

What have I missed? Link other follow-ups in the comments!

Friday Dinner? Fri, 12 Oct 2012 21:14:47 +0000

Jean Bauer and I just got in, and are plotting dinners, possible takeover of a place if enough people are here! Aiming for about 7, and looking for recommendations from people who know the area.


More discussion likely happen on twitter via @thatcamptheory


Hope to see  you soon!

Session proposal: Theory by the numbers Fri, 12 Oct 2012 20:12:08 +0000

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or, The yack of the hack of the yack

How we should go about mining the digital archive of the history of scholarship for theoretical resources? Let’s talk about text-mining journals, quantitatively analyzing metadata about scholarship, and living with closed access as theorists. And perhaps we can work on a dataset or two—I’ll bring some example data and laughably primitive visualizations!

The explanation

One of theory’s major tasks is to describe how scholarship is done—and then to prescribe how it should be done. Often the description leads to the prescription: theory as scholarship about scholarship. Well, yes. It is characteristic of a whole family of genres that belong to theory, from De la grammatologie to Orientalism to Ahmad’s In Theory, Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy to Sheldon Pollock theorizing a "Political Philology" in a memorial essay about the scholarship of D.D. Kosambi.

Meanwhile, over in digital-land, one of the richest digital archives we have is the archive of scholarship itself. But we are used to using these archives for search, not as objects of analysis in themselves. That is what I’d like to explore in this session. What does the MLA Bibliography tell us—in the aggregate? What theoretical possibilities can we open up by mining the extraordinary archive represented by JSTOR’s Data for Research service?

I’d be able to talk about two examples of datasets I’ve done a little work on—one from the MLA Bibliography and one from JSTOR’s archive of PMLA. Please feel free to bring your own datasets, or leads, or inspirations, or problems, or concerns.

Over on my Rutgers website I’ve placed a longer version of this proposal with a teaser on those example datasets. And a link to Andy Abbott’s hilarious hit piece on DH and keyword search, via an analysis of concordances.

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Developing a Common Language across Race Studies and the Digital Humanities Fri, 12 Oct 2012 11:57:45 +0000

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I would like to propose a collaborative workshop to develop a common language or vocabulary between scholars of race studies (critical race studies, postcolonial studies), computer scientists and the digital humanists. What are some common terms that we use that we think in different ways? (Modularity comes up as one.) What are some of the assumptions that we share/do not share about how cultural constructs are replicated in code, and what are its implications?

During the workshop, participants can draw up lists of common terms, explain how we all understand them, and suggest how we can use these terms to inform our digital humanities projects. How does the digital humanities change or become inflected by race studies? Issues of representation—recovery of works by people of color—are important, but what else would be relevant here? What are some theories and methodologies that a race scholar can use in projects such as topic modeling and other types of text mining; geospatial mapping projects; and issues of gamification in the classroom? What are some examples of DH projects that can be nuanced with race theory, and how can this be specifically done?

Image Credit

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Rides to THATCamp Theory Thu, 11 Oct 2012 21:33:33 +0000

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Folks! Many kind people have offered rides to Murray Hall on Saturday morning.

Super-local (from near Hwy 1): Patrick Murray-John

From Brooklyn/lower Manhattan: Kyle McAuley (see my earlier email or email to be put in touch)

Alex’s car is full.

If anyone else would like to organize ride-sharing, please do so in the comment thread below, or email me to be put in touch with particular people.

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co-presence in the on-line media events Wed, 10 Oct 2012 23:28:27 +0000

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How do people react when they watch the “Super Bowl” game in crowds and in a stadium ? How could the situation differ when they watch the game on TV within a much smaller group? What about the reaction when people watch the game alone online? It is interesting that these three situations have something in common–the audiences’ co-presence to the same media event, however the co-presence doesn’t have to be in any single or particular venue.

How could we get access to and follow the online co-presence? What are the possible implications of DH approach to study people’s changing reception?

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Critical Theory, Philosophy of Science and New Media Wed, 10 Oct 2012 22:30:37 +0000

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I am proposing a session that I hope will call upon the collective interest of any members in the humanities whose work intersect with critical questions in science and the history of science in any way. As scholars in the fields of the humanities, including that of history, are turning increasingly to digital tools that they hope will help organize what is available so that what is missing can be more easily foregrounded, conceptualize arguments and directions especially when working in under-explored fields, and work out that interdisciplinary intellectual connections so as to make it more of a bi or multi-directional exchange.

There is no shortage of philosophers and critical theorist who are interested in interrogating science and using science objects not only to talk about  problems that are directly connected with scientific knowledge, but also to use the discussions arising from that to look at analogous and parallel problems in the other fields. Among the philosophers who write extensively about science, or whose philosophy draws on work analyzed in science, are Descartes, Leibniz, Newton, Schelling, Husserl, that group of the Vienna Circle which included Popper, Lakatos, Deleuze, Bergson, Serres, Simondon,Whitehead, de Landa, Harding, Hacking, Stengers, Longino, Barad, are just among some in the long list of philosophers past and contemporary who work in areas of philosophy of science or in the critical interrogation of scientific objects and thoughts, and extending their discourse across disciplines.

Among the themes I would like to include for discussion, though they are by no means arbitrary:

  • How much science do we need to know to create a productive philosophy without subordinating oneself to its master dialectics?
  • Is there such a thing as a critical theory of science and how can it look like?
  • How can critical theory in other areas such as in media theory and other areas of the humanities help bring new  and fresh perspectives for envisioning theories of science more creatively, even if they seem epistemologically in contradistinction?
  • What are the concepts of symmetry and assymetry of information in science and the humanities, and how that helps us think through the existing and emergent medium for knowledge transmission, interaction and actualization?
  • What are the existing and emergent forms of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, and even in the discourse of media ‘archaeology’ and trans.mediality, that lends itself to a more productive interdisciplinary exchange across epistemically dissimilar fields while enabling the complication of that exchange?
  • What are the available digital tools for historians of science, and those who work in the interdisciplinary trading-zone between science and the humanities, that can help in creating multimodal interrogation of critical objects that can then be incorporated into the more traditional writing and publication process? How can we make such tools more amenable to the different disciplinary methods, and even interdisciplinary methods.
  • What are the ethical issues involved in such interrogations and how do we include contents of culture, politics, and the social into the interrogation without over-extending that possibility?


Share your thoughts and ideas here!


Rides from I-95/Hwy 1 area Sun, 07 Oct 2012 01:25:40 +0000

I’ll be staying deep on the cheap in Howard Johnson around I-95 / Hwy 1 intersections, and so can offer a ride to Murray Hall if anyone else is in that area.

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Schedule! Tue, 02 Oct 2012 23:50:33 +0000

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All room numbers are in the Plangere Writing Center, Murray Hall, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. This information is also available on the Logistics page.

Wondering what goes in those [] boxes? That’s for you to decide during the scheduling session on Saturday. The scheduling session is very important! Be there!

Saturday 10/13
time Rm. 302 Rm. 303 Rm. 305 Rm. 001 Rm. 002 Rm. 003 Collaboratory (038)
9:00-9:30 am Sign in; coffee and pastries
9:30-10:30 am Welcome
10:30-11:45 am [] Workshop: Reimagining and Reconnecting Networks, led by Andrew Lison [] []
12:00-1:00 pm Lunch (provided) and Dork Shorts
1:00-2:15 pm moar coffee! [] [] [] [] []
2:30-3:45 pm [] Workshop: Evaluation and Critique of DH Projects, led by Shannon Mattern [] [] []
4:00-5:15 pm [] [] [] [] []
Sunday 10/14
time Rm. 302 Rm. 303 Rm. 305 Rm. 001 Rm. 002 Rm. 003 Collaboratory (038)
9:00-9:30 am Coffee and pastries
9:30-10:30 am [] Workshop: Code Meets Item, led by Patrick Murray-John [] [] []
10:30-11:45 am [] Workshop: The Database as Theory, led by Jean Bauer [] [] []
11:55 am-12:15 pm Conclusions/next steps/farewell
Mapping the Network: Cybercartographies and Non-Zero Interfaces Mon, 01 Oct 2012 16:12:32 +0000

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Mapping the Network: Cybercartographies and Non-Zero Interfaces.

Let’s talk about how information visualizations (re)present, manifest, and/or create the network. In Galloway’s new Interface Effect, he suggests “Only one visualization has ever been made of an information network….Every map of the internet looks the same. A word cloud equals a flow chart equals a map of the internet. All operate within a single uniform set of aesthetic codes. The size of this aesthetic space is one…And where there is only one, there is nothing. For representation of one is, in fact, a representation of nothing. (84)

…it says nothing…no media is happening here (86)

There is quite literally an inability to render the network as an image differentiated from other images. There is a single image and thus there is none. (91)

I want to fiercely refute this by creating a collaboratively-curated digital museum of information visualizations that prove that NOT all cybercartographic maps reduce to one (or, to nothing…to zero). Let’s discuss information visualization, non-zero interfaces (interfaces that do not merge into the ‘single image’ scheme as suggested), and create a collaboratively-curated digital online museum. I’ll have a Tumblr ready for our en-action and we can populate it while we work.

Our Tumblr: Museum of Non-Zero Maps: Please post all non-zero maps!


Amanda Starling Gould, Duke University

Failure Mon, 01 Oct 2012 09:45:09 +0000

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I’d like to converse about failure, something that has been central to discussions of DH and of critical theory — as well as to those suspicious of either or both.

And rather than rattle off a list of that stuff here, it seems like it’d be a lot more interesting to see what everyone could bring to it there. We could perhaps work on our own glorious failure, such as a map of this very subject. Or we could just play some Binding of Isaac. Whatever folks are keen on, really, so long as it’s more “rousing” and less “success.”

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Cars, trains, lines of flight Thu, 27 Sep 2012 18:14:01 +0000

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Hi everyone,

A few logistical details, mostly just re-linking from the logistics page (thanks for putting that together, Andrew):

I’ve had multiple panicked tweets from campers who fear that the train from [x] to New Brunswick does not run on the weekends. New Jersey Transit is your friend.* There is an 8:14 train from Penn Station that will put you in New Brunswick at 9:11, with plenty of time to walk to Murray Hall. (It’s like three blocks.) Sadly, if you’re coming from Philadelphia, you’ll need to take SEPTA to Trenton and transfer to New Jersey Transit there. This is not fast, but it does run on the weekend.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CARPOOL WITH OTHER CAMPERS: may I suggest posting to that effect on this here blog so that others might come out of the woodwork and contact you. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A ROOMMATE, ditto.

You can find hotel information here. The Heldrich and the Hyatt are each in close walking distance to Murray Hall. [UPDATE: 9/30 I’m told the Heldrich and the Hyatt are both full up. Anyone staying at the Crowne Plaza Edison can get a ride in my tiny bean-car, assuming you are okay with showing up on the early side.] There will be parking available on campus (thanks to Meredith for setting that up).

For those of you who have asked me about scheduling details: I hope to have that for you soon.

Ok! More session ideas, y’all! And as always, email with questions or concerns:

*Words I cannot believe I just wrote.

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Monads Wed, 26 Sep 2012 16:41:20 +0000

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Inspired by Latour et al’s “The Whole is Always Smaller Than Its Parts: A Digital Test of Gabriel Tarde’s Monads,” I’d like to have a discussion about monads. Latour and his co-authors claim that “monads dissolve the quandary [of describing individuals vs. describing the wholes to which they belong] and redefine the notion of the whole by relocating it as what overlapping entities inherit from one another.” They further claim that databases and modern statistical techniques make a monadological approach practical.

This interests me on a couple of levels. First, I find monadology intriguing as a theory of categories, though I can’t really claim to fully understand it at this point. One of the things that originally drew me to digital humanities was the apparent contradiction between the humanities focus on the unique and particular, and the digital imperative to group under categories. I wonder if monadology actually does suggest a way out of this quandary, or describes it in a more nuanced way. Second, I don’t think that current databases actually do what Latour et al claim that they do, but I’m interested in investigating whether they could.

This could also be an excuse to geek out about functional programming.

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Donations by mail Mon, 24 Sep 2012 20:12:26 +0000

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I was recently asked how to send in a donation by mail. It’s easy!

Checks may be made out to Bard College and mailed to:

THATCamp Theory, c/o Kimberly Alexander
Bard College
30 Campus Road
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504

Thanks to Bard College for handling our account.
If you use Paypal, use the “donate” button in the sidebar to the right.

Schedule details and other fine things are coming soon. In the meantime, post your session ideas!

The Code Behind Theory Sun, 23 Sep 2012 15:47:43 +0000

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Once in a while you will hear me half-joke that I can find a digital humanities angle in any project coming out of the humanities. Of course, since most if not all projects in the humanities have a document, spatial and/or temporal component, that rash claim can become a boring truism fairly quick. Being in the business of pushing boundaries, what I really want to get at is what I see as the algorithmic desires in all critical prose. Saved perhaps as the last boundary of artificial intelligence, I’m afraid we might have become a bit superstitious about the distance between our critical faculties and mechanistic processes.

Departing from my premature contribution to this year’s critical code studies group, I would like to explore the possibility of reconstructing arguments using code. A small back and forth with Hugh Cayless around that post led me to separate at least two dimensions in critical arguments that could be ‘coded’: a) The methods used by any given critic to engage with documents, authors, places, etc.; and b) The actual structure of the argument (à la argument maps). For me, the goal of these ‘naive’ exercises is to find even more avenues of communication between book-bound traditional practices in our profession and what is seen as the more mathematical band.



What’s code got to do / got to do with it? Sat, 22 Sep 2012 00:03:21 +0000

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Writing has always been mediated, mostly physically. There are things that can and cannot be done in a cuneiform tablet that differ from that for a scroll, and that for a codex, and that for runes on bark, and that for a printed book, and that for a web page.

When we get to the web page, we move from physical mediation — forms or practices or means of production based on the physical properties — to forms or practices or means of production based on the code (another “text”!) that makes that mode of textuality possible.

Let’s talk about how expression of ideas is mediated by the code, analogous to how expression of ideas has been mediated by earlier means of production.


Welcome, THATCampers! Sun, 16 Sep 2012 23:52:16 +0000

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Everyone who has applied to THATCamp Theory to date has now been added to the site. If you applied but have not received a confirmation email giving you access to this site, send the organizers an email at

If you’ve received your confirmation email, then you should be able to post to this blog. Post your session ideas! Exploring YOUR ideas is, after all, what THATCamp Theory is for.

I’d also like to encourage everyone who can afford it to donate to THATCamp Theory. THATCamps are intended to be accessible and inexpensive for all participants, which is why there is no registration fee, as there would be at a regular conference. We do have operating expenses, however, and in addition, we very much want to offer travel assistance to those who need it. In lieu of a registration fee, there is a suggested donation of $30.

Questions? Concerns? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line:

See you soon!

Now accepting applications! Sat, 01 Sep 2012 23:28:53 +0000

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Go here to apply to attend THATCamp Theory. It takes two minutes!

To have your spot confirmed by 9/14, please apply by 9/7. This will also improve your chances of getting a travel grant, if you need one.

And please, spread the word! You can download a cheesy flyer here [pdf], or you can make your own — email me at for the logo.

THATCamp Theory approaches Thu, 23 Aug 2012 02:36:00 +0000

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So… I know that if you went by the activity on this site, all summer long it looked like THATCamp Theory was going to be, er, purely theoretical. But secretly a bunch of us have been THATCamping like the wind, as it were. THATCamp Theory will be held October 13-14, 2012 in Murray Hall at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ). It will include workshops led by Shannon Mattern, Jean Bauer, Patrick Murray-John, Wendy Chun, and Andrew Lison about which I am exceedingly stoked.

What else will it include? Well, that’s up to you.

I hope to post more in the coming days and weeks, but for now:

  • Thanks to support from Microsoft Research, Rutgers University, and Bard College, we have a little bit of funding for travel. We hope to turn this into a lot of funding, because we know there are people from all over who have things to say about theorizing digital humanities and digitizing theory. Details to come.
  • If you think your organization would be willing to donate travel funds, please drop me a line:
  • Registration will open no later than September 1.
  • WE WANT YOU! Start thinking about what you’d like to contribute, what you’d like to learn.
Coming Soon Tue, 08 Nov 2011 21:41:11 +0000

We are in the process of designing and redesigning this site. Stay tuned for further announcements about THATCamp Theory!