Multiple (Competing?) Digital Literacies

There have already been several proposals for sessions on developing functional digital literacy and meeting the needs of people with low technology skills, and I’d like to add a similar-yet-different idea to the pack.

In recent years I’ve been told—and trained to expect—that incoming college students are “digital natives” and are entering college campuses with the highest levels of digital literacy ever.  In many ways this is obviously true. However, what exactly constitutes digital literacy for my students is somewhat less clear to me.  For example, it hasn’t worked for me to assume that “digital literacy” means that students will have the same set of commonplace, ordinary, and everyday digital competencies that I do.  In fact, I’m routinely surprised to discover my students’ unfamiliarity with basic features of common digital tools (like Google Maps or Google Books), even while I know my students spend a tremendous amount of time inhabiting complex digital environments.

What seems clear, then, is that there are multiple digital literacies at play in my classroom—and that they don’t necessarily overlap in predictable or common-sense ways.  The skill sets I imagine when I think of digitally literate students entering my classroom are not necessarily the same sets of skills those students actually bring into my classroom—or that they consider digitally necessary/desirable.  While I’m personally thinking about digital literacy in the context of the college classroom, I imagine this is a broadly applicable issue affecting libraries, museums, and other humanities-oriented institutions.

The questions I would propose to meditate on, then, are these: What do we mean when we say “digital literacy”?  To what degree to we mean familiarity with specific tools or applications?  To what degree do we mean certain attitudes or approaches to digital information?  And how important is it to come to agreement on these terms and expectations, anyway?


Linked Open Data and the “New Humanities”

One of the grails of digital humanities research is being able to demonstrate that new technologies are changing the way we do research and the kinds of knowledge we create. There’s currently lots of excitement about Linked Open Data and the potential that semantic technologies have for humanities research. The #lodlam hashtag has gained significant traction among members of the digital cultural heritage and digital humanities communities through the efforts of advocates such as Jon Voss from Historypin. The number of sites and organizations that are exposing their data in linked formats is growing rapidly. Projects like wikidata, dbpedia, and the use of linked data formats by a number of important open data sites ( etc) are potentially of enormous benefit to historians and other humanities scholars.

Despite the excitement around semantic technologies, it currently feels like the promise of linked data is yet to be realized. This session would consider the promise and potential future of research using linked data. Rather than focussing on the production of data it would be about how linked data is consumed by scholars. I’m interested in discussing the ways in which Linked Open Data is or could begin to be used by scholars to produce new knowledge. As always with THATCamps the conversation will be open ended and related to the concerns of the people in the room, but some questions we might think about:

– What is linked data?
– How is it different from earlier ways of exposing information on the web?
– Is there current research that is being enabled by linked data?
– What kinds of questions that might be fruitfully posed as the semantic web continues to grow?
– With the increasing power of technologies that can make sense of unstructured data are linked standards necessary?

Session Idea: Exploring ways in which social media can support or engage digital storytelling

We propose a general discussion focused on the topic of social media and digital storytelling.  In Web 2.0 storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre, Alexander and Levine talk about the emergence of storytelling as “open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, exploratory, and unpredictable” (2008) experience.   But social media also provides opportunities to develop narratives that embrace multiple authoritative and personal voices, provide multi-layered experiences, inspire learning and creativity, and an opportunity to capture otherwise unheard stories.

For our purposes storytelling is interdisciplinary and can include but is not limited to historical narratives, personal narratives, art narratives, fiction, nonfiction, and collaborative writing projects and whatever else you define as storytelling.

We invite you to join us in an open conversation about the role of social media in storytelling; share best practices, resources and inspirational projects; as well as to explore the challenges posed in the quest to facilitate meaningful narratives through social media.

The conversation will be open-ended based on participants interests, however, possible topics of conversation may include:

  • how are social media platforms being used for digital storytelling
  • what is the best way to frame content to make it desirable
  • how can social media engage multiple authoritative and personal voices
  • how do we facilitate meaningful conversation on social media channels
  • how can storytelling  through social media unlock creativity and empower learning
  • what are the challenges posted by storying telling through social media
  • how can we preserve this stories for the future
  • how can we link together stories and conversations created on multiple platforms

We would like to hear what your interests are in this area.


Maureen Lane & Brittany Baksa, Phillips Museum of Art-Franklin & Marshall College

Session Idea: DH for n00bs

This is similar in tone to Celia’s topic proposal, so perhaps we could combine them or have them run back to back?

Last year’s ThatCamp resulted in some great discussions of DH theory, project goals, and lots of “well, we built it but now what do we do/how do we do it better” thinking. But as a relatively new archivist, I’m more interested in how these projects happen in the first place. I’d like to attend a session that covers the basics of getting a digital project off the ground, including but not limited to:

  • web hosting (who do you recommend?)
  • servers, scanners, cameras, and hardware (what kind? how many?)
  • do you need a dedicated IT/tech man or lady?
  • web development and design software
  • choosing your topic and audience
  • would you use existing online resources like Flickr, Pinterest, or Facebook?

Horror and success stories both encouraged. Talking about the theory behind these projects is always inspiring, but I’d like to leave ThatCamp this year with a better handle on the practicalities of putting these theories into practice. And since we have a great mixed crowd of developers, archivist, academics, and people who have been through various kinds of projects, this seems like an especially good venue for this conversation.


Session Idea: Desiderata for a Guide to Digital Service Vendors to Small Public Humanities Sites

As Christa noted in an earlier Session Idea, last year at THATCamp Philly there was a session on how one might set up a Digital Humanities Center for the Greater Delaware Valley. Among the possibilities that were discussed at that session was that digital humanists with particular skills might pool their talents as consultants to local public humanities sites that otherwise would not be able to do digital work, either from unfamiliarity with what is possible, lack of technical skills, or lack of time to undertake digital work.

That aspiration is admirable, but perhaps hard to achieve with the varied affiliations and responsibilities of campers at THATCamp. So I wish to propose a more modest aid to the small public humanities site community: a list of technical service vendors (soup-to-nuts website design firms, audio guide developers, database designers, digital photographers) with whom they might work to increase their familiarity with digital media and develop grant applications to support digital projects. The site would link to service providers and link to representative projects to illustrate their work. Ideally, such a list would make it easier for small sites to find technically skilled partners and also expand their imagination of what is possible in the digital realm.

I propose this as a separate session idea, but it could also be considered as part of the renewal of the Regional Digital Humanities Center idea that Christa proposed.

Getting Started with a Small-Scale Database

We are two history of childhood scholars interested in developing a small-scale relational database to represent available biographical data of past winners of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. We are relatively new to DH and would like to use this project to develop some DH skills–learning by doing, in this case. One of us is a librarian who took a course in database management in library school (several years ago now) but her knowledge, having gone largely unused, has grown fairly rusty (we are, however, in contact with her database management professor). We have identified several possible software programs, including Bento and Amazon’s RDS service (both cost money) and Microsoft’s SQL Server Express (free),
and are interested in using a session to explore the pros and cons of using database software. We’d like to learn what’s involved and find out what kinds of questions we should be asking, resources we need to muster, and decisions we need to make. We see this as a learning-by-doing session and would welcome both fellow learners and especially those with expertise in this area who’d be interested in helping guide the learning process.

Session Idea: Discussion – Outside the Classroom, but On Campus: New Media, DH, and Campus Culture

My session idea for last year was how campuses might help support new media / transmedia student publications, and after a year of working with students on my own campus, I’ve started to think more broadly about campus cultures as a whole, and how new media and/or DH might fit into them.

It’s clear that the arts and humanities are part of the fabric of college campuses in ways that exceed the classroom–campuses have their own theatres, their own music scenes, their own art museums and entertainment venues, they have political societies and improv groups, dance troupes and poetry journals, all fostered and cultivated by university support and guidance. How might arts and humanities computing be supported in similar ways outside the structure of a classroom but within the culture of a campus? What kinds of publications, installations, events or archives might be possible? And how might universities encourage students to be producers, curators and project managers as well as users and clients?

Friday’s BootCamp Workshops – What you need to know

Hello THATCamp Philly Workshop attendees!

Here’s what you need to know about Friday:

  1. If you can’t attend, please send a note to
  2. Check out the workshop list — depending on what you’re planning to attend, there may be some prep work on your part. There may also be slight changes that have been made in the past few days.
  3. UPDATED: You can attend whatever workshops you want, even if you expressed interest in a different workshop (when you registered or in last week’s “head count” voting).
  4. On Friday, Registration & Coffee starts at 8:30am.
    Workshops start at 9:00am.
    Visit the schedule page for more timing details.
  5. Drinks will be available all day.
  6. Lunch break is 12:45pm to 2:00pm.  There are simply scads of places to get food close to CHF — check here.
  7. We will not provide any meals or snacks, so plan accordingly!  You can bring your own snacks, but please do be tidy — we want to be invited back to CHF!
  8. There will be some power strips in each room, but not enough for everyone to be plugged in all the time.  Be a good citizen.  And if you want to help out and make it easier for others to share the juice, you will be appreciated.

Saturday’s Sessions – What you need to know


Hello Philly THATCampers!

Here’s what you need to know about Saturday:

  1. UPDATE: We haven’t yet maxed out on attendees for Saturday, so if you want to bring a friend or two, they’re welcome to come!  (If lots of people bring friends, we may have to turn away non-registrants — but it’s a gamble well worth taking.)
  2. If you can’t attend, please send a note to
  3. On Saturday, Session Proposal Voting runs from 8:30am-9:15am.
    You should be here for this…it’s this process that makes THATCamp unique! And makes it YOUR THATCamp!
  4. If you haven’t already proposed a session idea, login to the website and post your idea for a conversation topic.
    You should have received your welcome/login details several weeks ago (check your spam too).
  5. Visit this page to familiarize yourself with how THATCamp works, for more tips about proposing a session, and details about the general timing of things.
  6. Before coming, you should read over the session ideas other campers have proposed on the website. (This may also inform your own proposal ideas.)
  7. Drinks will be available all day.
  8. Lunch break is 11:30am to 1:00pm.  There are tons & tons of places to get food close to CHF — check here.
  9. We will not provide any meals or snacks, so plan accordingly!  You can bring your own snacks, but please do be tidy — we want to be invited back to CHF!
  10. There will be some power strips in each room, but not enough for everyone to be plugged in all the time.  Be a good citizen.  And if you want to help out and make it easier for others to share the juice, your kindness will be appreciated.
  11. We’re having a post-THATCamp hangout at National Mechanics (22 South 3rd St.) around 5:00pm. We understand if you have to travel back home, but we hope some of you can attend to keep the conversations going.

See you there.  Bring your brains, ears, and mouths.  Head, shoulders, knees, and toes are optional.

Session Idea: Literacy – True, Functional & Tech

The Techmobile and Free Library Hot Spots are part of the effort to spread digital literacy, but we often encounter those with multiple literacy issues.

According to the Center for Literacy, an estimated 550,000 individuals in Philadelphia are considered low literate. And if you’ve been paying attention to the big digital literacy push here in Philly, you’ve probably heard something like 41%-55% of Philadelphians lack access to broadband internet.

With all of these disheartening statistics, how do we keep working to help people make the leap from low literate to functionally literate and help them adopt technology at the same time? How do we look at literacy as a whole? How do we encourage students of all ages to improve?

I’d love to talk about literacy and digital literacy and what I’ve encountered working for the Hot Spots and Techmobile. If you have encountered literacy issues at your institution or workplace, how do you approach it?