On 27 October 2016, the University of Amsterdam opened its doors to The Humanities And Technology Camp (THATCamp).
In recent years the THATCamp formula has crossed the Atlantic and spread over Europe. At THATCamp Amsterdam we came to fully understand the reason for THATCamp’s success: THATCamp is a playful, informal and fun event where programmers and humanities scholars are able to meet, learn about each other’s work, toy around with different types of software, and make plans for a collaborative projects in the future.
At THATCamp Amsterdam topics ranged widely: from the web’s unboundedness to the use of crowdsourcing in research, from the spread of cinemas in the Netherlands to the role of machines on the work floor. Linked Open Data practitioners exchanged working techniques, while Art Historians explored best computational research practices and an Amsterdam historical GIS hotspot took shape. In between there was coffee, salad and “broodjes”, and by the end of the day new plans had emerged for collaborative work on Amsterdam’s Creative Industries, from various perspectives and on multiple scales.
For anyone organizing a THATCamp, the catch in the formula is that THATCamp does not really want to be organized top-down. As can be read on the official website, THATCamp is an “unconference”: it is participatory (“there are no spectators at a THATCamp”), informal (there are “no lengthy proposals, papers, presentations”), productive (the focus is on “collegial work or free-form discussion”), flat structured (“non-hierarchical”), and crucially bottom-up: at THATCamp, the program is created by all participants together, “on the spot” as part of a collective voting session.
For the record: we need not have worried. THATCamp recommends avoiding web-based technology to facilitate the voting, arguing that “the in-person method works well and is fun.” In Amsterdam, this participatory, personal approach of the first session resonated well with the general enthusiastic and constructive attitude of the THATCamp participants. As it turns out, a small collection of post-its, clothespegs, a few sheets of paper and a large dose of enthusiasm and curiosity may just be the perfect toolkit to start a day of collectively exploring the intersections of humanities scholarship and technology.
THATCamp Amsterdam was hosted by the research project Creative Amsterdam: an E-Humanities Perspective (CREATE), at the Amsterdam Centre for Cultural Heritage and Identity. A photo- and video impression of the day have been published on the THATCamp Amsterdam webpage and the CREATE blog.
For more information on other events and research projects carried out within the CREATE Program, please visit the CREATE page.