Tweeting Conferences: NITLE Summit and UVA Shape of Things to Come

By about 4:30 yesterday afternoon, John Unsworth had reached the conclusion that Brett Bobley’s tweet had foreshadowed for me the previous evening.  As he was arriving in Charlottesville, Bobley had tweeted he could feel emanations of Worthy Martin’s presence.  I had replied that he was in New Orleans, but I had left off the NITLE hashtag.  (Someday I will become a more adept tweeter.)  Fortunately, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who was also following Bobley, included it.

In the morning I sat in the first session of the NITLE Summit, ready to tweet Brian Hawkins’s talk on the role of information professionals in our current brave new world.  I noticed Bethany Nowviskie’s tweet from UVA and retweeted: “RT @nowviskie #uvashape: Robert Darnton calls for creation of a National Digital Library. #NITLE Wonder what Brian Hawkins might think.”

More and more, as I followed the backchannel from UVA and tweeted from NITLE, I experienced the convergence of the two conferences.  At one point I tweeted: “weirdness of reading @mkirschenbaum ‘scholarship has to accommodate the idiosyncratic’ while Hawkins talks learning from for-profits #NITLE.”  And soon, I was seeing numerous tweets about others following multiple streams at once.  Mark Wardecker tweeted: “Too many great conferences to listen in on today. Great stuff fr the #NITLE Summit in NOLA and Mediterranean Identities #medid.”  Others were following a conference for education leaders at Yale and a Turning Technologies User Conference at Northwestern.

By the end of the session, my head was spinning, and I was having trouble coming down enough from the tweeting to focus on the next session, for which I had become the lone faculty member talking about digital humanities at liberal arts colleges.  After Worthy Martin talked about the opportunities that are offered by NEH Fellowships at Digital Humanities Centers, we presented in alphabetical order.  Janet Simons talked about her work at Hamilton College, where a critical mass of faculty members have brought about the development of a comprehensive institutional plan for presenting their work.  (Unfortunately, Angel David Nieves was unable to attend.  This is the second time I have missed meeting him.  I hope the third opportunity will be more successful when he returns to Wheaton in April.)  Bob Kieft presented the organization of the Center for Digital Learning and Research–directed by Marsha Schnirring–as the strategy for making sure Occidental College is ready for the influx of new digital-ready faculty members sure to come in the next five years.  And Scott Hamlin from Wheaton College described the project-based approach we have taken so far and how it has led to his collaboration with counterparts at several other small liberal arts colleges on planning a presentation tool for TEI projects with funding from the Institute of Library and Museum Services.

So my remarks came as testimonial to the way that opportunities through NITLE had led to my work with TEI in teaching, fundamentally redirecting and reinvigorating my scholarship.  When I started taking students in my course on nineteenth-century U.S. Women’s History to the archives and having them transcribe a woman’s journal, I learned the joy that students can experience from firsthand knowledge of a primary source.  I became an advocate for undergraduate research.  Students in my iteration of the methods course in history are transcribing and encoding financial documents from the second quarter of the nineteenth century.  And I now represent myself rather grandly as the director of the Wheaton College Digital History Project.

So when someone tweeted from UVA this afternoon about the potential for undergraduate collaborations in digital scholarship, I retweeted, adding:  “we do this”  I’m looking forward to discussing this with Ryan Cordell, who will begin teaching at a liberal arts college in the fall.

I agree with Unsworth: “It would be really interesting to do a contrapuntal edition of #uvashape and #NITLE tweets.”

And thanks for the dart game pics on Flickr, John.  Looks like fun.


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