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Although we will officially identify and schedule Saturday unconference sessions during our Friday afternoon Scheduling Session, this is a running start based upon requests from Campers in their registration applications, via email or Twitter, or word of mouth.

Please feel free to add a session topic that you’d like to teach/demo/facilitate (and add your name as the Facilitator), or request a session topic about which you would like to learn more — we’ll see if any Campers can facilitate.

Add a Session proposal:

What should you propose? Read on. Wondering what the difference is between a workshop and a session? Read on.

Workshops vs. Sessions

Workshops are formal-ish (aka “pre-planned”) hands-on sessions that last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, introducing a topic or tool, or teaching “next steps” to more advanced users. Workshop instructors are frequently recruited ahead of time from Campers who indicate an area of expertise on their registration form. Read more about  Getting Training at Workshops and Teaching a Workshop.

Unconference sessions are totally informal (often spontaneous) attendee-led gatherings of Campers wanting to learn how a new tool might be used, hear about a specific project or goal, discuss particular questions, or work together to tackle a common challenge. Sessions are facilitated rather than taught, and usually last no more than one hour (see Session Genres).

Remember, THATCamp is an unconference, and so it is self-organizing: we will all decide on the THATCamp sessions for Saturday in the afternoon on Friday, September 14th in a big group effort. Only the Friday workshops will be pre-scheduled.

No papers, no presentations

An unconference, in Tom Scheinfeldt’s words, is fun, productive, and collegial, and at THATCamp, therefore, “[W]e’re not here to listen and be listened to. We’re here to work, to participate actively.[…] We’re here to get stuff done.” Listen further:

Everyone should feel equally free to participate and everyone should let everyone else feel equally free to participate. You are not students and professors, management and staff here at THATCamp. At most conferences, the game we play is one in which I, the speaker, try desperately to prove to you how smart I am, and you, the audience member, tries desperately in the question and answer period to show how stupid I am by comparison. Not here. At THATCamp we’re here to be supportive of one another as we all struggle with the challenges and opportunities of incorporating technology in our work, departments, disciplines, and humanist missions.

Session proposers are session facilitators

If you propose a session, you should be prepared to run it. If you propose a hacking session, you should have the germ of a project to work on; if you propose a workshop, it would be ideal if you could be prepared to teach it (but, we’ll try to find an instructor if you can’t); if you propose a discussion of the Digital Public Library of America, you should be prepared to summarize what that is, begin the discussion, keep it going, and end it. But don’t worry — with the possible exception of workshops you’ve offered to teach, THATCamp sessions don’t really need to be prepared for; in fact, we infinitely prefer that you don’t prepare.

At most, you should come with one or two questions, problems, or goals, and you should be prepared to spend the session working on and working out those one or two points informally with a group of people who (believe me) are not there to judge your performance. Even last-minute workshops can be terrifically useful for others if you know the tool or skill you’re teaching inside and out. As long as you take responsibility for running the session, that’s usually all that’s needed. Read about the Open Space Technology approach to organizing meetings for a longer discussion of why we don’t adopt or encourage more structured forms of facilitation.

Session genres

  1. General discussion– Sometimes people just want to get together and talk informally, with no agenda, about something they’re all interested in. Nothing wrong with that; it’s certainly a much better way of meeting people than addressing them from behind a podium. Propose a session on a topic that interests you, and if other people are interested, they’ll show up to talk about it with you.
  2. Hacking session– Several coders gather in a room to work on a particular project. These should usually take more than an hour or even two; if you propose such a session, you might want to ask that one room or swing space be dedicated to it for the entire day.
  3. Writing session– A group of people get together to start writing something. Writing can be collaborative or parallel: everyone can work together (probably in Google Docs) or by themselves (yet with a writing vibe filling the air) to write an article, a manifesto, a book, a blog post, a plan, or what you will.
  4. Working session — You’re working on something, and you suspect that some of the various people who come to THATCamp might be able to help you with it. You describe problems you want solved and questions you want answered, and strangers magically show up to hear about what you’re doing and to give you their perspective and advice. This is notan hour-long demo; you should come with specific questions or tasks you want to work on with others for most of the session.
  5. Workshop– A traditional workshop session with an instructor who leads students through a short introduction to and hands-on exercise in a particular skill. (Note: the workshop series was formerly called “BootCamp,” a term we have now deprecated. Note too that as of January 2012 the Mellon fellowship program for THATCamps with workshops has ended.) Workshops may be arranged beforehand by the organizers or proposed by a participant who agrees to teach it.
  6. Grab bag– Ah, miscellany. One of our favorite categories. Indefinable by definition. It’s astonishing how creative people can be when you give them permission; performances and games are welcome.
    • David Staley, An installation, THATCamp Prime 2009.
    • Mark Sample, Zen Scavenger Hunt, THATCamp Prime 2010 (N.B.: The Zen Scavenger Hunt didn’t actually happen, but it was still a great idea).

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