I’ve heard a lot about THAT Camp, and there will be a meeting at AAR this year.

For those who may not be familiar with it, THAT Camp is an “unconference” (yes, that is a thing) and its name stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” It is a gathering with little or no agenda (the schedule still says “to be determined”) other than its heading and the provision of a place and time for people to meet and work collaboratively under the auspices of that theme.

Has anyone reading this ever participated in THAT Camp or a similar unconference? If so, what was your experience like? Did you find it worthwhile?

Click here for more information or to register.

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  • Ian

    I’ve been to quite a few tech unconferences, but not THATCamp. In general I prefer them to structured conferences, because they do a better job of bubbling up concerns. I particularly like the way sessions bounce off each other. So someone runs a session about a topic that is causing them pain, and then someone, in response, schedules in a roundtable, and by the end of the day you can have followed an emergent thread. But this only happens if the topic is important, where I’ve been to too many conferences where some ‘track’ that people wanted so speak on was badly attended. Unconferences tend to reflect actual interest better. I’ve been to a couple of unconferences where I’ve felt a really important problem was tackled, and some progress was made, even in one day.

    For example: I went to a games unconference where the thread was colonialism and ethnic representations in games and related media. It started as one person’s talk in the morning, but obviously hit a nerve. In the end it spawned articles, research, and the change in design in at least one game I was aware of. I’ve never been to a regular conference where that kind of communal ownership of a topic was fostered.

    They also work well for tech, because people tend to skip sessions more and do bits of hacking. So after a good session a half dozen people might get together to work something out. I like that vibe.

    On the negative, I’ve also been to unconferences where I’ve picked poor talks, and the conference has felt undirected. The worst talks at unconferences can be terrible, because any Joe can decide to run a session. And if there’s only 5 of you in the audience, then it can be awkward to leave and catch another session (even though that is supposed to be something you can do).

    So all in all, I think unconferences are very good. I’m aware of at least one large tech company that run them as staff-training days too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks – that’s really helpful!