After THATCamp is the Afterparty

Please join fellow campers for drinks and dinner at 5:15 at Frank and Nics West End Grille. Continue the conversation or start new ones. Join us for a drink even if you’ve got dinner plans!

Getting there couldn’t be easier. THATCamp is being held at 401 W Pratt St in the Hilton Baltimore’s Key Ballroom. Frank and Nics is located at 511 W. Pratt St in the Zenith building. Simply exit the Hilton on Pratt St and turn left. At the corner you should see the entrance to Frank and Nics on your left on S Paca Street.

Just in case, here’s a map:

Directions to Frank and Nics

See you there!

YouTubes on the World Religions: A Session for Blue Birds

I am withdrawing this session proposal.   Chris Cantwell has just informed me that handouts are not permitted in THATcamp sessions because they are incompatible with the collaborative nature of the camp.    Because we are precluded from sharing examples of course work associated with the use of YouTubes, or other materials we might share via handouts to contextualize the learning goals with which YouTubes are associated, I have determined that the proposed session is simply out of place for THATcamp.     Merely watching YouTubes without being able to share pedagogical resources with each other that we link with them seems to be an unproductive use of THATcamp time.

Student Ethnography on the Internet

UPDATE: A handout for this session can be found here:

Kyle Schiefelbein (Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary) and Martha Reineke (University of Northern Iowa) are proposing a session on courses or projects within courses that use the internet as a site for students’  ethnographic research.   We will be happy to have others join us in making presentations during this session.

Martha Reineke’s presentation:   Martha will report on how she used Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes by Robert Emerson, Rachel Fretz, and Linda Shaw in a course on contemporary Judaism.  Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes is aimed at beginning ethnographers; indeed, the authors propose a kind of “ethnography across the curriculum” use for their book.  Electronic ethnography is ideal for the rural location of Martha’s university, which poses a challenge for ethnographic research projects..  She will report on how she created assignments drawn from Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes that enable students to conduct research in an electronic rather than actual field and complete ethnographic projects/reports. Key themes include acquainting students with insider/outsider categories, members’ meanings, etc. 

Kyle Schiefelbein’s presentation:  Another component of ethnography is examining the quantitative data available, especially when crafting a study on a particular geographic area.  Kyle will report on how his students engage in online demographic study to supplement their congregational ethnographies for a first-year seminary course.  Such study includes census data, relationships to civil society partners, crime statistics, and data provided by the congregation, the judicatory and other denominational studies.  We will also investigate what to actually do with this data and how to present in a full ethnographic study.

Martha and Kyle are not experts in ethnography but have found it to be a useful resource for working with students.  For Martha, when students learn ethnographic research methods, they are more able to approach religious websites with an eye for insider/outsider meanings and to use their critical thinking skills within a next context.   Kyle has engaged in the practice while doing his own studies of congregations and teaching students how to “read’ their congregations.  These observational skills, including field notes, interviews and quantitative data analysis, can transcend disciplines in the humanities.  


THATCamp Room Assignments

Just to confirm some details in the email I sent out earlier today, THATCamp AAR13 will kick off at 9am on Friday, November 22 in the Baltimore Hilton, rooms Key 7-8. We’ll have coffee and tea available in the morning thanks to the generosity of DeGruyter Press, so feel free to show up at 8:30am to register and get some caffeine before we get started.

All of THATCamp will meet during this first session, where we will vote upon which proposed sessions we all want to schedule and run. After that we’ll break out into our smaller sessions and workshops. You can see all of the rooms we’ll have available over at the schedule, but make sure to come to that first session at 9am!


Workshop Preview: Digital Ethnography

In addition to workshops on Omeka and statistical programming languages, THATCamp AAR is excited to also offer a workshop on utilizing technology in ethnographic research. Gregory Grieve, an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Tim Hutchings, of Durham University, will be hosting the workshop, which will take place in our first breakout session.

Event Description:  “Virtual ethnography: Exploring religion in digital worlds” introduces and evaluates new methods in virtual ethnography and offers a perspective on the field of digital religious studies.  The first half of the workshop features Dr. Greg Grieve, a leader in the field of digital religion, and specializes in ethnographic approaches to the intersection of religion, media and popular culture.  He will draw from his work on Buddhist meditation in the virtual world and his forthcoming book from Routledge entitled: Digital Zen: Buddhism, Virtual Worlds and Networked Consumerism (2014). The second half of the workshop features Dr Tim Hutchings, who also uses ethnographic methods to study digital religion. Dr Hutchings will draw on his studies of online Christian churches (2006-2010) and Christian mobile apps (2012-2013), exploring the ethical challenges encountered in multi-sited and virtual ethnographic research.

Workshop Preview #2: Data Analysis for Humanists

In addition to Amanda French’s workshop on Omeka, Lincoln Mullen, a Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis University, has also agreed to offer a hands-on workshop on using statistical programs to analyze data sets relevant to humanities scholars. Mullen has also agreed to hold a kind of THATCamp office hours after his workshop, where he’s agreed to work one on one with interested campers. Thanks, Lincoln!

Humanities scholars now have access to a range of data sets and techniques for analyzing them that were previously regarded as the province of scholars in other disciplines. In this workshop, we’ll try our hands at a couple forms of analysis, using data sets of interest to scholars of religion. We will make maps from the missions of the Paulist Fathers and do some quantitative analysis of religious demographic data. By bringing these common kinds of data analysis together, we will learn the basic practices and theories which underlie all of them. Of course we will have occasion to discuss what data analysis means from a humanistic perspective. During this workshop we will get hands-on with the statistical programming language R. While there are many tools to make maps, mine texts, and analyze numbers, R is especially powerful because it can perform all of these types of analysis. R is a favorite tool of academics, Google, and the New York Times, so it has strong support. You are encouraged to install R (the programming language itself) and the desktop version of R Studio (a tool to help you use R) in advance. Self-starters can watch some of Google’s video introductions to R to acquire the basics. While you will benefit from learning some of the theory behind the analysis even without using R, there is no substitute for performing the analysis yourself, and you’ll pick up the basics of a powerful digital humanities tool. 

THATCamp AAR Workshops: Introduction to Omeka

In addition to user-proposed sessions and meetings, THATCamps are also often great places to attend hands on workshops led by experts in the field. THATCampAAR is very fortunate in that will have a number of wonderful sessions offered by some very smart and generous scholars. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be posting brief abstracts of the workshops we’re hosting, but you can get a sneak peak at all of them over at the schedule right now.

Our first workshop preview is for learning the basics of Omeka, an open source program to create digital archives and web exhibits. The workshop will be lead by  Amanda French, Research Assistant Professor and THATCamp Coordinator at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, who has agreed to join us in Baltimore!

Building Scholarly Online Archives with Omeka

These days, any scholar or organization is almost certain to have a collection of digital material from research and teaching: scanned texts, digital images, original syllabi, even historic songs, oral histories, or digital video. Omeka is a simple, free system built by and for scholars and cultural heritage professionals that will help you publish and interpret such digital material online in a scholarly way so that it’s available for researchers, students, and the public in a searchable online database integrated with attractive online essays and exhibits. In this introduction to Omeka, we’ll look at a few of the many examples of Omeka websites built by archives, libraries, museums, and individual scholars and teachers; define some key terms and concepts related to Omeka; learn about the Dublin Core metadata standard for describing digital objects; and go over the difference between the hosted version of Omeka at and the self-hosted version of Omeka at Participants will also learn to use Omeka themselves through hands-on exercises, so please *bring a laptop* (not an iPad). Learn more about Omeka at and

The complete Introduction to Omeka lesson plan is available on Amanda French’s website or via

Race, Religion, and the Digital Humanities

This session will consider the ways in which “difference” makes a difference in broaching zones of contact between religious studies and the digital humanities. I am proposing an open conversation to address silences as well as critically rethink the problems and possibilities of engaging race (as well as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, and class) for digital humanities and the study of religion. Potential topics for discussion include this overly ambitious but hopefully fruitful list:

  • Representations of people of color and the religion-related cultural productions created by people of color on the Internet.
  • The recovery/preservation of works about and by people of color in the study of religion.
  • Sharing ways that we might incorporate digital tools, coding and software applications (i.e. Blogs, Live Group Video Broadcasting, Virtual Environments , Cloud Computing, and Augmented Reality) into teaching and collaborations in race and religion research.
  • The development and application of digital research methodologies for the study of race and religion.
  • Questions concerning how identities (gender, race, class, sexuality, religious identifications) could inform and transform the theory and practice of digital humanities.

    Note: This session is limited to afternoon scheduling times. 1:00-2:30 pm or 2:45-4:15 pm.


Your Manifesto Here

A new project based at the Social Science Research Council — including the folks who previously developed digital forums like The Immanent Frame and Frequencies, such as the SSRC’s Jonathan VanAntwerpen and Kathryn Lofton of Yale — is gearing up to take a long, hard look at how the digital turn affects the production, circulation, and consumption of knowledge about religion in a global context. We see THATCamp as a potentially integral player in this process, and we’d like your help starting now, at the ground floor.

I propose to facilitate a discussion about how an SSRC-driven publication project can jumpstart the kinds of discussions that THATCamp is bringing to AAR and beyond. What would a hypothetical collaborative manifesto on digital religion scholarship and journalism look like? What Buddhas need to be killed (so to speak); what idols need to be smashed? What groundwork needs to be laid? This is a unique opportunity to help shape a concrete, large-scale academic and public-facing project that’s very much in line with what brings us together for THATCamp in the first place.

Proposing Sessions for THATCampAAR

With THATCampAAR less than a month away, it’s time to start thinking about the conversations you want to have and the problems you want to work on.

If you look at the schedule for the day, you will notice that the topics of the sessions are all “TBA.” This is where you come in! You control the schedule by proposing sessions, commenting on the session ideas you find interesting, and, on the morning of THATCamp, voting for the sessions you would like to attend.

Don’t wait until the last minute! Propose topics and questions that you would like to have a conversation about now. And comment on the sessions that you would like to participate in. Conversations that start now are more likely to be part of the schedule on November 22.


What makes a good session proposal?

Good sessions come in many varieties. Often they are organized around questions, projects, or points of concern.

For example, if you are interested in using technology for teaching, you could propose a session to talk about what strategies and tools other have used, what worked (and what didn’t), and what outcomes were seen.

Or if you have concerns about the ways a particular tool models space, language, or time and the implications of those assumptions, you could propose a session to discuss and evaluate that tool and its usefulness to scholars of religion.

Any topic connected to religion, technology, and the intersection thereof is fair game.

One useful way to structure a session is to focus on producing something that would be a resource for others. This could be an annotated list of current strategies, a manifesto or call to action, a collaborative essay, or a digital tool. You can include what you would like the session to produce as part of your proposal or suggest that it be determined by the group during the session.


What should I expect in a session?

You should expect to be an active participant in the sessions you attend. This means asking questions, sharing your ideas and opinions, and contributing to the goals of the session.

If you proposed the session, you should expect to be responsible for starting and facilitating the conversation and, if there is a particular goal, focusing the group on achieving that goal. You are not expected, however, to have the answers or to present the solution.

You are also under no obligation to attend only one session during a time block. If there are multiple sessions you want to be a part of, you can and should split your time between them. And if the conversation in a particular session shifts to a topic you are not interested in, join another.


How will the sessions be chosen?

We will finalize the schedule by voting during the first session on Friday.

All the session proposals will be printed and you will be given stickers to vote for the sessions you would like to participate in. The votes will be tallied and those sessions that have generated the greatest interest will be assigned to particular spaces and times.

You are also welcome to start up ad hoc sessions during the day as new conversations develop.


How do I propose a session?

To propose a session, log in to WordPress with the account information emailed to you when you were approved. On the left hand side of the window, select “Posts.” This will take you to a page that lists all the post currently published on

WordPress "Welcome" screen.

From here, select “Add New Post.” This will open up the post editor.

WordPress Posts Page.

You can either write your session proposal here or copy over the text from Word or another text editor. Give your session a title and assign it a Category. You can assign multiple categories to describe the topic you want to discussion. Also, be sure to also select “Session Proposals” and the type of session as two of your category choices.

Add New Post

Category: Session Proposal

When you are finished, select “Publish.” The post will appear on the home page of