Confession: I really wish there was a THATCamp SCMS. I wish we could have some of the spontaneity and collaboration that defines THATCamp (The Humanities and Technologies Camp) at SCMS (the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies). Both THATCamp and SCMS are defining events in their respective fields of Digital Humanities and Media Studies. Yet, they couldn't be farther apart. While THATCamp is proudly defiant of the traditional conference format, SCMS embraces panels and papers.
Let me elaborate a little. THATCamps are weekend-long “unconferences” that come without paper proposals or a predetermined agenda. Instead, participants share a common investment in the Digital Humanities (or, more recently, a broadening array of topics, including feminism, games, or pedagogy). Participants include archivists, librarians, grad students, museum curators, and professors. Conversations at THATCamp cross both disciplines and professions/institutions. Any THATCamp's agenda of informal workshops is set on the first day based on participants' interests; it often includes show-and-tell sessions highlighting research methods and tools. THATCamp is about the nitty-gritty details and the larger conceptual questions that define scholarly everyday life. In many ways, it is a look behind the curtain of the polished conference paper, and that is precisely what makes attending THATCamp inspiring and rewarding.
SCMS cherishes the polished conference paper. It embraces the thrill of seeing a carefully crafted argument unfold before one's eyes (or should I say through one's ears as visual aids are often still absent from SCMS). But what if there was space for THATCamp at SCMS? The recent increase in workshops (and the packed rooms I have seen at these workshops) suggests that there is an interest in a collaborative conversation. What if there was a space in the program that would allow us to think through the implications of unfolding media events, industry conversations, regulations, and technological shifts and their place in nascent research projects? Sure, these conversations often happen in the hallways between panels (or on Twitter), but what if there was a dedicated space for them in the program? To borrow THATCamp's motto, perhaps SCMS could do with a little more hack and a little less yack.
Image Credit: THATCamp Bay Area Program by George Oates on flickr