THATCamp digital feminism

By Nikki Broderick ‘14Staff Writer

On March 15 and 16 at the Honnold-Mudd Library, 40 undergraduates, graduates, and faculty members gathered for The Humanities and Technology (THAT) Camp, an “unconference” that emphasizes participation from everyone who attends—from setting an agenda for the weekend to helping lead discussions. The first THATCamp began at George Mason University in 2008, and has since spread throughout the country, with different emphases such as pedagogy and games, in addition to regional distinctions.

The THATCamp held in Claremont, organized by Professor Wernimont of the Scripps English Department, focused on feminist digital theory and practice. Professor Wernimont also stressed the importance of undergraduate participants, and explained how she actively recruited students to attend. Five of the forty attendees were undergraduate student fellows, which created a new balance in what are typically graduate student- and faculty-heavy events. The Scripps event inspired two other simultaneous THATCamp Feminisms at Emory University and Barnard College.

Professor Wernimont describes the digital humanities using Julia Flander’s definition: the critical study of how the technologies and techniques associated with the digital medium intersect with and alter humanities scholarship and scholarly communication. Digital humanities scholarship can take many different forms, from using computers to do large-scale analysis of texts to thinking about identity in digital spaces, such as social media.

THATCamp Feminist West’s focus on feminism within the digital humanities developed after conversations with scholars regarding the gendered and classist elements of computer programming and the absence of feminist perspectives in the digital humanities. One of the weekend’s main events, an editing session of Wikipedia articles, focused on creating feminist perspectives by expanding topics and creating new ones. Professor Wernimont discussed the need to have a Wikipedia editing session by explaining that most editors on Wikipedia are white men between the ages of twenty and thirty—so even though the site focuses on having an unbiased ideological perspective, a content bias still arises.

The editing session included participants at THATCamp and those who participated online, with some even editing from India and Africa. Those who edited and created new pages could also tweet about their participation using the hashtag #tooFEW - a common identifier for work addressing the lack of information about women, the LGBTQ community, and feminist work on Wikipedia.

In addition to the Wikipedia editing session, THATCamp also hosted several workshops and discussions, including on feminist and queer identities in social media, video game studies in the digital humanities, and a panel about how students learn with digital media in the classroom that allowed students and professors to learn from each other. Aly Monroe (’14) attended the student-teacher session, and commented that the panel created, “A good intersection of student-teacher relations. I think it also helped us think about the ways teachers can expand their use of technology in the classroom to be more productive to maximize student learning.”

The Office of the President funded THATCamp Feminisms West, providing for the costs of the event and making it possible for all to attend free of charge. To learn more about the digital humanities and Professor Wernimont’s work, visit her blog at jwernimont.wordpress.com.