De Gruyter – THATCamp 2015 AAR/SBL Sponsor

DeGruyter-Logo 9783110376517De Gruyter has been sponsoring THATCamp AAR since its very first year. We are proud to be working with scholars of DH and religion on several new projects, including our forthcoming series, “Introductions to Digital Humanities: Religion,” and a new book, Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies, edited by Elias Muhanna, to be published in February 2016. We are currently accepting proposals in a variety of areas related to the study of religion and digital humanities. Please contact Dr. Alissa Jones Nelson for more information: .

Teach/Play Session – Natural Language Processing and Reading Religion

In this session, we will explore why and how to cultivate a growing awareness of and capacity for doing basic natural language processing (NLP) tasks in religious studies. Based on an ongoing workgroup in the Learning Lab at Iliff School of Theology, we will give a quick and basic introduction to NLP via python programming language and the natural language toolkit. After a basic introduction, we will use some simple exercises from the nltk book to encourage participants to play with text using the tools offered by the nltk.  As we code together, we will share ideas and experiments that these tools might stimulate and we will question the problems and possibilities of the assumptions built into these technological frameworks.

Talk/Make Session – Scholarship Beyond Print

In conversation with the very recent release of guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship by the American Historical Association, we will discuss the difficulties and possibilities of pursuing dissertations and scholarly projects that don’t fit easily into the print paradigm. I will share my own experiences with a dissertation in process as a launching point for highlighting the questions of production, evaluation, preservation, legitimation, and support for projects that are not governed by print processes. Together, we can build a few things:

  1. an aggregation of targeted resources to facilitate these conversations in local academic settings,
  2. a set of values for scholarship in religious studies that might be translated into media other than print, and
  3. a list of recommendations for how AAR and SBL can support and encourage these emerging experimental forms of scholarship in the guild.

A primer from my dissertation space –

What if a doctoral student were to submit a project like this for a dissertation? How would we engage it, let alone evaluate it?

Proposing Sessions at THATCamp AAR/SBL 2015

With THATCampAAR/SBL 2015 quickly approaching, 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 all the sessions are all “TBA.” This is where you come in! Since technology is subject to rapid change, THATCamps purposefully leave the schedule blank until the weeks before the event when campers who will be attending the event are able to propose and vote on the sessions they would like to attend. In short, 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.

A brief note about proposing sessions. THATCamp Headquarters has posted a super helpful guide on proposing sessions that you can find here. For now I will just say that by proposing a session you are not declaring yourself to be an expert on a topic. In fact, it’s just the opposite. One proposes a session at THATCamp not because they have answers, but because they have questions. And the hope is that once you make your own interests and needs known, other people will chime in and say “Yeah, I want to learn about that too!” and next thing you know you have a session devoted to the collaborative discussion of the issue or topic at hand. These sessions can take many and any form. They can be topical–“What kind of digital projects does the study of Islam need?”–pedagogical–“What kind of digital tools do graduate students need to know? What kind of digital sources can undergraduates trust?”–or technical–“What is this tool and how can I use it?” The only requirement you have as the proposer of a session is that you are committing to be a part of the conversation as its convener–perhaps by kicking it off with a reflection on your interest in this question. If you need some inspiration, check out some of the great proposals from last year’s THATCamp AAR here.

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 20.

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!

Don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any questions. Someone from the organization team will get back to you.

THATCamp & Religious Studies at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting

The advent of digital technology and social media has not only transformed how today religious communities function, they have also changed how scholars teach about and conduct research on religion more broadly. If you are interested in how technology is changing—or can change—the work of religious studies scholars, then we invite you to attend the THATCamp AAR/SBL 2015!

THATCamp stands for “The Humanities and Technology Camp.” They exist to bring scholars and technologists of every skill level together to learn how to integrate digital technology into their teaching and research. This means the format is not your typical conference proceedings.

THATCamps are “unconferences,” which means sessions are built around hands-on workshops and collaborative working groups rather than formal presentations. Participants are encouraged to propose sessions they would like to attend in advance of the meeting on the THATCamp AAR/SBL blog. Topics we could cover include academic blogging, social media in the classroom, social media in religion, digital research methods, web-based class projects, online publishing, and countless others.

Sessions largely take one of four formats.

  1. Talk Sessions offer the chance for a group discussion around a topic or question.
  2. In Make Sessions, someone leads a small group in a hands-on collaborative working session with the aim actually making something–software, best practices document, a syllabus, etc.
  3. In Teach Sessions, an individual leads a hands-on workshop on a specific skill or software tool.
  4. In Play Sessions, anything goes. You can suggest literally playing a game, or spending some quality time exploring existing tools and resources for digital work.

For more information about proposing sessions, visit the “Propose” page of this site. All new session proposals will be posted to the home page. If you will be attending, please be sure to comment on the sessions that you would like to participate in!

The final schedule will be determined during the first session of the day, so be ready to vote for your favorite session ideas on November 20th.