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BYOT–Bring Your Own Topic!

Sprinkled throughout the 2017 Digital Humanities Week are THATCamps and hackathons that break the academic conference mold by allowing participants to start ad hoc conversations on their own topics, whether how to run a lasercutter or what to do about fake news. Nevertheless some workshops include a “featured” theme for participants who would prefer to join an existing discussion. These include:

Gender and code

Why do so many women drop out of computing majors while in college? What strategies can help open university departments, scientific labs, and tech firms to a more diverse workforce? How might breathing fresh perspectives into these fields change the character of their research and the outcomes for society? Join COCO creator Ruth Leopold and members of the WiSTEMM, ACM-W, and Rising Tide communities for this discussion.

DIY scientific instruments

In an age of Big Data and $9 billion particle accelerators, how can ordinary citizens contribute to DIY science? Joe Davis leads a workshop on creating a cloud chamber, one of the fundamental detectors of astronomy and elementary particle physics. Although only the size of a breadbox, this humble artifact construction helps scientists ascertain the structure of the very largest (galactic) skills as well as the very smallest (quark) scales.

Unmaking audio

Scientific progress is often seen by the lay person as an inevitable sequence of logical inferences, whereas in fact the history of science is punctuated by critical discoveries that were accidental or serendipitous, from anesthetic to the cosmic background radiation. Artists are experts in discovering through play and deconstruction, as exemplified by Nam June Paik’s 1963 work Random Access, which disassembled an audio player to grant the user more ways to listen to the same audio tape. This hackathon offers participants a chance to unmake audio equipment supplied by University of Maine’s Hackerspace and remake instruments of their own. Adam Paul of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning coordinates the workshop.

Virtual museums and digital publishing

In the digital age, the experience of a museum need no longer be stepping foot through a marble doorway into a brick-and-mortar edifice. Interactive online collections, mobile apps, and augmented and virtual reality offer new ways for cultural heritage organizations to tell stories. This session asks how small nonprofits can leverage these new concepts of the museum, not to replace precious artifacts with digital facsimiles, but to elicit new insights and new audiences. New Media professor Joline Blais joins 360-VR creator Craig Dietrich for this discussion on the future of the museum.

Civic engagement

At a time when policy decisions and electoral politics seem determined more by personal bias than facts, the role of public intellectuals seems more important than ever. Yet this also seems to be a moment when public respect for academics–and the impact of their research–is at an all-time low. Dartmouth’s John Bell has been working on this problem since 2007, when he pioneered a bookmarklet that allowed experts to weigh in on articles in the press on technically complex issues such as net neutrality or climate change. Mina Matthews and Rucha Modak have created a civic engagement tool kit to help professors translate academic research into real-world impact. Judith Rosenbaum-Andre studies the motivations that ordinary people have for engaging with social media like Twitter and its implications for the new public spheres of the 21st century.

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