Thank you.

Melissa and I would like to thank all the participants for a wonderful and successful THATCamp! We wish you a wonderful summer. Hopefully we’ll do this again!

SIUE Landscape and Naming History

In 2014, I wrote an article for the SIUE student newspaper, the Alestle, which discussed the name origins of buildings on the SIUE campus. Unfortunately, that article never had a good way to visualize the way I wrote it. It turned into lengthy paragraphs that I was never happy with.

Having seen Dr. Hildebrandt’s presentation on mapping, I created a custom Google Map of all the major buildings on campus, with years for when they were built and a short biography for each building’s namesake.

Having created it in a day with writing two years old, I am happy with the result, though there are limitations to this product. It borders on historical antiquarianism with no explicit argument. Only people familiar with SIUE will likely care. Still, it could be used to form a larger narrative on the design of college campuses, as well as examining who buildings are named after. For example, more recently SIUE buildings are more likely to either have no “person” name or to be named after a alumni donor. There were also a number of building and location renamings in the 1990s, which is worth further examination.

Tour of an Imaginary Town

Since this afternoon, I have been considering possible uses for interactive text games in the digital humanities.  Since they usually involve exploration, I thought that it might be a good way to make a historical tour guide.  I created a very simple guide to an imaginary town as a test of this concept.  My proof-of-concept model uses only three rooms and one object, but any number of locations could be added and described using images, videos, and text could be added to describe places along the tour. Individual parts of each location could be described in equally great detail by making them into objects within the rooms.

The Medieval Churches of Norwich project was an inspiration for this idea:

The test model is here:

Maker Entry: Campaigndium

Mockup of Pitch for "Campaigndium" - a social filtering platform-tool.

Mockup of Pitch for “Campaigndium” – a social filtering platform-tool.

Only one person came to my session, but we still came up with the outline of an idea that could be revolutionary. I’ve been kicking around the idea of journalism as campaign for a couple of years and never publishing much because it’s not a well-defined concept yet. The gist is that the role of journalists is to cut through glut more so than it is to gather information and serve it up to people in some kind of farm-to-table model. That’s the old way. It struck me in hearing about omeka and in hearing about map building that the Digital Humanities is about both gathering hard-to-find information and cutting through the glut. You go find hard-to-find items. You find more of them than you need. You store them in the “basement” or some cool Indiana Jones-ish warehouse and then you put together exhibits of the best of the best or the most appropriate of the best based on whatever the exhibition is about.

So journalism (and filtering kid-oriented videos on YouTube) could do the same thing. Find too much of a good thing but certainly not all that is out there and then curate (journalists are falling in love with this term as if it were a new idea) the crap out if (heh, literally).

So that leaves the question of “How?” and that’s what our little twosome came up with during my maker session yesterday. What about or lumelle (which I just Googled 15 minutes ago, tbh)?  What if you filtered your “crew” first and then made a campaign out of your search for good stuff. Made the search a combination gathering and filtering effort with the goal of building a “filter pool” or something that sounds less “above-ground-ey.” And then from this pool of vetted resources gathered in a crowd-sourced or maybe even gamified way (this really smacks of MMORPG with little questing groups, right?), you’d get what you need based on some well-established parameters agreed upon when you start that can be changed but not easily.

So, what you’ve got is a platform for campaigns that can focus more on culling through huge amounts of readily-available stuff or that can focus on gathering really rare things – indigenous language oral histories, for example. And either way you get this pool you can use to make exhibits or news stories or playlists or whatever.

It’s social filtering, shared sourcing, and at human discretion. Algorithms are often biased based on the culture of the people writing them. They privilege popularity over quality. They can’t find what’s not already online and properly tagged or linked. All they can tell you is what everyone else is looking at and what the people you already interact with a lot are doing and saying.

Social filtering, human filtering is a tool that needs creation and refinement and the image shared above is a good pitch to get funding to make this kind of platform-tool.

Digital East St. Louis Project Notes

Digital East St. Louis Project

-Dr. Jess DeSpain


East St. Louis

-Population decreased 82,3666 in 1950 to 27,066 in 2010.


-Source of Project Funding: National Science Foundation ITEST

Purpose of Digital East St. Louis Project is to attract East St. Louis natives, who largely constitute under-represented groups, into STEM


Project Overview:

-Develop + test an urban place-based learning model

-Cohort of grade 6-9 participants progress through 4-week summer camps and Saturday sessions during the school year over a three-year period

-5-6 Instructors help develop + deliver content in the hopes they will take what they learn into their classrooms

Urban Place-based Education

Participants ask questions, solve real-world problems, and use field work to gather information in a local urban setting


Impacting Local Communities

  1. Pairing “IRL” experiences with digital methods
  2. Begin projects with a goal of listening + learning from participant experiences
  3. Gauging participant technology use + needs
  4. Forms of reciprocity when facing a lack of basic human needs


Middle School: age where STEM based interests often fade away, also age where web-building commonly involves playing around with text in ways that might hurt the eyes of an adult, but for the student, it is the coolest thing ever. They play with WordPress sites before working on main project.


If could start it over, prefer to work with smaller cohorts (15 at a time beginning in the summer)


Project should last 4 Years- ideally each student will be transferred into upward bound (upward bound=college readiness program for high schoolers), 3rd year = more options, e.g. graphic novels/game design, Intrinsic based: extrinsic learning does not equal long term learning.


Biggest tension: how much control over website is given to students vs. providing a usable database


Best way to encourage extrinsic motivation: choice + presence of friends


Problems with Project: because basic human needs are not always met in East St. Louis, it has been hard to get people involved


Better luck getting people to show up by texting students instead of parents

Notes on Text Adventures: Interacting with and creating narrative history through accessible programming

Description of Session: Explore legacy text adventures, look at free TA development software, and collaborate on an example text adventure

We worked through the website to play legacy text adventures, most popularly Zork I so we could develop an understanding of how interactive fiction works. Most TA begin with the player (you) being dropped into a world where the rules are not always apparent and you build an understanding of the rules and the world through your interactions with it. After we got a basic understanding of text adventures from a user’s perspective, we talked briefly about how the interactivity and the users complicity were important in the immersive experience and how this might relate to narrative history or creative writing.  Then, we took a look at Quest, a free interactive fiction development tool that allows novices to publish text adventures. We worked with Quest to create a THATCamp text adventure, creating the rooms, items within the rooms, and exploring how we use conditional constructs (if/else/else if) to interact with the rooms, objects, and players.