THATCamp SBL & AAR 2016 Sessions

The following are session proposals for the upcoming THATCamp on November 18, 2016 at the San Antonio Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion.

Drafting Guidelines for Emerging Scholarship in Religious Studies

Session Proposed by: Ted Vial
Session Type: Make Session
The AAR board has a task force on the Publications Committee to develop official guidelines, recommendations, and statements for how dissertation, hiring, and tenure committees, etc. should evaluate publishing. One aspect of this work of the committee is to develop guidelines for the support and evaluation of digital scholarship in the field of religious studies. The task force has put together a draft of these guidelines and would value input from THATCamp participants. We have made the draft guidelines available for participants to interact with ahead of time. As you engage the draft, you can use the embedded > toolbar on the page (top right corner) to make inline annotations and comments or you can use the comment area at the bottom of the page to make suggestions or ask questions. The committee would like specific input on ways to make the language about gauging collaborative work and evaluating contributions to digital media more specific. They would also like to discuss ways to make the particularities of scholarship in religious studies more evident in the guidelines. Our goal at the end of the session is to compile an annotated second draft to bring to the Publications Committee to continue their work.

Teaching Data Analytics to Religious Studies Students

Session Proposed by: Randall Reed
Session Type: Talk Session
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed indicated that Liberal-Arts majors (like Religious Studies) would be much more hireable if they had an additional skill set like data analysis. This session is a talk session where we discuss ways in which we can bring these kinds of skills to our students. The goal is to brainstorm together and allow thatcampers to share their thoughts and experiences in doing this. Some questions we might ask: What kinds of projects should we encourage? What sort of resources are available? What sort of administrative support do we need? What are barriers to overcome and opportunities to be had in engaging in this sort of task?

Close reading and extending the conversation with

Session Proposed by: Michael Hemenway
Session Type: Play Session
Many of us have been using social bookmarking and collaborative web annotation tools such as Diigo for years. In this play session, we will delve into the workings of a newer tool, is an annotation platform built on the values of openness and collaboration that drive THATCamp, so we would like to explore together ways that might extend the experience of THATCampAARSBL beyond the one day gathering at annual meeting. What tools does offer? How do we start using it? How is it different from other tools like Diigo and Genius, etc.? What are the advantages and disadvantages to creating an annotation 'layer' as opposed to review functions in google docs, MS Word, and PDF readers? What kinds of activities could provide in the classroom to encourage capacities of careful curation and close collaborative reading? How could our THATCamp community use a tool like to share resources and reflect on proposals and sessions before and after our time in San Antonio?

Virtual Reality, Religion, and the Classroom

Session Proposed by: Jordan Brady Loewen
Session Type: Talk Session
This session will generate conversation about strategies for and the values of including VR technology into classroom sessions to generate conversations and experiences of religion. Some possible discussion topics:

Studying Religion with Digital Historical Newspapers

Session Proposed by: Sarah "Moxy" Moczygemba
Session Type: Teaching Session
Chronicling America is a newspaper digitization project funded by the NEH and housed at the Library of Congress. The goal of this project is to digitize historical newspapers from 1690-1963 for preservation, accessibility, and educational purposes. This teaching session will familiarize scholars and teachers with the Chronicling America interface. The goal is to provide examples of how to incorporate Chronicling America content into lesson plans and student research, with time at the end of the session for attendees to explore the database.

Religion after Politics: Digital Media and Public Scholarship

Session Proposed by: Tim Hutchings
Session Type: Talk Session
THATCamp promises to explore "how technology is changing—or can change—the work of religious studies scholars". In the wake of the US Elections, it is clear that our work does need to change. This session will provide space to discuss the many issues raised for scholars of religion by the new political landscape. Key questions will include: how has digital media changed religion and politics? How can we use digital media to study contemporary religion better? How can we reflect the new political and media landscape in our teaching? Can we use digital media to make a meaningful contribution to public discourse, and if so, what should that contribution be?

Digital Religious Studies 101: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Session Proposed by: Anne Blue Wills
Session Type: Talk Session
I am one of the people who does not "know much about digital humanities." In fact, I don't even know what I don't know. So I'd like to convene a conversation on:

  • using digital tools NOT as additive, but as constitutive in teaching/research -- how to think about digital tools at the beginning of course design or at the beginning of a research project.
  • (related): What are the questions to ask in retooling a course or in conceiving a new course or new research project?
  • what good print or web sources provide information about particular tools and their uses?
  • where are other good training opportunities in digital humanities?

Academic Blogging

Session Proposed by: John L. Crow
Session Type: Talk Session
This is a non-technical talk session focused on academic blogging. It will focus on both practical “how-to” questions and more general questions related to the pros and cons of academic blogging, and the role of blogging in the digital humanities. This session will be of most benefit if participants come from different experience levels, including those who actively blog.

Questions might include:

  • Blogging platform—self-hosted or blogging website?
  • Costs – time and money?
  • Blog promotion through social media?
  • Participating in or creating group academic blogs?
  • How does a blog fit into your research or teaching agenda?
  • Is blogging digital humanities work and does it count towards P&T?

Creating online space for ethical civic engagement

Session Proposed by: Jennifer Thompson
Session Type: Talk Session
I've been experimenting with teaching applied ethics and civic engagement online (using Moodle) for the past two years, with some success. In this session, I'd like to do (at least) three things: share what's working well for me, learn what others are doing online with students that's working well for them, and talk about scaling up and out--that is, bringing applied ethics and civic engagement education to the broader public. This could take the form of creating a shared web space with resources and opportunities for engagement with the public, or it could be something else. I'd be happy to facilitate a creative conversation about this.

THATCamp Session Proposal Digital Textual Analysis - Big Data Research in Religion?

Session Proposed by: Benjamin Brochstein
Session Type: Talk Session
Are there any research questions that Digital Textual Analysis (DTA) can or should be used to address? Should we be looking at big data tools like sentiment analysis or network analysis to complement our research? Are there tools, like Bookworm, that you already use and love? Do we need to develop new tools?

Rice University is hosting an NEH sponsored workshop of humanities scholars in 2017. One of our goals for the workshop is to gain an understanding of the variety of queries humanities scholars might ask of a properly curated corpus, and ways to represent those query options using analytical and visualization DTA tools that are simple and intuitive, and preferably with a graphical user interface (GUI). While our project looks specifically at the Early English Book Online (EEBO) corpus, the project resulting study would be applicable to all texts. Ideas generated in this THATCamp session will inform the collaborative efforts of the 2017 NEH sponsored workshop and its results which will be of benefit to everyone.


Session Proposed by: Michael Hemenway
Session Type: Play Session
Slack has become a major player in the team communication app space and has become my favorite interface for interacting with colleagues on all topics from silly to serious. In this session, we will explore the possibilities of slack together, from basic account configuration to search capabilities to advanced integrations with GitHub and google drive. During the session we will create a slack team and try several scenarios to see where the tool performs well and where it seems to lack. We will discuss and try out possible uses for slack in the classroom and in research projects and reflect together on the use cases where slack would be the best fit. Bring your experience with slack, some kind of device to work on, and your curiosity to this play session.

Scheming: Creating a Structured Social Media Marketing strategy that is scalable

Session Proposed by: Adam DJ Brett
Session Type: Teach/Play Session
This workshop will explore ways to build a successful and engaging search engine and social media strategy that is scaleable and useful for individuals and departments. It will discuss integrating structured data, public scholarship, and social media advertisement in order to expand and develop ones social media presence. Social media and search engines have become an integral part of our lives but often it is not engaged in a consistent and strategic manner. This session will go behind the curtain and get in depth with the following: 1) developing a social media plan, 2) using structured data 3) creating backlinks, 4) data analysis of your search engine and social media strategy. Finally in this session we will develop individual search and social media strategies. Additionally we will explore structured data ( to understand why it is important and how best to utilize it.

Structured data is a way of organizing and structuring data in a way that is more understandable to search engines, citation management software, etc. It allows for the display of information in predictable and understandable format. When information is arranged in a predictable and understandable formation search engines can more easily understand it and the material becomes more universal and accessible. Additionally it increases search engine visibility. The structured data vocabulary of schema. provides an open and accessible model for marking up webpages in

Structured data matters for the study of religion because it allows our department websites, personal webpages, and publications to be more accessible to search engines and to users. It is an easy way to increase departmental, personal, and publication visibility, and help ensure that departments, persons, and publications become more visible in an already saturated digital landscape.

Utilizing structured data with a well thought out social media strategy and blogging strategy will maximize ones return on investment of time and of resources, increase visibility and search engine rank along making social media more useful. I anticipate this being a hands on workshop where we will create individual social media strategies and practice enacting certain elements of these strategies.

In this workshop topics we will cover are

  • Developing a social media strategy
  • social media advertising? does it work should I do it?
  • what do humans and search engines value when looking at my website?
  • increasing search engine rank
  • Why content matters
  • the problem of self plagiarizeation
  • ethical link building
  • web of relationship
  • curating a conversation
Discussion questions:
  • Why are you unique?
  • Why does your work matter?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How often do they visit your site?
  • How often do they engage on social media
  • When do people visit your site and your social media?
  • what content does your audience need?
  • What content does your audience want?
  • What keywords do you use to find your audience?
  • what keywords does your audiences use to find you?
  • What do you want your audience to do with your content?
  • Where is your audience located?
  • What are the goals of our increasing our web presence? (top 3)
  • Who is our intended audience
  • What keywords and phrases do we want to focus on?
This workshop will explore using the following tools to manage your online presence

Responding to Cyberhate: A Critical Digital Pedagogy

Session Proposed by: Elonda Clay
Session Type: Talk/Play Session
In the United States and globally, online hate has become a major concern for several groups: women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, people with disabilities, and religious and ethnic minorities. As the number of scholars, bloggers, students, and activists from these groups that are producers and participants on the Internet has increased, so has a considerable backlash of misogyny, racial and ethnic bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia.

The topic of cyberhate lies at the crossroads of identity, intersectionality, online cultures, and digital humanities. While Digital Humanities as a field has often been critiqued for its lack of diversity and inclusion and most digital humanists/DH professionals are assumed to be privileged and white, in recent years there has been a movement away from exclusionary culture and an openness to theoretical and practice-based interventions that widen Digital Humanities’ capacity for critical engagement.

This session seeks to highlight digital tools and strategies for a critical digital pedagogy and to come up with ideas for possible new projects, such as mapping, searchable databases, digital archives, interactive web documentaries, crowdsourcing, or digital radio, that would facilitate collaboration in responding to cyberhate. Responses might include facilitating counter-speech, monitoring and reporting, pursuing legislation, self-care, and other communicative, programming, and social actions.

Participants are invited to share free and open-source tools that they have used in their own digital pedagogy.

Digital Storytelling

Session Proposed by: Rosalind Hinton
Session Type: Talk/Play Session
The facilitator will take participants through the steps they need to complete a Snapshot digital story of approximately two to three minutes in length. Participants will 1) view and discuss successful stories to gain an understanding of techniques; 2) come up with their own first person story idea; 3) participate in a Story Circle to develop story ideas; 4) write and record a first-person narrative script; and 5) if time permits, enhance their story from photos on their phone. We will end by showing/listening to the stories we have created, talking about equipment, and brainstorming uses for storytelling in the classroom.


The following companies help
make THATCamp SBL & AAR possible.

  • Walter de Gruyter GmbH
  • ExperimentalHumanities@Iliff