Trying to Keep Up: THATCamp and AHA2012

Going to AHA this year is an experience that I’ll never forget. Grad school alone rocks my world, but being a (I guess now second-semester Masters student) it’s fun to see how people react to things. I am lucky that I have an ageless face. No one can tell my age, and my confidence levels are such that I’ve been asked if I’m a professor already once. That makes me grin. No one has a clue that I barely started the Masters, nevertheless the rest of it.
My brain may not be at the doctoral level, but treat me like I am a doctoral student and I work to keep up. These are not bad things. My historiographical knowledge is sparse. I admit that, but that’s mainly reading until your eyeballs fall out and not letting old ideas get to you in ways that compress new structures, terminology, and keep the field from progressing at a better rate. Irony is that I haven’t even had the intro course yet. Here’s to having to play with the kids that know their stuff from the get-go. I was not originally glad that there were doctoral students in my classes, but now I am more grateful than possible to express. I see parts/portions of how they think. That is the most important aspect for me. I need to know and act as they do.
My greatest treats so far are when I learn more and honestly feel my “brain being blown” when I see how history evolves as a profession, and when I can look at the exhibits and notice that THATCamp is THE camp to belong to. Digital history needs to plunge forward. Monographs are great, and there are at least a few dozen publishers out there. However, my programs require e-portfolios. Both of them do. Is this something that could get me tenure should I choose the doctoral path? It better, should it be necessary for providing in my cv. I am in love with writing, research, and I really want a chance for a TA-ship and at least try it out once. If I am to teach, I NEED to teach or to have some sort of experience teaching in true academia outside of under and graduate students in Sunday School classes for Family History at BYU where it was normal to whip together a multi-slide PowerPoint presentation in an hour earlier in the week because God was kind and the material was rather obvious to me from it being my major. I knew the theological constructs and doctrine. From there, the emotional met with the nuts and bolts, and life was good.  The Spirit taught. I followed course directions. This isn’t Sunday School, though the teaching style is similar. Considering attendance at the pedagogical courses offered mainly to TA’s. Wondering what you do with PhD’s outside of the Ivory Tower, especially as I don’t see myself teaching inside it. But honestly, I have no idea.
I noticed this article: http://aha2012.thatcamp.org/01/02/session-proposal-graduate-training-in-the-digital-humanities/ after going to AHA first day this year. THATCamp is current or future history-thinking. Although I still have no idea whether I want to do the doctorate, I am considering doctoral work in historical post-mortem thanatology even though I haven’t finished my second semester Masters yet. Instead of whining about long reading lists, I need to learn how to read faster and devour information at a rate that I haven’t done since I was a senior Family History major. I used to do 100 pages/hour on a good day. I didn’t absorb a ton of it, but I need to speed read, and I need the ability of doing it now. I don’t have a lot of time for reading, especially as I have a real day job and commute, and my ecclesiastical life is a higher priority in all senses of the phrase.
Being active LDS is not easy in grad school, and I am the first graduate student to talk to the Interfaith Ministry at one of my schools asking about graduate-level religious interaction. The interfaith people were a little surprised to have us on campus. Made me grin. I am maybe one of two LDS at each of my schools from what I understand. At one school, the other one that I know of is not in the same ward although in the same stake. He makes things easier for openness and candidacy, and that is good. People from my program gave us funny looks the one time that I opened up about Church scheduling needs with him there. Not flirting at all. Just having Church in common is an immediate bond if you are active, and especially if you’re the only ones at your school. It felt horribly lonely for the first while, but I was transitioning and it was tough. I resigned myself to differences too much when I first came out here. Finding commonalities makes things more fun. I am still out of the loop, but I’m trying harder to bridge gaps and to make friends in the programs. At my other school, she’s actually my visiting teacher. Not in any of the same classes, and I don’t actually know her particular emphasis, but I know that there is at least one person besides me who goes to that school. We shall see how it all goes.
I have NO idea how I survived last semester. I desperately need to go back and re-read those books before exams because by nature I am a slow reader, but I feel blessed that I cut through to the hearts of matters quickly. When you focus on main points consistently, life is better; more-focused, and with my last teacher I was lucky that he didn’t focus on the garbage of incidentals outside of how they assisted directly with the points that needed making in class discussion. Granted, sometimes I really like my tangential trips into sociological, economic, and political territories. Although my undergrad weeder courses were less-interesting, I do wish that I’d taken one poli sci course instead of relying on personal experience growing up in the DC area to merit the lexicon of political theory that now pervades my thought processes. However, learning more about focus is important and I need to work harder on that.
Considering the potential(?) PhD, it’s good to think ahead. Current research interests are: digital history and archives, historical post-mortem trauma in thanatological studies, family history and Mormon studies, in addition to history of computing/computers in history. I know these are rather varied, but they work for me. I’m having the time of my life now. Add app creation to the list, and this is a good summary of my future, maybe? I will try to develop this more as time wears on, especially as this does/doesn’t include my specific interests in Mid-Atlantic states family history research, medical, forensic, or immigration research, the book that I want to do that’s a social history including West Point, NY, my Memoir, and the history of digital family history article/book. There is much writing and researching to do.
I desperately want to minor in Comp Sci now. Not sure whether that is remotely possible as I didn’t have it as undergrad minor. Either way, I need to know how to make apps that deal with history with ethno-cartographic abilities. The University of Minnesota and the Roy Rosenzweig Center are doing things that blow my mind and I should have gone to their workshop instead of the Mountain Meadows Massacre session. They almost make me wish that I’d stayed at the home and gone to GMU, but I don’t think that I belong in DC. It’s a tech hotbed and yes, I am glad that I grew up there, but I’d rather work with them from arm’s length. Chicago has my interests and attention for now, and maybe I wouldn’t have made it into their program. I remember the first establishment of the Center and wondering what would happen to it in the future, and now it’s hot and doing things that makes us all drool. I really want to work with them, and a newer local Chicago history company called HistoryIT.
AHA has me learning new things literally faster than I can understand them, almost. Although I found the grad student reception and had my Sprite, I’m not good with small talk unless I know a person there or unless I have an “in” somewhere. That was not the case, so I decided not to use time awkwardly and went down to the Exhibit Booths by lovely accident of needing a printed program. The woman at the University of Minnesota tech booth probably thought that I had a few screws loose as I tried elucidating, and my mind began wrapping around concepts faster than my speech allowed extrapolation of what I wanted to do with the information. This stuff is hot metal, and the flow of it makes possible Web 3.0 convergence into 4.0. Maybe that’s going beyond borders of my current tech knowledge, and if the analogy is off, don’t sue me. But yes, I’m in love with digital tech. Speaking with a better friend from the department last semester, I learned that I absolutely adore talking history tech. I have to know more about it, and I have to manipulate data and play with it. I have things to do with it, and this semester is Digital Media. I REALLY hope that I get to play with some of this stuff, or even create it. Ah, l’amour. Flirtatious rush of digital technology used in ways that I need it to work for my future employment. Thinking about digital historical applications feels like thinking about kissing, but none of the parts of the relationship where one has no idea what the other person is thinking or times when you can’t read the other person. Easiest relationship to have is with one’s research? Maybe not. I wouldn’t know. I need to go to Iowa next year for THATCamp 2013. It’s not that far away geographically speaking. And since it will take me longer to finish both Masters than some people, I’ll be around for it as far as I can tell. Must keep up with the Twitter feeds on the topic as well.
I am in love with learning quickly, with learning everything I can as fast as I can, and I feel like I can’t drink it in quickly enough. I am behind when it comes to programming knowledge, but I need to catch up. I have to and can catch up. Just need to know where to go, what to do, and how to plunge on in. Wondering if it is possible to get the Comp Sci minor. Should have done it in undergrad. It is how history and the rest of life are all moving. I need to create the app and then test it out in alpha using my FB friends network. Ask and ye shall receive once it’s developed. I think that I need to talk to a relative who is a super-programmer and/or talk to the best guys in my department for this, IF they will respond. We’ll see how this goes.
Must get sleep before tomorrow morning’s tech session! And I noticed that there are exactly three papers that have anything to do with family history at this conference. And exactly one session on anything to do with traumatology or thanatology. Also met a really nice retired professor who taught at University of Puget Sound in Chinese history. She was great. Current experience is that professors are more likely to show interest in your topic than fellow students, and I could tell that this woman was incredibly smart. Wow, what a brain. And not in the Spock logic-no emotion. She was passionate about her topic, and I just wanted to smile because passion is infectious, beautiful, and possibly dangerous. But what a rush! In the meantime, *sigh* I feel like a step-cousin in my field. As concerns family history, here’s to breaking new ground with a pick axe!
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