I somehow agreed to do two lightning talks in two weeks, so if you’re in the Detroit area you have two chances to hear me speak fast for 5 minutes.  Brevity is the soul of wit, and since I love twitter so much, this is a neat way to twitterize my academic talks.

This Thursday, 2/25, at the Anderson Theater in front of the Dymaxion House at the Henry Ford Museum, I’ll be speaking at Pecha Kucha Night Detroit, which we’re hosting in conjunction with our new design exhibit.  I’m talking about my job, basically, and different ways of thinking about “connecting to people through technology,” including our ham radio collections.

Then, next Thursday, 3/4, at the Blau Auditorium at the U of Mich business school, I’m participating in Ignite Ann Arbor.  I’ll be talking about mechanical television and our guy C. Francis Jenkins.


Folks, please apply to this awesome unconference that I’m helping to organize–and of which archaeologist, serious games expert, and all around instigator Ethan Watrall is the mastermind.  Applications due 2/10!

Announcing Great Lakes THATCamp

Held on the campus of Michigan State University on March 20th and 21st, Great Lakes THATCamp (The Humanities And Technology Camp) is a user-generated “unconference” on digital humanities originally inspired by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University.

At THATCamp 2009, CHNM floated the idea of holding regional camps around the country, an idea that quickly took hold, leading to events in Austin, Texas (THATCamp Austin) Washington state (THATcamp Pacific Northwest), Columbus, OH (THATCamp Columbus) as well as planned events in California (THATCamp SoCal), and Paris (THATCamp Paris).

Who Should Attend?

Anyone interested in studying, supporting, teaching, researching, creating or otherwise shaping digital humanities, humanistic social sciences, information sciences, new media, and any other allied fields.
You can be an academic, a librarian, an archivist, a developer, a writer, a student (grad or undergrad), a curator, a designer, an educator, a public historian, an archaeologist, an independent scholar, or any combination thereof (as most of us are). You can be an expert or a newbie; as long as you have something to talk about and things you want to learn regarding the intersection and integration of the humanities and technology, this is the place to be. The list of “who should attend” is as broad as the field of “digital humanities” itself.

So, No Suits, No Papers…What Do You do?

Show, tell, collaborate, share, and walk away inspired. Sessions at Great Lakes THATCamp will range from software demos to training sessions to discussions of research findings to half-baked rants. The only real thing we don’t want to see is people standing up and reading a full blown paper, this isn’t your typical academic conference – we’re not here to read or be read to.

Submitting a Proposal

Submitting a proposal to Great Lakes THATCamp is easy. Just fill out the form on the website (http://greatlakesthatcamp.org). No formal (lengthy) proposal is required – just a brief description of what you would like to talk about. Unfortunately, we can only accept a max of 75 people, so we’re going to have to do some vetting. Deadline for submitting is February 10th, 2010.

Hacking Wearables and E-Textiles Workshop

In addition to sessions, Great Lakes THATCamp will be hosting a “Hacking Wearables & E-Textiles Workshop.” Organized by Bill Turkel and Beth Nowviskie, the workshop will allow participants will play with components like the Lilypad Arduino (http://web.media.mit.edu/~leah/LilyPad), a tiny computer that can be sewn into clothing, stuffed toys, textiles and other craft items to create soft, interactive devices that are ‘high-touch’ as well as high tech. The workshop is intended for people of all skill levels – so no prior experience is required.

The workshop will be limited to those who are attending Great Lakes THATCamp (and only 20 people max). So, if you are interested in participating, just fill out the relevant sections of the form when you submit your Great Lakes THATCamp application.

How Much Does Great Lakes THATCamp Cost?

THATCamp isn’t your average academic conference, so you aren’t going to have to pay an expensive conference registration fee. All we ask is that all attendees pay $25 to cover meals (attendees will be provided breakfast & lunch during the event), as well as a t-shirt to commemorate the event.

For more information on Great Lakes THATCamp, go to http://greatlakesthatcamp.org. Any questions can be sent directly to Ethan Watrall (watrall@msu.edu)

I’ve been having a busy fall; you can see some of the results on the museum’s blog and some will be announced later.  I’ll be making the rounds of some fall conferences, so here’s the details:

10/15 (this Thursday):  I’ll be poking my head in at the Michigan Museums Association conference in Ann Arbor before heading on the road to Pittsburgh

10/15 to 10/17 In Pittsburgh for the Society for the History of Technology conference .  My session is bright and early on Friday morning.


8.30-10 AM

3.   Web 2.0 and the History of Technology

Chair: Sheldon Hochheiser (IEEE History Center)

Commentator: Thomas J. Misa (Charles Babbage Institute)

Organizers: Michael N. Geselowitz (IEEE History Center) and Thomas J. Misa (Charles Babbage Institute)

Stephanie H. Crowe (Charles Babbage Institute): Experimenting with Web 2.0 at the Charles Babbage Institute

Suzanne Fischer (The Henry Ford): The History Museum as Communication Platform

Michael N. Geselowitz (IEEE History Center): The IEEE Global History Network

10/21 I’ll be attending TEDx Detroit, along with my THF colleague Eric Reasons.

11/5 to 11/7 In St Louis for the Association of Moving Image Archivists conference.  Yes, I’m clearly not a moving image archivist, but I’m excited to have been asked to speak on an awesome panel about open media and to bring lessons from public history to moving image archives colleagues.

Saturday, November 7

10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
The Problem of Open Media

Jack Brighton – Illinois Public Media

Peter Kaufman – Intelligent Television, Inc.
Rick Prelinger – Prelinger Library & Archives
Suzanne M. Fischer- The Henry Ford
Karl Fogel – QuestionCopyright.org

The term ‘Open Media’ has gained currency with the explosion of online archives. Some media collections are open for people to download, share, mashup, and reuse. Others seek to prevent their works from being copied. To the extent that there is an “open media community,” it envisions a large and active public media commons, providing global access to historical, cultural, and other materials relevant, and in many cases vital, to the public interest. Meanwhile, copyright and intellectual property laws add layers of confusion and conflicting interests, while new technologies make controlling and monetizing media problematic for all concerned. How might we solve the problem of open media? This session will address some of the obstacles and opportunities, and suggest new business models that allow content to breathe freely while still paying the rent. We’ll also discuss the role of the archivist as key to an open media future.

I spent the weekend in Grand Rapids, where I was a judge for Michigan History Day.  Michigan History Day is much less of a production, and a bit more subterranean, than in Minnesota.* There were also many fewer younger folks serving as judges (perhaps a consequence of it being in West Michigan this year?); also, many of the judges seemed to be K-12 educators.  

This year’s theme was The Individual in History, which lent itself to biographies, mostly, but I learned about some interesting folks, like the awesome Merze Tate (who, somewhat shamefully, none of us judges had ever heard of before), and Zelma Watson George.  I was judging Youth Exhibits, and the fourth and fifth graders did some great research and were very passionate about their projects and about primary sources. 

This was both the most exciting part about History Day and the most frustrating.  Everyone, even the 9 and 10 year olds, needed to consult primary sources in their research.  This, of course, required learning what a primary source is.  Sometimes it didn’t sink in; a student told us that their primary source was wikipedia, meaning the one they used most.  Ah well.  Unfortunately, this kind of discourse meant that I spent a decent amount of the morning defending wikipedia to my fellow judges.

As usual, I was energized and excited by the enthusiasm of these nascent public historians. 



*Backstory: History Day is like science fair for history; ages 9 up; I usually judge exhibits, which are three-fold posterboards like at science fairs.

A new state (for me), a new set of problems for historic and cultural organizations.  

The latest blow for Michigan’s cultural heritage communities is that in this week’s State of the State address, Gov. Granholm has proposed cutting the entire History, Arts and Libraries state department, the only department she proposed to eliminate.  She does support “finding other means to support these important functions,” but provided no details.   It’s unclear whether the departments in HAL would relocate to to other state departments or would be cut.  Certainly it would diminish the status of arts and culture on a state level, and possibly mean a decrease in grant funding, particularly for small libraries.

Another cut of interest to history folks is that of the Michigan State Fair, the nation’s oldest.  The governor said that the state would not provide the fair (or the UP fair in Escanaba) any funding at all in next year’s budget, and proposed selling the fairgrounds, on Woodward and Eight Mile in Detroit.  The fair’s director said they would look elsewhere for funding (though the major sponsors of the fair in the past have been GM and Chrysler), and proposals are floating up to move the fair to a more rural location.  Though the Michigan State Fair is not as large or prosperous as, say, the Minnesota State Fair, the Most Awesome Event Ever*, it’s definitely a valuable cultural and community event that deserves some smart thinking and preservation.

Also in Michigan history news, in the Feb 24 special election here in Detroit, otherwise known as this year’s first mayoral primary, there are several ballot proposals up for renewal, including the millage for Detroit history, culture and libraries.  I urge you to vote, and to vote yes on the cultural millage renewal.


*Which inspires me to do a Nina Simon-like post on What Museums Can Learn from the Minnesota State Fair.