Talk session: The Ethics of Underground Access to Texts

How can we think of access to texts on ‘underground’ sites that host PDFs of print publications in productive ways? I’m interested in having an open discussion on what it means to engage in the open/not-so-open digital access movement (see the DIY scanning movement at, for example) as theologians.

Talk Session: Intellectual Authority and Online Sources

I’d like to propose a session that has two interrelated levels. One, how do we teach students to navigate between good and dubious sources of theological information on the web? Is there a hierarchy of resources (and can we identify those resources, and the considerations in making such a list)?

Secondly, this is a session on what it means to shape and participate in academic theological conversations. What I mean by this is that my Facebook, Twitter, and feedly feeds are often filled with interesting (non-academic) articles that are either explicitly theological or have theological implications. I often feel the pressure to keep up with these articles in order to be part of an ongoing conversation, but often end up using Pocket or Evernote to read them in the (conceivable) future. Meanwhile theological conversations held in more traditional forums continue. How do these intersect, if at all? My question comes from the sense that online publishing speeds up theological conversations and blurs lines between academic and non-academic, theological and non-theological, and makes it difficult to adjudicate how we should focus our energy in our scholarship (which, in our guild, encourages us to still publish in peer-reviewed journals and books).

In my mind, these two questions are related in the sense that they are related to the question of intellectual authority, and how the speed of online publishing and ease of access is changing that in the sense that many different levels of authority are conversant at once. As a result, what are the advantages or disadvantages in terms of actively engaging in online conversations (regarding intellectual authority)? What is lost, and what is gained? And what does it mean to cultivate a critical, theological mindset that is able to navigate between the different levels of intellectual authority that are present on the internet?

Note: I see that there is a talk session already on the digital commons, so there may be overlap, and I’m fine if we fold the questions of this session into that. Thanks!

After THATCamp is the Afterparty

Please join fellow campers for drinks and dinner at 5:15 at Fairweather/Rare Form. Continue the conversation or start new ones. Join us for a drink even if you’ve got dinner plans!

Fairweather is an rooftop bar with a great view and lots of comfortable seating. Rare Form is a delicatessen just below. Sip cocktails at Fairweather or have a craft beer while you order snacks or a sandwich from the deli. Getting there couldn’t be easier. Fairweather/Rare Form is located at 793 J St, San Diego, CA 92101. Simply head down 5th Ave until you get to J Street. Then hang a right and Rare Form is a few block down on the right.
Just in case, here’s a map:
Rare Form Map

See you there!

Play Session: Free and Open Source!

Want to learn more about how to detach your digital life from big companies and do your work with free, community-built software? Come to this session to learn from one another about what free and open-source software is, how it gets made, how you can use it, and why we should bother learning about it. We’ll compare notes on the tools we use, the tricks we’ve learned, and the questions we’re wondering about. We’ll also have fun with the tools we have, and help each other find and install new ones.

The WordPress Basics session is a great companion to this as well.

Talk Session: Religions and the Commons

The notion of the commons, with roots in medieval European law and the practices of religious cultures around the world, is experiencing a revival in the digital age. Open-source software, Creative Commons licenses, community-generated wikis, and social-media networks are all serving to reacquaint people with commoning in new ways. And many of the most pressing debates about technology today—such as those relating to surveillance, pollution, and the future of publishing—are, fundamentally, debates about the commons. And this is no mere metaphor; as a growing body of historical and sociological scholarship shows, commoning is a kind of economic system in its own right—distinct from state and market, and often obscured from view. In particular, there has been little discussion of what the commons has to do with religion, though the commons is implicit in many of our most fundamental questions: Who has access to religious knowledge, and knowledge about religion? How do practitioners govern their own traditions through their practice? How do religious practices manage economic behavior?

This discussion will include a brief introduction to the notion of the commons—both as an economic theory and as a prized concept in contemporary tech culture. We will then have an open discussion about the commons in our digital lives, our research, our teaching, and our culture. Open questions include:

  • What does the concept of the commons add to the study of religion, online and offline?
  • Where do we see practices of commoning on the Internet and in our research subjects?
  • How can we incorporate more commons-based practices into our scholarship?

WordPress Basics

This session will give a basic understanding of WordPress as a content management platform, how to use it, set up your own blog or class website, and add content. We will also cover vs. as well as how to select a WordPress theme and set up and register a unique domain name. Attendees will have hands-on practice and plenty of opportunities to ask question about the new WordPress dashboard. At the end of this MAKE session, you too will be a blogger/web site creator!

Technical Requirements: Attendees should bring a laptop and come with an idea for a project to start building during this session. We will be working with the latest version of WordPress (4.0).

Make Session: Choose Your Own Religious History

Christianity was destined to become a dominant religion, wasn’t it? Zoroastrianism is fated to disappear, isn’t it? As Religious Studies scholars, we know that a variety of factors influence the emergence and development of religious traditions. Yet, situated in the present, our students often think that the current states of religions were inevitable. They often have difficulty conceptualizing the inherent complexity within religious traditions. This coming spring, I intend to use interactive fictions to help my undergraduate students think about the emergence of Christianity and the various ways it would have been perceived by individuals in the ancient world. In this session, I propose that we experiment with this genre. Let’s make our own interactive fiction and consider the pedagogical possibilities and limitations that this genre has for the study of the history of religions. We will be using the program inklewriter ( to construct our story, but the topic of our story and its overarching message will be up to the participants. We could write an interactive history about a religious event in the past, create a tutorial about how to perform a common research task, or construct a fictional account about something else entirely. The choice will be up to us. Come join me!

Talk Session: Does Religious Studies Need Its Own Hashtag?

Full disclosure: I love Twitter. But, unfortunately, the social media platform hasn’t caught on as much amongst religious studies scholars as it has in other fields. For example, there is an entire #twitterstorians hashtag devoted to historians on twitter. To be sure, there are many religious studies scholars on Twitter and more and more joining all the time. But I don’t see the field as a whole taking advantage of the possibilities of twitter. So, for this session I’d like to discuss how and why folks are using Twitter as religious studies scholars now and brainstorm how we might use it in the future. Tied up in this, following the Salaita affair, are questions of when private life and academic persona begin and end and issues of academic freedom. Do we need a #twitterstorians equivalent? How could the AAR be more proactive in its use of social media? What should be the best practices for Twitter use by faculty? How might departments use Twitter? What about using it in the classroom? Or could we improve the way it’s used at the annual meeting (and avoid the ridiculous hashtag debacles of years past)?

If folks are game, I’d also like to turn the discussion into a chance to draft some concrete documents. Perhaps a proposal of best practices for using Twitter at the Annual Meeting or recommendations for how departments or faculty should use Twitter.

proposed questions for That camp from a Newbie

For those that are experienced in using technology in the classroom and as the classroom, what do you know now that you wish you had known as you and your institution were embarking on its first online courses?
I am interested in learning about the positive and negative experiences that other teachers and students are having with online and hybrid courses. I am particularly interested in the pedagogical issues that arise, as well as the issues directly related to the technology.

Final Workshop Preview: Introduction to Omeka

Last year’s THATCamp featured a wonderful hands on workshop on how to use Omeka, an open source content management system that also functions as a digital exhibit publisher. Based on the success of this workshop, we’ve decided to run it again. So on Friday, from 1-2:30 in a room TBD, I (Chris Cantwell) will be leading a workshop introducing everyone to the basics of using Omeka both for research and teaching. I’m posting the abstract from last year’s workshop, which was run by Amanda French.

These days, any scholar or organization is almost certain to have a collection of digital material from research and teaching: scanned texts, digital images, original syllabi, even historic songs, oral histories, or digital video. Omeka is a simple, free system built by and for scholars and cultural heritage professionals that will help you publish and interpret such digital material online in a scholarly way so that it’s available for researchers, students, and the public in a searchable online database integrated with attractive online essays and exhibits. In this introduction to Omeka, we’ll look at a few of the many examples of Omeka websites built by archives, libraries, museums, and individual scholars and teachers; define some key terms and concepts related to Omeka; learn about the Dublin Core metadata standard for describing digital objects; and go over the difference between the hosted version of Omeka at and the self-hosted version of Omeka at Participants will also learn to use Omeka themselves through hands-on exercises, so please *bring a laptop* (not an iPad). Learn more about Omeka at and