The idea for the DHBus started as a joke. Devon Elliot had asked me if I had thought of driving from London to Lincoln, Nebraska for the DH 2013 conference that we were both hoping to attend, in order to save the money that the flights would cost us. Chatting on Gmail, we looked up the distance (1460 km) and the approximate time it would take (13 hours 47 minutes) and decided that, if we could get a couple more people to share the cost of gas and hotels, it would be worth it. As we were thinking about who to invite, I mentioned to Devon that I would love to have a bus to fill up with people along the way to Nebraska, and he (jokingly) encouraged me, saying it would be a good addition to my research project, DiggingDH.
Well, let’s just say I don’t need a lot of encouragement when it comes to crazy ideas. On March 8th, Western held the Technology in Education Symposium, and I spent some of my afternoon chatting to Ryan Hunt and Beth Compton, who enthusiastically agreed that the DHBus needed to happen – and that they were willing to help out. Devon showed up later that day, bemused at my attempts to make the bus a reality, but also willing to help if we could all get to Nebraska. So, Ryan and I started looking into renting a bus – cost of which was about $9000 plus an additional driver for the week. Then Ryan mentioned that buying a bus was actually quite a bit cheaper…
So, we met and thought things through, or at least started to. We thought it would be great to purchase a bus (a 16 seater), find a driver (or get ourselves new licenses), get to Nebraska for DH 2013 and do some hacking/making along the way. As Devon has said to me since, we will be testing the idea that DH really can be ‘placeless’ – that creativity and collaboration can make things happen regardless of space and place. However, the big question was, what were we going to do with a bus, once we returned to London? We contemplated donating the bus to someone (by this point we had worked out that we were going to attempt to crowdsource the funds for this project, more about that later today) and wanted the bus to go ‘to the greater good’ – not simply be a vehicle for getting us to a conference. Then we thought, perhaps we could do something a little more ‘DH-y’, and we came up with the idea of making a mobile maker-space for the London community!
The following week we had one of our monthly DH Off Campus meetings – most of the people there had heard me going on about the DHBus by this point, but things started to roll when we all got talking. Needless to say, most people present thought it was an insane idea at first, but once we started to throw around ideas about bringing the bus home and revamping it, the possibilities seemed endless. We now had ten people with a solid interest in the project, whose help we could rely on in various forms, to see the DHBus become a reality.
Ryan immediately started a fantastic social media campaign – one which we are all hoping you will follow with interest. I started recruiting people for the bus, sending out the word to local companies, preparing ideas for conference presentations and give-aways. Devon solved what could have been a hugely difficult part of the project and put us in contact with Titus Ferguson from UnLondon, a non-profit organization which has goals and ideas which are very similar to those we wanted to pursue in our project. Titus kindly agreed to work with us to see the DHMakerBus get rolling.
So – here we stand. It’s April 8th, Day of DH 2013 (or it will be by the time you read this) and we are asking you to help spread the word and get us to Nebraska and back – so we can experience the DH conference and come back, ready to grow our team and invest in a project to inspire change in London’s community. We want to hear your ideas, and will be inviting you to participate in as many parts of the project as possible.
We know its a risk. We are aware that we might fail. But oh boy, are we gonna have fun trying!
Ways to join in: Follow us on Twitter at @DHMakerBus or #getonthebus, or like our Facebook page. If you are a Digital Humanist looking for a ride to Nebraska, and are located somewhere close to the route pictured below, give us the heads up and we’ll come get you. Act fast though, seats are going quickly!