Overview and Goals
The Bamboo Planning Process began in April 2008, and engaged over six hundred participants representing more than one hundred institutions of higher education in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Quoting from the 2010 funding proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that emerged from that process:
During the past two decades, the development of technology has created a wealth of new possibilities for research, scholarly communications, and teaching within the broad academic realm that includes the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences. [...]
In trying to create technology to meet [...] research needs, scholars have often invested time and money in creating software that will work well for their project but may be difficult for anyone else to use. These one-off projects yield limited returns on the time and funding invested in them. Although librarians and technology specialists are capable of helping, they are often uncertain where their investment of time and resources would do the most to help humanities scholars, and so the scholars often spend more time on solving technology problems than on addressing research questions. Meanwhile, these one-off applications are difficult to sustain and often prove to have short lives.
This is an ideal time at which to confront these challenges because the past decade has seen technological innovation that can now be harnessed to meet them. For example, cutting-edge work in the information sciences allows software developers to create reusable services that can support individual humanities projects across many institutions and link hundreds of scattered digital collections. And technologists are finding new ways to operate these services in a web cloud, allowing a small consortium of institutions to meet the needs of many thousands of users around the world. The time is right to harness these new technologies to meet the specific needs of the humanities.
Recognizing that no single institution can carry out this mission by itself, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided a major planning grant to fund Project Bamboo, a multi-institutional collaborative initiative to guide the creation of shared, interoperable tools, services, and content to meet the real needs of humanities researchers. The present proposal emerges from an 18-month planning process that drew together over 600 humanists, technologists, and librarians from 115 institutions to address the question, “How can we enhance research in the humanities through the development of shared technology services?”
From a series of eight focused workshops, a consortium of partner institutions has emerged. These institutions are ready to invest in technology to advance inquiry in the humanities. The Bamboo consortium is committed to several basic principles:
- Bamboo will address needs of humanities scholars.
- It will help to create shareable, reusable, and sustainable tools and services.
- It will foster the interoperability of technology and content.
- It will capitalize on existing technology and content, introducing new ways to connect, mix, and share.
- Its goals will be met collaboratively by a range of universities, colleges, and other organizations.
- It will create and sustain an upward spiral of communication among humanities scholars, technologists, and librarians.
The first phase of a proposed three-year effort to develop technology aligned to the principles enumerated above began in October 2010, and was known internally as phase one of the Bamboo Technology Project (BTP). Quoting again from the BTP's proposal, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation:
This 18-month project is the first phase of a proposed three-year project. Over a three-year period, we aim to create two sets of applications that will directly support the research and teaching of large number of scholars in the humanities. “Bamboo Work Spaces” and “Bamboo Corpora Space” will meet needs that were identified during the planning process as core needs for scholarship in the humanities. The first will provide basic and easy-to-use tools for managing and analyzing content; it will serve a wide range of individual researchers and groups of scholars. The second will allow individuals or groups to work on dispersed digital corpora using a range of sophisticated curatorial, analytic, and visualization tools and services.
These applications will be supported by two shared infrastructure projects that will help technologists who work with researchers in the humanities. The first infrastructure project will be the development of an evolving set of scholarly web services on a services platform that will help technologists create and support a wide range of tools for scholarship. The second will be the adoption and dissemination of standards and services for interoperability. Together, these infrastructure projects will enable IT organizations, libraries, and digital-humanities projects to leverage one another’s accomplishments while ensuring that the world’s ever-increasing store of digital resources will be easy for researchers in the humanities to access and analyze.
Cataloging Digital Tools for Humanities Scholarship
Among the interests most strongly expressed by participants in the Bamboo Planning Project was a means of sharing information about digital tools, services, techniques, and recommendations across disciplinary, institutional, and international borders. Though focus on a registry of tools, services, and content was a modest element of proposed work in the Bamboo Technology Project, the registry that emerged from a collaboration between the DiRT (Digital Research Tools) wiki and Project Bamboo – currently deployed as Bamboo DiRT at http://dirt.projectbamboo.org/ – has garnered significant interest and uptake. This work is described in this documentation on and linked from the page Cataloging Digital Tools for Humanities Scholarship - Bamboo DiRT.
Interoperability of Digital Collections
Scholars who work with digital content from multiple repositories identified the heterogeneous formats used by those repositories as a barrier to efficient research workflows. This drove Bamboo’s efforts to develop a model for ‘normalizing’ the presentation of content from diverse repositories – without sacrificing the formats and detailed metadata specific to any given repository – in order to facilitate scholars’ use of digital tools for collecting, analyzing, and manipulating that content. This work, with emphasis on the implementation of a Collections Interoperability Hub (CI Hub) is described on and linked from the page Interoperability of Digital Collections.
Proxied Access to Remotely Hosted Tools for Scholarship
Using a common RESTful service interface with a shared Identity and Access Management (IAM) framework (see below) for a variety of distinct tools, computation resources, and storage services simplifies the process of integrating those functionalities into new applications and virtual research environments. Use of common services also delegates responsibility for operating technology away from humanities research groups, and enables library and central information technology organizations on campuses to support scholarship with their specialized expertise. Bamboo developed a service interface and common IAM framework, and implemented it initially in support of a small number of tools for textual analysis. The high-level architecture, goals, and service development accomplishments in this area of Bamboo Technology Project work are described on the page Proxied Access to Remotely Hosted Tools for Scholarship, and in the Service APIs linked from that page.
Research Environments to Store, Manipulate, and Manage Digital Content
Team members conducted usability studies on, extended, and integrated open-source platforms built to manage and/or manipulate digital content. These platforms included HUBzero, Alfresco ECM, Drupal, and the OpenSocial framework. HUBzero and Drupal platforms were integrated with centrally-hosted BSP services; Alfresco ECM was integrated with an institutional archive (the California Digital Library's Merritt Repository) ; and the OpenSocial framework was explored in conjunction with SURFnet. These efforts resulted in production of significant bodies of reusable code, such as a CMIS interface for the Fedora Commons repository, and implementation of the ACL (permissions) aspect of the CMIS specification in Apache Chemistry v0.5. In addition, usability studies at UC Berkeley led to production deployment of Alfresco ECM as an institutionally-supported production service, dubbed Research Hub. The term "Work Spaces" was used within the Bamboo Technology Project to name this broad area of software development and integration.
In overview, this area of work is described on the page Research Environments to Store Manipulate and Manage Digital Content, from which documentation on aspects of these efforts are linked. A description of the user interface built to access collections brokered by the Collections Interoperability Hub described above, can be found on the page User Experience - Repository Browser - Local Fedora Objects. The architecture in which that user interface was deployed is described on the page Tool integrations in Research Environments, along with architecture and implementation details about user interfaces built for access to remotely hosted tools for scholarship (also described above).
Identity and Access Management
The initial phase of the Bamboo Technology Project addressed the need for identity-related functionality to support humanist scholars' interest in cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional, and international collaboration, with proper records of scholarly provenance and appropriate credit for collaborative contribution. This work resulted in a suite of services to provide identity and access management (IAM), often discussed in terms of the closely tied capabilities for Authentication (AuthN) and Authorization (AuthZ). Work in this area is described in overview on the page Identity and Access Management - Authentication and Authorization, with additional detail linked from there.
Curation of Digital Materials: planning for future development
A key deliverable of the first phase of the Bamboo Technology Project was a faculty-driven roadmap for further development in a second phase. Though funding was not forthcoming for the proposed second phase of work, we have collected and summarized key documents from the planning activities for building textual curation functionality atop the foundations built during the first phase of the Bamboo Technology Project. These can be found on and/or are linked from the page Curation of Digital Materials - planning for future development.
Notes for future developers
Some of the work defined in the efforts described above is expected to be carried forward independently by partners to the Bamboo Technology Project and others. To this end, a set of architecture documents, service APIs, and HowTo recipes are organized under the page Centrally-Hosted Bamboo Services - Development-Deployment-Invocation. It is worth noting that the architecture of the Collections Interoperability Hub is located separately, on the page Collection Interoperability Hub (CI Hub) architecture and implementation.
On this documentation and additional on-line artifacts of Project Bamboo
Finally, links to the project's codebase, issue tracker, and archival materials can be found on the page Links to Project Bamboo on-line artifacts. A documentation FAQ may provide additional avenues into the materials collected here. A hyperlinked outline of pages included in this final documentation set can be found on the page List of Documentation Pages.