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This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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Bamboo Commons information from v0.6 of the proposal

Draft 0.6 of the full proposal version can be found at

Summary v0.6

The Bamboo Commons will enable scholars (including researchers and instructors), artists, librarians, technologists, and others to identify and connect with each other based on self-defined profiles describing their work, methodologies, areas of interest, expertise, and history. Any participant may initiate or join communities-of-interest to focus interaction, discovery, contribution in the Commons; and to facilitate collaboration and exchange, within the Commons and beyond.

Connection and interaction includes interchange through multiple media formats, threaded discussion, and collaborative curation of structured description of scholarly practice. Interaction may be organized around any topic, and/or may focus on Commons elements that describe research, pedagogy, creative work, or cultural artifacts. Commons activity will be enabled, archived, interlinked, and made discoverable, providing a record that will itself inform assessment of technology's impact on the humanities.

Interaction focused around methodology, digital tools and services, and digital content will provide a forum for broad community engagement in design and evolution of technology that supports arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences. Through this engagement, scholarship will drive technical evolution and innovation, most directly impacting the Commons-facilitated evolution of services running on the Bamboo Services Platform.

The Commons will be designed to fit into platforms, systems, virtual research environments (VREs), and tools that provide the most natural and familiar avenues of digital engagement, whether those environments are local to an institution, specific to a disciplinary society, or unite diverse communities by providing functionality useful across traditional borders.

Commons participants will be able to identify, filter, and engage with a growing network of individuals and material through a variety of search and discovery methods, from keyword searches to algorithmically derived concepts, from association with communities of interest to characteristics of ratings and reviews contributed by trusted experts. Commons materials will include direct community contributions, seeded and incentivized by programs developed as part of Bamboo implementation, as well as valued stores of content harvested from or linked to repositories not associated or loosely affiliated with Bamboo.

Value v0.6

Researchers, teaching faculty, artists, and librarians will connect with each other and with technologists through the Bamboo Commons; and institutionally based teams will connect with rich networks of expertise. Humanists will be able to discover, analyze, and interpret shifting ideas about how practices, resources, and services can and should be organized and evolved, as these ideas will be both explicit and implicit in the Commons, and accessible to scholars whether they engage in technology-enabled practice or not.

Awareness: The Commons will function as a living library to surface scholarly method and practice by recording, preserving, and making available information that traces expression, discussion, and evaluation of the course of scholarship in the humanities. Leveraging user contributions as well as harvested and linked information from catalogs and registries maintained by others, communities of scholarship will find a rich venue for finding, assessing, choosing, and using technology in the Commons. Commons participants will gain tailored access to descriptions of practice and method, and pointers to methods, tools, and digital content applicable to the their interests. Ability to dynamically view and "mine" (use software to detect patterns in) evolving resources and analysis, and draw connections to broader contexts and categorizations, will help faculty, students, librarians, funders, institutional leaders, technical architects, and service developers to engage in and support humanities scholarship.

Connection: Humanists will connect across disciplinary, institutional, and international borders, assisted by shared and networked profile information and the ability to form communities of interest around any topic, as well as in relation to contribution, review, rating, and annotation of Commons content. Communities whose divergent tools for and modes of digital engagement would otherwise tend to isolate each in its own context will be connected by incorporation of Commons content and function into institutional or disciplinary platforms, as well as into social networking platforms and VREs.

Collaborative Design in Research, Pedagogy, and Creative Practice: Technologists will be informed of humanists' real-world needs by Commons content, while discussion, ratings, reviews, and citation provide direct feedback from scholars that will shape revision and evolution of technology services that support research, shape curricular change, and integrate categories of teaching and research.

Consideration of practice: Scholars will be empowered to assess technology's impact on the humanities by surfacing and analyzing usage patterns and shifts in modes of research and pedagogy that are recorded in the Commons. Funders and campus stakeholders will also be able to utilize this information as input to decisions for which they are responsible.

Description of Commons Core: Scholars and Scholarship

Individuals, groups, projects, and self-initiated communities-of-interest may add, import, or refer to profile information describing their work, methodologies, areas of interest, expertise, and history. Connection and interaction among these participants may include interchange through multiple media formats, threaded discussion, and/or collaborative curation of structured description of scholarly practice. A variety of search and discovery methods will enable participants to locate and filter a growing network of individuals and material. This broad set of core Bamboo Commons functionality may be described in greater detail in four categories: Profiles, Connection & Interaction, Elements of Scholarship, and Search & Discovery.

Profiles allow individuals and groups to identify and characterize themselves as participants in the Bamboo Commons. Richness and accuracy of profile information made public to Commons participants will enable and refine an ability to find and interact with each other based on reputation, trust, commonalities, and differences. Information in a Bamboo Commons profile will include research and teaching interests, institutional and organizational affiliations, publication citations, associations with other Bamboo Commons participants, and a searchable inventory of contributions to the Commons. Profile information will initially prioritize attributes that facilitate activity within the Bamboo Commons, but will broaden and deepen over time to include attributes and structured data of specialized use to particular communities, such as higher education institutions or disciplinary societies. Sources of profile information beyond individually-contributed material may include discipline-, institution-, or organization-centric platforms, and/or social networking sites or platforms on which a Commons participant is active; interchange (import and export) with such sites/platforms will be enabled through Bamboo Commons service APIs.

Connections & Interactions enable Commons participants to engage in forums on any topic of interest, whether as individuals, groups, or self-initiated communities-of-interest. Forums may be conducted as on-line discussion, multimedia interaction, or other exchange associated with topics, people, groups, projects, elements of scholarship recorded in the Bamboo Commons, or any citable object of interest (e.g., a journal article, monograph, performance, course, seminar, conference session, etc.).

*Elements of Scholarship* are methods of research and pedagogical scholarship in the humanities that are described in a scholar's voice; as well as descriptions of method and practice that are generalized as a sequential or recurring set of activities that orbit objects or events of interest such as texts, images, audio and video recordings, creation, performance, lectures, seminars, or archaeological artifacts. Pedagogy, as a mode of scholarship that includes teaching and learning, may itself focus on research methodology, practice, or history. Performance and other arts are inherently related to humanities scholarship, and may themselves be a form of analysis or commentary. Research, pedagogy, and performance may include the use of digital tools to automate, extend, or enhance activity in the arts and humanities. Reusable software services are a type of software that can be used by multiple digital tools to automate, extend, or enhance parts of scholarly activities without the burden of repeatedly programming the same or similar software. From actual practice in the voice of practitioners to technical descriptions of software services, the "elements of scholarship" describe a spectrum of humanist methodology and instruments used to effect it.

The Bamboo Commons will enable and record multimedia description and community curation of these elements of scholarship. "Narratives" will describe scholarship (research and pedagogy) and the arts in native voices, including those of researchers, teaching faculty, artists, and students. "Recipes" will generalize and group structured activities, the objects of those activities, and tools used to perform them. Services that support scholarly activity in a reusable way will be registered, described, and evaluated in forms appropriate to both those who use and those who develop and maintain them. Activities, objects of activity, tools, and services may also be described in the Commons independent of "recipes"; and may be described, discussed, reviewed, and rated at any point in their evolution so that the Commons may serve as a forum for community design of technology in support of scholarship. Community curation will include the ability to categorize, annotate, review, rate along multiple spectra, and discuss elements of scholarship and the community curation that has been performed upon it. Annotation will include association of notes, tags, links, and/or citations. Each element of scholarship and each artifact of curated activity will be citable as a permanent URL, facilitating a richly networked web of information, critical evaluation, and discussion among scholars, librarians, and technologists. The ecosystem of Commons material will be available under a Creative Commons license for analysis and interpretation of research, pedagogical, and arts practices, as well as of modes and patterns of interaction in and among communities of scholarship. The Bamboo Commons will also be designed to incorporate or reference catalogs or registries of method, practice, pedagogy, content, tools, and services maintained by projects and communities not associated or loosely affiliated with Bamboo. These aggregated or linked materials will be available for review, rating, and incorporation into "narratives" and "recipes" by Bamboo Commons participants.

Search & Discovery services will facilitate access to elements of scholarship, forums, and artifacts of community curation in the Commons. Search will be enabled based on key words, specific sequences of words, algorithmically derived concepts, and frequency of the occurrence of tags. Discovery of elements of interest will be enabled through filtering by association with or contribution by one or more communities of interest, trusted person(s), volume of Commons contribution, rated value of Commons contributions ("reputation"), disciplinary or pedagogical topic(s), content type(s), and/or language(s). An open programming interface (API) will enable the evolution of unanticipated discovery services and innovative uses of information in the Bamboo Commons. Translation services will render Commons information accessible across language boundaries.

Perspectives v0.6

To further illustrate these values, below are a number of perspectives contributed by those who took part in the Bamboo Planning Project.

Perspective: Tapping Rich Networks of Expertise

The Bamboo Commons will allow local teams of humanities faculty and libraries and IT staff to tap into a rich network of disciplinary-based expertise, to connect with and learn from faculty and staff at peer institutions and professional organizations, and to bring that new knowledge to benefit digital humanities initiatives and humanities research on home campuses.

- Deb Keyek-Franssen, Director, Academic Technology; University of Colorado, Boulder

Perspective: A Venue for Integrating Teaching and Research Categories

Digital humanities work doesn't divide neatly into teaching and research categories. Rosemary Feal notes in a recent Inside Higher Ed column that one of the exciting aspects of the new digital projects being created is that they advance scholarship and create teaching tools at the same time. The development of a growing body of scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) over the past decade helps us end the false dichotomy between teaching and research work. For digital humanities practitioners, teaching becomes the place where scholarship is practiced and modeled for students.

Digital humanities work, by its nature, focuses on multiple audiences: scholars, technologists, teachers and just as importantly, students (graduate and undergraduate). Moreover, while Project Bamboo will build appropriate digital humanities tools and resources to facilitate faculty and graduate student research, if we don't introduce those digital tools into classroom pedagogy and use them to improve teaching and learning, our audience will remain limited to a small portion of the higher education learning population. The way to overcome the false divide between teaching and research is to heighten the visibility of pedagogy within that equation.

We believe strongly that research and pedagogy should not be separated in Project Bamboo, but rather integrated, through the Commons, to take full advantage of the natural synergies that exist between the two functions and allow those synergies to emerge:

  • many basic technical needs and tools that are required for research and pedagogy in the digital arts and humanities are in fact the same;
  • by including pedagogy explicitly in Project Bamboo, we expand our pool of participants and increase the likelihood of creating a vital and engaged community that will maintain and expand the Commons' information and minimize confusion and dissipation of energy;
  • many arts and humanities faculty and graduate students are actively exploring the ways to take research principles and embed them into the classroom so that classes adopt a more active research agenda, including publishing the results of classroom activities and merging classroom practice with collaborative research projects.

The Bamboo Commons is the locus for the dissemination and discussion of related educational and curricular materials in the arts, humanities and interpretive social sciences that can help faculty, students, library and technology professionals, and others to integrate emerging digital content and tools into research, teaching, and public service. The Bamboo Commons can serve as a "Craigslist element" of sorts, to encourage individual scholars to discover and then share and improve on such pedagogical ideas and "services." Bamboo can then keep track of who is using the services and report on how that technology is being deployed for research, teaching, professional development, promotion, and grant proposals.

- Katherine Harris, Assistant Professor, English and Comparative Literature; San Jose State University
- Steve Brier, Senior Academic Technology Officer, Graduate School & University Center; City University of New York
- Jon McKenzie, Professor, English; University of Wisconsin at Madison
- Mark Williams, Professor, Media and Film Studies, Dartmouth College

Perspective: Collaboration Among and Between Learned Societies

The central focus of the learned society remains the pursuit of reliable knowledge and its effective communication within and without the society. Cyberinfrastructures expand the communicative modalities available to learned societies and their members. However, these same infrastructures threaten some of the most venerable revenue streams, emphasizing the importance of maximizing the return on investment in the digital realm. What learned societies need are at least interoperable, if not common, infrastructures that allow members to communicate and collaborate, in a trusted fashion, with other scholars, be they mutual members of the same society or in an adjacent field. By participating in a common technological ecosystem, learned societies can leverage their investment to give their members the tools and content they need to advance their own scholarship, and thus the impact of the society itself.

- John Laudun, Associate Director, Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism; Folklorist, Department of English; University of Louisiana, Lafayette

Perspective: Strategic Creation and Curation of Digitized Content

After fifteen years of digitization by libraries, museums, cultural heritage organizations and other content providers that has led to large-scale digitization partnerships, there is still a tremendous wealth of primary and secondary resources not yet digitized, or even processed to a degree that it is discoverable. Existing digital content is often difficult to discover, or made available through systems that may inhibit reuse and repurposing. However, these organizations, especially academic research libraries, will become more invested in supporting these communities of practice and their efforts to create and disseminate data. Their effective practice will depend upon the degree to which they are tightly integrated into the cluster of inter-institutional collaborations that enable the creation and use scholarly content. Going forward, stewards of these materials must make strategic investment choices about how they create and curate collections of digitized content, and those choices must be informed through a deep engagement with scholars in all disciplines.

The Bamboo Commons should provide content stewards with evidence of scholarly engagement with digital resources, elucidating current trends and cutting edge research in the digital humanities and social sciences. The Commons could identify communities of practice for which particular collections and services may have significant value and impact. The documentation of scholarly practices should also provide content stewards with insights that will assist them in designing and implementing services for the curation of digital humanities data, including the "refactoring" of content to work with tools and/or services supported by Bamboo. By using and contributing to the Commons, librarians, archivists, curators, and faculty may jointly discover opportunities for local collaboration that draw upon and contribute back to developments within the wider Bamboo community. Perhaps most significantly, the Commons could provide content stewards with an avenue for direct collaboration with members of the Bamboo Community to support the development of additional contextual materials or other value-adds to their existing collections.

- Mike Furlough, Assistant Dean for Scholarly Communications, University Libraries; Pennsylvania State University

Perspective: Finding, Assessing, Choosing, and Using Technology

The Bamboo Commons will help faculty and students find tools to (1) do what they want to do in their scholarly activities and lives (whether research, teaching, learning, service, engagement, networking, or publication); (2) then assess each tool in terms of its functions, how broadly it is used in general, how extensively it used/being developed/being supported specifically within their peer micro-communities (locally, nationally, internationally, within institutions, disciplines, etc.), what the strengths/weaknesses of each tool are, and various use scenarios for its utility; and (3) finally of course to actually choose a tool based upon the preceding and get as much information, support, and guidance as they can for their use of that tool.

- David Germano, Associate Professor and Director, Tibetan Himalayan Library; Director, Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts Network of Technological Initiatives (SHANTI); University of Virginia

Perspective: Surfacing Scholarly Method and Practice

[...] Commons artifacts serve to document and help us learn about the range of scholarly problems, methods and practices that are typical for arts/humanities/interpretive social sciences faculty, including the language they use, the kinds of content they work with, the types of tools they use or might benefit from, the actual activities that comprise their work, and the like. This education for those of us new to trying to support the needs of that community is most helpful, and helps us better support our faculty by understanding typical needs and processes, helping us bring to bear resources from other departments or institutions or disciplines, helping us plan for shared campus needs, helping to plan for new Library services and resources, and so forth. It lets us avoid starting from scratch in providing solutions to expressed needs.

A related value for IT and Library is it fosters a dialog with the faculty that may not have occurred prior to the campus involvement with Bamboo, it brings new connections and opportunities for partnership, it helps local faculty and institute/center directors and deans and the like see that they have an on-campus partner who cares about their problems and their general lack of resources to support their technology needs [...].

- Jim Muehlenberg, Assistant Director for Academic Technology; University of Wisconsin at Madison

Perspective: Informing and Shaping Curricular Change

A curriculum is a structure that emerges under the demands of the educational institution at the interface of faculty knowledge-building, student learning abilities, and a society's broad consensus of what constitutes education. The competing demands of all three domains - faculty, students, and the society at large - are negotiated through processes of curricular innovation and refinement. The Bamboo Commons can assist in curricular change by providing a documented map of the migration from experiment to consensus of tools, methodologies, skills, and knowledge forms.

As computing technologies have spread throughout cultural forms, all three stakeholders in the educational process have sought curricular changes that respond to what they see as the most important elements of these technologies. As faculty increasingly utilize computing in their own research, they change the tools and topics of their courses to integrate new skills and knowledge structures. [...] The Bamboo Commons will provide case studies of curricular innovation that faculty can use to evaluate changes contemplated for their own institutions.

Students create the need for curricular innovation as they arrive with sets of learning skills and expectations that vary from those of previous generations. The ubiquity of cell phones has necessarily challenged traditional classroom practices like quizzes and tests. Or more significantly, students more comfortable with image-based forms like film are also increasingly challenged by the demands of writing in traditional essay forms. Pedagogical practices discussed within Project Bamboo will be catalogued and made available by the Commons to those seeking to improve classroom practices to benefit student achievement.

The rapid impress of computing technologies on the practices of daily life have increased the public demand for computing and technology skills to become a standard part of education. Public demands give rise to "top-down" modes of curricular change, such as the current imperative to integrate assessment practices into all levels of the curriculum, or the "computer literacy" initiatives undertaken by so many state governments. The Bamboo Commons will aggregate the narratives of many different actors within the various phases of such top-down changes, allowing for shared experiences to inform ways of implementing such imperatives in ways that are educationally sound and genuinely beneficial.


In sum, the Bamboo Commons will allow users to seek out, aggregate, and annotate the various primary contents - stories, recipes, tools, and services - to highlight the ways that humanities computing affects curricular innovation and refinement. Ideally, research on humanities computing in curricula will utilize such resources, and in turn be evaluated by the Bamboo community and returned to the pool of resources to become a part of the continuing development of the field of humanities computing.

- Claiborne Rice, Assistant Professor, English; University of Louisiana, Lafayette

Perspective: Consideration of practice

Scholarly practice in the arts and the humanities has developed over centuries and includes a rich array of theoretical frameworks to guide inquiry and analysis, research methodologies, and pedagogy. Project Bamboo is about supporting and transforming these scholarly practices in the arts and humanities. Practice is often unarticulated, tacit knowledge, embedded in both thinking and doing. Through the Commons, humanities scholars will be empowered and encouraged to reflect on, articulate, and interrogate the rich methodological and pedagogical practices represented in humanities scholarship. This dialog about how the work is done, its important goals, and salient characteristics will facilitate collaborative and iterative work among scholars and computer scientists to design technologies that better scaffold arts and humanities research practices through data analysis tools or content dissemination as well as enable new methodologies to be applied in these fields. Revealing the array of practices will also bolster collaboration and interdisciplinary inquiry and teaching among diverse disciplines in the arts and humanities.

As well as documenting and exposing current practice, scholars will be able to use the Commons to monitor the transformation of that practice. This will enable the impact of Project Bamboo tools and systems to be studied to better understand which technologies are best suited for Bamboo-style design and deployment. It would also open up a wider interrogation of (changes in) research and pedagogical practices in the humanities as well as the economic and social structures surrounding that work. This form of self-evaluation of the Bamboo process could be studied through analyses of activities in the Commons, e.g., analysis of usage patterns, or by tracking adoption and diffusion of Bamboo tools and services. Network analysis of the Project Bamboo virtual spaces could also yield information about the nature of participants and their participation in different parts of the Bamboo community (developers, humanities scholars, content providers). Funders and campus stakeholders will be able analyze these data as input to decisions for which they are responsible. For example, funders supporting the creation or use of Bamboo tools and services might use citations of those tools and services as a metric for impact. Or, campus stakeholders, such as librarians, could use these data to become more attuned to the format and types of content needed by humanities scholars for more robust analysis or librarians could work with humanities scholars to ensure that the products of their work can be preserved for later reuse.

- Elizabeth Yakel, Associate Professor, School of Information; University of Michigan

Perspective: A Venue for Community Design

In the original proposal to Mellon for the Project Bamboo planning project, "community design" was returned to numerous times. In the context of the envisioned interplay of scholarly networking and institutional consortium there is the opportunity for "community design" to take on a new character. The opportunity is to establish a complete software lifecycle in which a highly multidisciplinary community fully participates in all aspects of the lifecyle. The full participation is crucial to the success of the development and deployment of a cyberinfrastructure for the arts, humanities and interpretative social sciences for several reasons:

  1. The disciplines represented in this community are only slowly adopting scholarship and performance methods enabled or enhanced by cyberinfrastructure (though many believe the adoption rate is accelerating) .
  2. The sciences that have embraced computational methods, e.g., discrete simulation in particle physics, went through a substantial phase of evaluation and critique before those methods were given credence.
  3. The content and methods are tightly interwoven and both are evolving.

What has emerged in the Bamboo Commons is a spectrum of formulations for requirements analysis. Narratives of practice couched in scholars' terms offer points of entry to other scholars as well as a broadly vetted array of needs and wishes to inform the work of technologists. Service descriptions, at the other end of the spectrum, articulate technical characteristics important to software developers and support staff. The Commons would function much in the way of the open-source community, providing the basis for a directory of services, tools and content, as well as the means for recording evaluations of specific items in that directory. The difference will be that the directory and evaluation recording will have "entry points" all along this spectrum of formulations, permitting scholars to engage in all phases of exploration, planning, and building of service technology. This will certainly require substantial effort beyond what the open-source community does in producing and collecting descriptive and evaluative information about applications. However, this additional effort will be crucial for the arts, humanities and interpretative social sciences community to fully participate in the complete community design and implementation of the shared cyberinfrastructure.

- Worthy Martin, Associate Professor, Computer Science; Acting Director, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH); University of Virginia

(adapted from Community Design, a blog post of 13 June 2009)

Bamboo Commons information from v0.5 of the proposal (the section relevant to this project was then named the Atlas)

Draft 0.5 of the full proposal version can be found at

Summary v0.5

The Bamboo Commons will enable articulation, collection, review, and discovery of scholarly methods and digital technology that supports scholarship. Functionality - storage, organization, annotation, rating, review, search, and discovery - will be optimized to support the formation of communities of interest in humanities scholarship and support.

Scholars, librarians, and technologists will each find avenues into a rich store of practices and generalized workflows (a.k.a. "recipes") derived from those practices. Generalized workflows will include hyperlinked references to digital tools; to digital content; and to defined activities that involve using tools to examine, organize, annotate, and transform content. Tools will be further linked to technology services from which they are partly or wholly composed. Each of these elements and the relationships between them may be richly annotated with reviews, ratings, and descriptive tags (keywords). Commons consumers will be able to use multiple methods of search and discovery that align to different user perspectives. Materials of interest and relevance can be surfaced via tailored filtering based on reviews, ratings, and tags related to self-identified areas of interest. Alternatively, filters may be based on contributions by trusted members of a scholarly community.

Initial scholar participation will be seeded by humanities faculty, including leaders in their discipline, whose participation will form a part of their institution's contribution to Project Bamboo. Incentives for ongoing contribution to the Commons is key to the effort's success; incentives will include peer-reviewed publication of scholarly methodologies linked to Project Bamboo, and Commons participation as an element of partnership with tool, application, and content projects (described in the Bamboo Services Platform section of this proposal). The Commons will be further seeded by integration with existing efforts to catalog practice and technology as applied to the humanities. Over time, a gravity of proven utility and desire to participate in a vital network of engaged, collaborative scholarship will draw more and ongoing participation.

The Bamboo Commons will be built as a services "back-end" that will enable the initial interfaces developed through close, iterative consultation with faculty and other Commons users. The Commons services will support a proliferation of interfaces, including unanticipated "mashups" implemented by interested parties outside or at the periphery of the Bamboo community. Human and machine interfaces to the Commons materials will be enabled to permit presentations and analyses of the data by general or specialized communities of interest, as well as by those interested in humanist methodologies and their intersections with technology as an object of scholarship in and of itself.

Description v0.5

Commons elements and function v0.5

The technology services that realize the Bamboo Commons will focus on the following principal elements:

  • Elements of Scholarly Methodology
    • Scholarly Narratives - Description of particular aspects of scholarship, scholarly methodology, research, and/or teaching from the scholar's point of view, and in her own language.
    • Recipes (generalized workflows) - Recipes describe how to achieve goals using information technology. Recipes are written for scholars and use non-technical language to describe the tools, digital content, and steps (activities) needed to complete work. In short Recipes generalize the particulars articulated in Scholarly Narratives into activities that occur across multiple processes of scholarship, and enable librarians and academic support professionals to develop technology to support those activities.
    • Activities - Steps (units of work, process, or procedure) that occur in the course of scholarship.
    • Tools - Software that a scholar uses to accomplish her goals. A tool usually aggregates and organizes a number of related software capabilities for the user's convenience.
    • Content - Digitized objects of scholarship. These may be digitized texts, images, audio, video, etc.; and may themselves be artifacts of prior scholarship.
  • Elements of Shared Technology Services
    • Services - A unit of software that delivers a related set of capabilities (functionality). Services implement capabilities that have been decomposed then logically grouped to flexibly facilitate (a) interoperability with other software and/or digital content; and/or (b) combination and recombination with other services in support of multiple tasks or workflows. A tool may aggregate, organize, and present the capabilities of multiple services.
    • Capabilities - In a service, a piece of work (software functionality) that the service can deliver on request.
    • Service Family - A group of related services. 

The Bamboo Commons will enable the following interactions between a community of scholarship and Commons elements:

  • Contribution - Authoring (solo or collaborative) of each Commons element, and assertion of relationships between them (e.g., Recipe X is a generalization of Narratives Y and Z)
  • Categorization - Commons elements may be categorized in an individual's or in group-curated collections; and collections may be shared with individuals, groups, or the world
  • Annotation - Commons elements and the relationships asserted between them may be annotated with "tags" (i.e., associated with a word or phrase from a curated or an unconstrained vocabulary)
  • Review - Participants may contribute a review of any Commons element, including collections of elements
  • Rating - Participants may rate any element or relationship between elements on multiple scales (e.g., interestingness, utility, degree of generality/specialization, etc.)
  • Discussion - Participants may comment on Commons elements, relationships, and metadata in "threaded" discussions
  • Community - Participants will be able to organize themselves in communities of self-defined interest, sharing profile information that enriches opportunities to connect
  • Search - Participants may search based on key words; occurrence of specified text in an Commons element; association of an element with one or more tags; ratings; existence and character of reviews associated with Commons elements; etc.
  • Discovery - Participants may browse Commons elements filtered by association with a community of interest, trusted person, disciplinary topic, content type, language, annotation/tag, etc.; and will benefit further from unanticipated discovery services whose invention will be enabled by the open programming interface (API) to Commons materials.

Back-end (behind the scenes) functionality will:

  • harvest and link to catalogs or registries of method, practice, tools, and services maintained by other projects and communities, enriching direct contributions by Commons users with broad and deep effort that already supports humanities scholarship; and,
  • track usage of the Commons, and present the information collected in ways that enrich search and discovery functionality
  • support notification to users who want to follow the evolution of Commons elements, including metadata associated with and relationships between them.

Sidebar: Considering Precedent and Best Practice

A variety of user-interfaces will be enabled by services that provide access to Bamboo Commons information; only a subset of those interfaces will be built by Bamboo partners. However, the range of that variety will be broadened or narrowed by service design decisions made by Bamboo partners. An iterative process of user-centered design will be employed to maximize the breadth of possibility. This process will include consideration of precedent and best practice in areas of Commons function and interface, and exploration of how the Commons can be tailored to specific contexts of humanities scholarship.

Here are some examples of existing precedent and practice in user interface design and function - mostly from well known commercial sites - that might both illustrate the concepts described in this proposal, and inform aspects of Commons function and interface:

Search, Discovery, Trust

  • includes a book's citations and citations by other books, (see, for example, R. Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, (Norton, 2000)).
  • includes key phrases "mined" using multiple algorithms from a book's text, (see, for example, R. Ellmann, Yeats: The Man and the Masks, (Norton, 2000)).
  • includes a concordance of the most frequently-occurring words in a book, as well as additional statistics mined from a book's text (see, for example, the concordance for W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz (Modern Library, 2002))
  • suggests similar items in its catalog based on usage patterns (in Amazon's case this is based on other books bought by those who bought the book being presented).
  • is a well-known example of how "tags" can function as a kind of one-word summary of the content of an image - tag visualizations on Flickr can search as a discovery mechanism, and can be focused by popularity or recent contribution.
  • uses geotagging to allow access to its billions of images by place
  • combines multiple sets of information, such as "where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing" to arrive at a measure of "interestingness," which serves as a path for discovery based on what others have found valuable.
  • In a (scientific) research context, presents recommendations based on other items viewed by those who viewed the item being presented (see, for example, the Nanohub entry for a Crystal Viewer tool)
  • An example of "faceted search" - the ability to search not just by keyword, but by categories of information - can be seen in the Flamenco list of Nobel Prize winners
  • exemplifies how deep hyperlinking - affording ability to wander idiosyncratically through a body of information, finding one's serendipitous way - can offer rich opportunities for discovery (start, for example, at the disambiguation page for the term Austerlitz, which can leads one to a novel referenced in examples in this list, as well as through articles on several cities, on the eponymous Paris train station, and on the performer Fred Astaire).

Review and Rating

  • includes views of a smaller, more prominently presented set of reviews, and a larger more complete set (see, for example, the initial, smaller and more detailed & complete presentation for W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz (Modern Library, 2002))
  • presents contributed reviews and ratings of a book in aggregated (chart) form and in detailed modes that permit viewers to see how other viewers judged the reviews/ratings, e.g., "most helpful" (see, for example, reviews and ratings for W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz (Modern Library, 2002))
  • allows a simple expression of approval via its one-click "Like" function that can be applied to the status updates, photos, and other content contributed by one's social network ("friends" in Facebook's jargon)
  • Apple Computer's support forums allow someone who submitted a question to mark a response "helpful" or "solved," which awards "points" to the person who responded. A participant's accrued points boost the level of a status marker that appears next to each of the participant's contributions, affording viewers a quick way to judge how the community ranks or trust contributions from active participants.

Present information tailored to different interests and audiences

  • presents articles on a topic in different languages. Some of these articles may be or may originate in translations of a single contribution, while others are presentations of a topic contextualized by contributors whose perspectives are situated in different national or linguistic frames (see, for example, the English-language article on Gare d'Austerlitz, the Paris railway station; this article is translated or differently-presented in fourteen languages as of 25 May 2009).
  • Dell Computers is notorious for organizing its website to obscure content by forcing users to choose a perspective (such as "Home" or "Public Sector") that influences - most often narrowing - the range of products presented as available for purchase. The Bamboo Atlas will want to avoid that trap.


  • Many Eyes is a data visualization lab run by IBM. From tag-cloud examples to maps portraying where the "worst drivers" can be found in the U.S., this site gives some sense of the breadth of possibility when a well-defined service back end opens data to visualization "mashups."
  •'s concordance (also used as an example in the Search, Discovery, Trust section, above) displays the most frequently-occurring words in a book as a tag cloud (see, as above, the concordance for W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz (Modern Library, 2002))

Commons-enabled activity

Visitors and contributors to the Bamboo Commons will participate in a number of meta-activities, some simply in the course of using the Commons, and others as deliberate explorations and analyses of Commons content and usage. These meta-activities include:

  • User-centered design: Bamboo members will work together to observe how users interact with the Commons in order to refine its functionality and interface.
  • Contribution as a mode of scholarly communication: Contribution to the Bamboo Commons will be linked to avenues of scholarly communication, such as publication in digital journals focused on methods of scholarship in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences.
  • Design and review of technology services: The Commons will serve as a forum to express the nature and methodology of humanist practice, and to respond to evolving implementation of technology services that attempt to support scholarship.
  • Evaluation of scholarly practice: Scholars will use the collection of information in the Commons to consider the nature and evolution of scholarship in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences.
  • Linking research and pedagogy: Research practice and method represented in the Commons will be available as source material for pedagogy in modes of humanities scholarship; and pedagogy represented in the Commons will be available as source material for research in pedagogy.
  • Assessment of the impact of Project Bamboo: Patterns and shifts in modes of scholarship will be traceable through usage activity collected about services offered and/or tracked by the Bamboo Commons. These trends can inform assessment of Bamboo's qualitative and quantitative impact on its community.

Modeling Challenges v0.5

Sidebar: Modeling Challenges

As the Bamboo Community sharpens its conception of the Atlas, modeling and design complexities will arise in both predictable and unanticipated areas. Some of the non-trivial issues likely to require resolution include:


  • What should be versioned? Only major entities (e.g., narratives, recipes)? Reviews and ratings? Relationships between tags and entities?
  • Should the relationships asserted between major entities be "version aware"? What (if anything) should happen when a relationship has been asserted between Narrative X and Recipe Y, and Y is revised? Must the assertion be revisited? May it be optionally re-asserted vis-a-vis the new revision of Y?
  • Should superceded (old versions of) content be indexed, or should search mechanisms only index current versions of things like narratives, recipes, reviews, and ratings?
  • If multiple groups form, and the full membership of each decides that the groups ought to be merged, how should the Atlas track pre-merge group activity (such as group-contributed reviews or ratings, assuming such activity is enabled)?
  • If a scholar uses a certain word to "tag" Atlas content, then decides she would rather use a more broadly-employed equivalent term, should her original choice disappear, or should it remain part of the Atlas in some inactive or less-preferred form?

Collaborative, Editorial, and Curatorial Activity

  • Is all collaborative contribution a collaboration among peers, or might a role of principal author, curator, owner, or editor-in-chief apply to certain modes of engagement with the Atlas?
  • Should an editor/curator be able to assert "this is a variant of artifact X" and release that variant to the world, allowing the original author to actively accept, actively reject, or ignore the proposed variant? Or should the submission be to the original author, allowing her to decide which suggestions to accept and reject?
  • Should a contributor be enabled to grant a "collaborator" or "editor" role to whomever she wishes? Should such a role be grantable for each contribution, for all contributions, for contributions of certain types (e.g., all recipes, but no narratives), or all the above?
  • Should an individual or group be enabled to keep a contribution private until the contribution is judged ready to share? In such cases, should the contribution's evolution (versions) be made public, or only the ready-for-release draft – or should both options be available?

Federated Content

  • How should the Atlas incorporate or refer to material maintained by other tools, sites, or archives?
    • Copy/cache or simply refer?
    • What if a referral URL/URI is not permanent?
    • Should there be ongoing, automated link-checking; and, if so, what ought to happen when a link is discovered to be broken?
    • What metadata could be identified and stored to facilitate finding a cached copy of an artifact (e.g., in the Internet Archive) should originally-referenced material go away?
  • What arrangements can and should the Bamboo Atlas make with copyright holders of materials that are image-digitized but for which OCR'd text is not directly available? E.g., in the case of journal articles about humanist methods that are held by JSTOR, should the Atlas be designed to federate search across the JSTOR index (cf. XML Gateway) on demand (when a user explicitly searches) ... or should the Atlas attempt to incorporate JSTOR search results into its own map of humanist methodology?
  • How can information of value to the Bamboo Atlas be identified and appropriately culled or referenced out of sprawling, unfocused archives in which it may reside, e.g., in the HATHI Trust collections, or even on the web as a whole?

Privacy vs. Value

  • How can the Atlas be designed to encourage sharing of contributions that enrich search and discovery functionality?
  • Should Atlas contributors be permitted to maintain private collections of information on Atlas infrastructure?
    • Private to themselves alone, to groups they belong to, to institutions with which they are affiliated?
    • Is there a type of obfuscated sharing that ought to be minimally required - such as profile attributes that are publicly exposed without association to individual identity; and public concordances of words that occur in contributed material associated with identity-obscured profile information but not with the private material itself?
    • Should sharing information with internal Bamboo Atlas indexing functions be required? What about sharing with analytical software that uses the Bamboo Atlas as a source of information, but resides outside the "boundaries" of data governed by access permissions that Atlas users define?
  • Should a participant be allowed to dissociate her Atlas-profile from public-domain publications, associations, and other expressions of ideas that no longer fit her point-of-view? Or should such information be preserved, with a provision for the participant to declare her current relationship to it (e.g., "I no longer believe this is true"?


  • Which elements of the Atlas should be maintained in alternate languages for internationalization purposes, if any?
  • Which translated elements ought to be maintained as part of the core Atlas information, and which as part of an internationalization service "layer" atop the services that provide an interface to core Atlas information?
  • How should the Atlas services be modeled to facilitate declaration of the language in which a submission (narrative, recipe, review, tag) is being contributed?  Should the Atlas record whether submissions contain text in multiple languages, and if so how? (Note a begged question here, which is an independent category of modeling challenges: how and to what degree and using what standards should textual contributions be marked up with respect to semantic content, formal structure, and/or presentational format.)
  • How can Atlas services be modeled to best interact with services that machine-translate textual content?
  • How can Bamboo best engage partners with expertise in language issues, such as CLARIN?
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