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

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Collaborative Translation and Annotation

Collection Date: 6 Jan 2008
Scholar #1 Info: (if more than one scholar's process is described, copy this set for each scholar)

  • Name: TBD
  • Email:
  • Title:
  • Institution/Organization:
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor:

Collector Info (can be the same as "Scholar" above):

  • Name: Alex Chapin
  • Email:
  • Title: Curricular Technologist
  • Institution/Organization: Middlebury College

Notes on Methodology:

This story explores possibly technologies for the collaborative translation and annotation of a text.  It has been drafted primarily by a technologist based on other stories in this repository including Tibetan Buddhist Literature Scenario - UC-Berkeley, Collaborative Research (Pico) - Brown University and Services for eClassics.  It has yet to be reviewed by a scholar.  That said, it does attempt to create a plausible scholarly practice scenario.

In creating this scenario, I intentionally included details that would require specific shared services in an attempt to provide a use case for such services.  In particular, I wanted to see if I could succinctly include many the services that would be required for collaboration.

A very important part of this story is a Collaborative Translation UI Screencast that illustrates a possible user interface (UI) for a collaborative translation and annotation tool.  This UI is modeled on the Pico Project as well as other tools for translation and collaboration. 


  1. In the opinion of the scholar, who participates in the process the story describes?
    Participation in the collaborative translation and annotation project defined here would be determined by the directors of the project.  The key practice this story attempts to illustrate is that the technology should allow project directors to invite participants and assign them roles within the project. 
  2. What is this process intended to accomplish for the scholar?
    A collaborative translation and annotation tool would allow one or more scholars to participate in the translation of a single text as well as provide access to non-scholars who may have different insights into the translation and/or provide annotations based on meditative experience (i.e. practitioners)
  3. Who is the intended audience of the processes described?
     Scholars, practitioners, instructors, students could benefit from a collaborative translation tool
  4. Is this the only process the scholar uses to accomplish his/her goals?
  5. What "shared services" would help transform the story into something of more benefit for the scholar or his/her audience?  What process or processes in the story could be automated?
    Services for creating and joining groups, asserting and validating identity and affiliations, tracking and evaluating contributions to a project and defining conditional access to a project.


Please provide some keywords that will allow us to group or cluster related stories--or aspects of stories.

1. Was this story collected for a particular Bamboo working group?  If so, please include, as keywords, the appropriate group(s).

  • Shared Services

2. Suggested keywords: Does this story contain elements that could be mapped to these keywords?  If so, please indicate which ones and briefly describe the mapping.  Add any additional keywords in #3. (These are global keywords from this page keywords_)_

  • Discover
  • Aggregate
  • Annotate
  • Consider
  • Share and Publish
  • Engage
  • Preserve
  • Interact

3. Please list additional keywords here:


4. Related Stories: Are there parts of the story that relate to other collected stories? Please provide title(s) and link to the story page. 

Tibetan Buddhist Literature Scenario - UC-Berkeley
Collaborative Research (Pico) - Brown University
Services for eClassics


Collaborative Translations UI Screencast: This screencast is a video illustrating a possible UI design for a collaborative translation and annotation tool.  It is an essential part of the scenario described below.

Scholar A is struggling to translate into English the Tibetan term, stong pa nyid. He and his colleague, scholar B, are just not satisfied with the scholar C's translation of the controversial term as "nothingness" in his recent article on the Heart Sutra.  After much debate both decide to bring the text to the Buddhist community of scholars and practitioners.  A. collects a range of extant documents of the sutra for collaborative translation and annotation including scans of the sutra manuscripts she's collected from the original Sanskrit, various woodblock print editions of various Tibetan translations, as well as Chinese, Japanese and Korean translations, and a smaller selection of translations from translations.  Then A. loads in all versions that are rendered in fonts that approximate the appearance of the original source documents, then Latin character transliterations and then finally all English translations.

A. assigns B. the roles of project collaborator and co-administrator and informs B. of the site's location.  B. goes to the site, identifies himself and provides his titles, positions, affiliationsand a list of his publications and presentations most relevant to the project.  They work out default views of the text for potential collaborators based on assigned roles and nodes, as well as profile and sampling criteria gleaned from collected assertions and affiliations.  Following this A. further refines the user interface, specifying default phrasal breakpoints and aligning different versions of the text for maximum readability across a range of roles and collaborator profiles.

Then A. asserts that the Tibetan term, stong pa nyid, should be translated as "emptiness" and thus promotes "emptiness" to top rank wherever in the text stong pa nyid is used.  As well, A. promotes all English translations that translate stong pa nyid as well as some instances of stong pa as "emptiness."  Scholar B. is only in partial agreement with A. and so promotes "emptiness" to top rank for some instances of stong pa nyidbut chooses "empty of essence" for other instances within the text.  B. also provides commentary on a number of these assertions.

Scholar's A and B then invite scholar C to contribute to the project, as a collaborator.  Scholar C goes to the site, identifies himself and provides his titles, affiliations and a list of his publications and presentations most relevant to the project. Then in accordance with his recent article, he promotes some instances of stong pa nyidas "nothingness" but is intrigued by B's commentary on "empty of essence" as the translation of chose for particular instances of the Tibetan term and so promotes this translation for those cases.  C. edits B's commentary and appends a comment to it that A. responds to.  These exchanges cause all participants to make minor revisions in some of their word and phrasal translation rankings.

As project director, scholar A. makes first round invitations to collaborate to all scholars directly credited with English translations of the text.  50% of invitees accept the collaborator role, another 20% agree to commit to a lesser role.  Emptiness, empty, empty of essence, nothing, nothingness, void, voidness, substanceless all have significant rank as translations amongst this group.  A number of scholars in this group recommend to the project participants that practitioners be invited to join the project.  Second round invitations are sent out to both English-speaking and Tibetan practitioners as well as additional scholars with a more diverse range of positions and affiliations. 

Practitioner D adds a commentary on the phrase stong pa nyid gzugs sothat generates considerable discussion and results in many revisions to translation rankings amongst participants not only of the term stong pa nyid and its variations but also translations of gzugsget reevaluated by many with the English translation of "form" gaining top rank amongst the community.  All of this activity increases the reputation of practitioner D within the community who as a result is offered a more comprehensive role in the project.  Practitioner D's growing prominence in the project comes to the attention of Scholar E who has been tracking the projectprimarily to seek out collaborators for her own translation work.  A sub group forms within the project lead by Scholar E and Practitioner D. that grows in size and reputation.  This sub group contributes new translations of key phrases in the text and provides numerous commentaries. 

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