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  • Thought Ark Demonstrator

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

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Summary

Thought Ark is a community-oriented collaborative research, social networking and publishing space for learning and discovery in the field of humanities (but also beyond it). It aims to use the "native" digital strategies of undergraduate and graduate students to support their research and learning activities. Thought Ark observes how students and their instructors retrieve, store, and share with other students the results of their bibliographic searches and uses these patterns to create value criteria for sorting and hierarchically ordering bibliographic sources. Sources that are searched the most (and especially those utilized by professors) are evaluated higher and considered to be more relevant. The platform includes a set of interconnected bibliographic search, social networking, and paper writing interfaces. These allow instructors or students to retrieve information from online databases, share customized lists of citations with each other and most importantly o judge the popularity and quality of the citations based on the other users' patterns of use. Finally, the interface acts as an online publishing and reference manager, similar to EndNote or WordPress. Users will be able to write and populate their papers with citations saved by them or by other members of the Thought Ark platform and to publish these papers in a blog-like manner, such that other students, instructors or the public at large can read and further utilize them.

Thgought Ark re-purpose and manipulate digital resources in that it creates value out of their usage patterns.  It is repository indepdendent being able to reference resources used via persistent URIs and in accord with bibliographic citation standards. It will also create a standard of sorts, that will support interoperability and integration. It will be able to ingest resources without regard to brand or location of repository and will generate value criteria that persist and are themselves referenceable and utilizable in research. Thought Ark is at the same time rooted in social scientific research on social networking and learning. It glues everything together more seamlessly, directly building and serving the mission of the Bamboo project.

Applicability


The tool can be incorporated in academic teaching and research of any kind, from sciences to humanities. However, it is most appropriate for humanities, since it emphasizes resource discovery, sharing, evaluating and usage. It has the ability to create a federation of sites (the software is designed to allow multiple, interoprable and mutually discoverable platforms) and to scale up with usage to any necessary level of complexity, depth and detail. It can be used both for focus and for exploratory research. It can also be used for interaction between students and between students and their professors.

Functionality


ThoughtArk is a collaborative space that goes beyond popular research applications such as Zotero, incorporating learning, user networking, and publishing components. It also brings to the learning universe methods of sorting information first pioneered by Amazon.com, Digg or Shelfari, in a manner that combines and creates synergies between these digital paradigms never before tried out in the educational environment. Secondary and tertiary education students and their instructors can use the Thought Ark platform to search and retrieve collaboratively resources from local or remote databases or publications. The search results are saved in a abbreviated and standardized format in a user folder. Tagging, commenting on, or organizing resources into lists is also provided for. Each citation gets a popularity score, based on the combined number of times it was searched, viewed or otherwise utilized (such as in cited in a paper), times it was tagged, and subjective rating. Scores are weighted by types of users, instructors and higher GPA students usage patterns having a greater impact. Scores are employed by the system to decide how relevant a resource is. The platform includes an active social networking component. Users can search for information by querying the citation folders of their peers'. For example, a student enrolled in a technology class writing a paper on Wikipedia can either search for the term Wikipedia globally, or it can search for citations in folders created by other users interested in Wikipedia, regardless if the papers contain or not the target term. Furthermore, users can limit her search by focusing only on instructors, TAs, or only on students with a specific major. The manner in which each citation was visited and ultimately determines not only how valuable resources are but also for generating conceptual networks. For each citation there is a a list of "related" citations, derived from users search and usage patterns, which indicates that "users who read this this book also usued this other book". In other words, citations will be clustered according to the concurrent usage patterns. The Thought Ark platform will not be a simple search engine. It will be an active research aid and social networking tool. The lists of citations stored on the platform should be downloadable as APA/MLA/Chicago-formatted reference lists. Furthermore, when used in conjunction with a web-based word processor, such as tinyMCE, the lists can be inserted as citations in academic papers. In effect, the system combines the function of a versatile, socially-networked search engine with that of a typical reference management system, like Endnote. Unlike EndNote or Zotero, the system is completely webcentric and it combines social networking and publishing in the same package. The later feature should be of great interest for the faculty and the instructors since it facilitates their research work in a direct way. This creates the premises for attracting the instructors to the system, which will represent a tremendous asset for enhancing the value of the relevance criteria. The system is already in prototyping phase. The search and publishing interfaces are almost completed. The code will be released under an open source/free software licensing framework.

Links


http://thoughtark.com The main interface

http://ithink.blip.tv/ Brief Demo Video

Use scenarios


- TO BE FILLED IN narrative and screen shots or a brief streaming media presentation of the demonstrator. Could use a scenario approach, walking viewer through a simplified scholarly work flow or series of tasks to illustrate main points. If demonstrator is one to be shown from the podium at Workshop 3, may also be able to do limited live demonstration.

Strategic implications, significance for Bamboo


Thought Ark is rooted in social scientific learning research and it practices user centric design. It aims to integrate social networking and the diffusion flows identified by researchers from this field in the learning process. It is also focused on a theory of social interaction design that proposes that the more visible the social interactions are, the more likely the individuals in a group will be to engage in further social interactions. Namely, displaying for each resource its level of usage (and the specific authors involved with its usage), creates the incentive for new users to engage the resources or to look up the names and preferences of those who have engaged the resource previously.

 Thought Ark would like to contribute to the Bamboo planning process a methodology for thinking about social research and discovery and for designing specific software architectures. It, at the same time, proposes a specific way of thinking about the design process and about principles of design.

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