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

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This document is version 1.0 of the Workshop Discussion DRAFT of the Bamboo Program and shall be used as the basis for work in Workshop 4. The purpose of this document is to frame a dialog among participants and as such, share preliminary and provisional information regarding the Bamboo Program. This will allow institutions and organizations participating in the Bamboo Planning Process to help determine (1) the long term future of Bamboo and, most importantly, (2) define what activities Bamboo will carry out in its first three year implementation phase (from 2010-2012). Unlike previous versions, this draft is designed to solicit input from the participants taking part in Bamboo Workshop 4. Changes, edits and recommendations collected at and immediately after Workshop 4 shall be incorporated into the Bamboo Program Document v1.1.

Please note that we are updating this document frequently based on wide ranging input from the Bamboo community. These updates are indicated as ".1", ".2", ".3", etc updates. In addition, we will occasionally make major document revisions. These are noted as "1.X", "2.X", and so forth. Between major document revisions there may be some inconsistencies in language used between the sections of the document.

The content and direction expressed within the sections of this document shall be considered as provisional and will be subject to potentially substantial change between this version and the final edition of the Bamboo Program slated for release in Fall 2009.

3. The Forum

Table of Contents

Bamboo as a Forum for sharing digital research and teaching practices in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences is meant to develop and integrate the information resources and tools needed so that thousands of scholars, technologists, librarians, and others can easily find and connect with people, projects, tools, examples and exemplars, recipes, and other educational materials to enable an "upward spiral" of conversation and understanding about the digital humanities. The "Forum" is the place to find, to share, to debate, to track others, to publish early ideas, to borrow, to learn together.

The core components of the "Forum" - Scholarly Network, Scholarly Narratives, Recipes, Tools and Content Guide, Educational Materials, and the means for accessing these information sources through various Community Environments - interrelate and complement each other.  We start with Scholarly Network because of the fundamental and growing importance of the means to build community and participate across multiple social networks and roles.  Scholarly Narratives then offers an open avenue for scholars to express their needs and experiences in the language of their practice and discipline.  These narratives are of value in themselves and serve, as well, as a pivot point for librarians and technologists, among others, to build "recipes" that abstract common steps and  resources across stories to help build guides for the digital humanities.  In addition, narratives and recipes serve as a critical body of materials to help software developers understand where investments in common services may be most beneficial (see the Services Atlas in section 4 on this connection).  Scholarly Narratives and Recipes draw from and contribute to the Tools and Content Guide; for example, the guide provides the details about the scholarly content and tools that are the ingredients and implements in the recipes.  The Tool and Content Guide becomes a place as well for developers to add information about the evolution of applications and digital materials.  Finally, there will be other forms of curricular resources and professional development materials that powerfully link these narratives, recipes, tools, and content into course and disciplinary specific guides.  Each of these components of the "Forum" represents a different entry point and view, whether by story or by tool or by discipline, into the evolving community of the digital humanities.

We note in this section that Bamboo does not propose that each of these components be built as independent applications in themselves, but rather that we find ways to instantiate each component as a type of service and/or "gadget" with common technical interfaces so that they can be incorporated into, and help connect, existing web-based collaborative and personal information environments, portals, social networks, and the like.  We propose as well that each component be enabled with rich forms of tagging and data-structure to enable powerful forms of data-mining and the ability to add all kinds of other views, reports, and data-exposure, some of which may, in the long term, serve as important sources of information to help faculty and learned societies develop new forms of tracking citation, authority, usage, and contribution to scholarly communication.

3.1. Scholarly Network

The virtual place for people to discover, explore, and connect with other people and groups across the Bamboo community.  The Bamboo Scholarly Network may be implemented through interconnecting existing social networking tools, including the use of plug-ins and/or widgets based on open interface standards that will allow the Scholarly Network to be easily incorporated into existing portals, virtual research environments, or other research workflow systems and tools. 

3.1.1 Scholarly Networking: Definition and Approach

The increase in scholars using social networking tools(1) to communicate with their peers was a major theme in the discussion of emerging practices at Workshop 1. Sustained interest in scholarly networking as an aspect of Project Bamboo led to the development of a working group to specifically address potential approaches to scholarly networking within the context of Bamboo. A definition of scholarly networking and a statement addressing its value is a necessary prerequisite to such work, particularly in view of the skepticism directed towards scholarly networking by some workshop participants.  We note, as well, the emerging interest in scholarly networking by a number of learned societies in the humanities and the important opportunity to be guided by these societies in the development of Bamboo's approach to scholarly networking. Definition and Value

The charter of the Project Bamboo scholarly networking working group defines its aim as "exploring the ways in which faculty and scholars interact within a discipline, trans-discipline, as part of scholarly societies, and in mediated/in person settings'." Scholarly networking refers to the subsection of those interactions mediated by web 2.0 technologies that can also be used in a purely social context. This differentiates scholarly networking from more traditional forms of on-line communication between scholars, such as mailing lists, which are more likely to be "strictly business".

Scholarly networking using social networking platforms like Facebook provides a way for scholars-- even those with obscure interests-- to connect with others who share those interests and initiate a "permanent corridor conversation" (2) regardless of where their peers are located. While this was not commonly cited at the workshops, scholarly networking could conceivably provide a way for librarians, IT staff, and commercial sector personnel to connect for collaboration purposes. Facebook is also used as a way to put a human face on organizations such as the library reference desk that might otherwise be perceived as impersonal. Blogging is already being used as a way for scholars to solicit feedback from their peers about work in progress, though workshop participants noted the IP risks associated with such an activity. Twitter and other "micro-blogging" platforms are used as a way to ask and receive answers to brief questions.

The ability to connect other scholars' comments with personal profiles on a scholarly network facilitates building confidence in others before potential collaboration, allowing scholars to see each other in a more human light than conveyed by a list of qualifications on a curriculum vitae (CV).

From a teaching perspective, the ability for students to connect with one another outside of class can build cohesion, particularly in distance learning situations. At the graduate level, scholarly networking can provide a new managerial tool for scholars chairing dissertation committees, providing an informal way to check in with ABD (All But Dissertation) students who are writing their dissertations off campus. A message sent through a social networking platform invokes the informal tone an advisor might have his advisee upon running into them on campus, in contrast with the more official undertone of e-mail.(3) Approach

Noteworthy in both workshop participants' comments and an Open University report on Scholarly Networking is the fact that scholars are likely to use the same account for scholarly and social networking activities. In its approach to scholarly networking, Project Bamboo aims to bring additional "scholarly" features and resources to scholars where they already are, as opposed to building a "Bamboo Scholarly Networking Platform" from scratch and asking scholars to join and monitor something separate from what they are already doing. This will take the form of plug-ins or widgets compatible with any platform that uses a supported set of open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

As well as widget add-ins to existing, fully-formed sites, we intend to initiate a dialogue with the developers of nascent VRE (Virtual Research Environment) / scholarly networking platforms (including Sakai, Thought Ark, and Heurist) about the possibility of natively integrating the capabilities that would otherwise be provided through a widget.

3.1.2 Widgets

The widgets supporting scholarly networking will derive from two sources, and will be developed in two stages. Core Bamboo widgets

This set of widgets will be an early focus of Bamboo development, providing a front end for other aspects of Bamboo including the Bamboo Exchange. The goal of these widgets is to enable a user to access Bamboo resources (tools, content, people) from within their preferred scholarly networking environment. Conceivably, a scholar could search for and reference a tool in the Bamboo marketplace from within their blog, or "like"(4) a content source from within Facebook, which would bring that content source to the attention of the scholar's contacts. The goal of these widgets is to provide a means of integrating Bamboo resources into scholars' existing networking activities, though they do not preclude the additional development of a website providing a stand-alone portal into the same resources. Supplementary widgets

The core Bamboo widgets will serve as a "reference implementation" for the development of other resources for scholars with a widget interface. We anticipate that Common Services, as well as Local and Incubator services on a path to become Common Services, will develop a widget version where appropriate. To facilitate this development, we will provide a series of specs that clearly state the requirements for developing widgets for each of the most common platforms for scholars. This will enable developers to make informed decisions about compatibility; in some cases, it may be appropriate to develop with only VREs in mind, even if it means excluding social platforms like Facebook.

3.1.3 The widget model in a cloud environment

Enabling widgets are intrinsically linked to some form of cloud environment. While widgets may be plugged into a campus-internal system such as a VRE, the Bamboo Exchange data that the core Bamboo widgets connect to is stored in the cloud. Supplementary widgets, in contrast, may be entirely self-contained.

3.1.4 Notes and references

(1) This will henceforth be referred to as "scholarly networking" - a term designed to differentiate scholars' professional-centric social networking / social media activities from those of a personal nature. This term is not without its critics, both due to the increased mixing of professional and personal communication and the perceived elitism of the term. "Social networking in education" is another suggested term. (Open University report on Scholarly Networking, p. 7)

(2) Open University report on Scholarly Networking, p. 1

(3) The Open University report has a more extensive list of purposes for scholarly networking, p. 16

(4) A non-textual statement of approval broadcasted to one's colleagues.

3.2. Scholarly Narratives

A growing body of scholars' stories about the use of digital technologies across the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences.  These narratives serve as one critical entry point for learning what can be done and for rapidly sharing updates on work in progress.  This Scholarly Narratives hub will interconnect with digital Recipes, Tools Guide, Educational Materials, and Services Atlas described below.

3.2.1 Definition

A scholarly narrative is an articulation of a scholar's personal research or teaching practices, methodologies, or work efforts. It need not be comprehensive of everything a scholar does, but should be very concrete about the portion it is describing. It should be written in the scholar's own words and be understandable by other colleagues in her field. Finally, it should be bounded by some kind of beginning task and ending task. How to demarcate this boundary is more of an art than a science, but it is meant to place a logical boundary around a set of work to best enable further analysis.

To fully document a scholarly narrative and allow for full-circle discussion with the scholarly contributor, various pieces of metadata must also be collected. Contributor metadata includes name, title institution, contact information, and field of study and /or creative endeavor; collector metadata includes name, title, institution, and contact information.

3.2.2 Role

Scholarly narratives are not an end in themselves; they are understandable entry point for scholars to enter into the world of the digital humanities. The text of a narrative should reflect scholarly language and methodologies that other scholars would understand. A direct link between generalized practices in Recipes (cf. 3.3, below) and self-described practices (Narratives) provides a discussion forum within which scholars can facilitate the accurate description of their efforts and clarify their needs. It allows for significant feedback as to whether their practice was interpreted correctly, opportunity to better shape this interpretation, and when the interpretation fully captures the self-described narrative, it can lead to deeper levels of analysis upon which services can be derived.

3.3. Recipes (Workflows)

Scholarly Narratives are stories scholars shared about what they wanted to do with technology in their research and teaching, and Recipes draw on the narratives to propose general tasks that scholars want to accomplish with information technology. The Recipes draw on examples and describe a generalized way (a workflow) of doing something important to a scholar. Recipes are assembled and described by a community of scholarship that includes faculty, librarians, and/or technology support-staff who both use the technology and support research, teaching, learning, and scholarship. In essence, Recipes are distillation of the Bamboo Community's ideas around how to best accomplish real academic tasks.

3.3.1 Definition

A recipe is a selected list of resources or resource types which can be combined to solve a problem or explore a question. These resources might include tools, services, repositories, and people. A recipe is action-oriented -- it expresses a method for moving in a particular direction and toward a particular goal. However, a recipe is not necessarily an end unto itself -- it might instead be only one component of a larger inquiry. Recipes will follow a standardized format when possible. Clarity and concision are essential.

Recipes are a structured response to the community of scholars in the humanities. We chose to call them recipes because we all know how a recipe works for getting something done like cooking a dish using utensils. Therefore our recipes typically describe:

  • Introduction What this recipe is for cooking up, typically a general task
  • Ingredients What do you need to be able to follow the process, the types of tools and content you need at hand
  • Steps What are the steps or activities in the process, how to get something done with the ingredients

Each ingredient can then be linked to more detailed descriptions. The collaborative services ecosystem envisioned by Bamboo can be activated by interaction with these recipes -- a scholar could take immediate action based on a recipe, and directly connected with a guide to the relevant resources they are eligible for -- based on their local campus, their institution's consortial agreements, offerings in the Bamboo community cloud, and public and commercial providers.

3.3.2 Role in Research Projects

A successful recipe must be sufficiently contextualized to be recognizable, relevant, and useful to multiple scholars who are either working in related areas of study (e.g. 17th century Chinese history, outsider art in India, oral traditions in Hawaii) or on methodologically related problems (e.g. textual analysis, video annotation, technology-enabled performance art). A recipe must also be specific enough to be helpful to non-scholars, including technical staff, librarians, etc. who are supporting a scholar in her inquiry. Recipes express a problem-solving strategy in a format which can help bridge gaps between different types of Bamboo community members.

Recipes draw on the Scholarly Narratives to propose general tasks that scholars want to do with information technology. The Scholarly Narratives are the stories scholars told about what they wanted to do with technology in their research and teaching. The Recipes draw on these and describe a generalized way (a workflow) of doing something important to a scholar. These Recipes are put together by the community of scholars who use technology. They are the Bamboo Community's ideas about how to best get real academic tasks done. Recipes will be recorded in and accessible from the Bamboo Recipe Registry.

Recipes introduce an important level of sustainability and scalability into the arts and humanities research ecosystem. Although no textual representation can replace the value of a live conversation among scholars, librarians, and technology consultants who are skilled in mutual translation, such conversations are necessarily bounded in their influence. Recipes seek to make available to new projects the decisions, processes, and hard-won lessons of the thousands of endeavors which came before them.

3.3.3 Role Within Bamboo

Bamboo Recipes are a way of describing what a scholar can do with Bamboo at a given time. Scholars can use this to understand what Bamboo can do for them. Recipes are a way of prioritizing what should be developed. As Scholarly Narratives are added and Recipes drawn from them, decisions about technology to be implemented can take the form of prioritizing the Recipes. This avoids the problem of implementing technologies that only partly solve a real problem. Recipes are part of the evolution of Bamboo. Bamboo will evolve as scholars tell new stories about what they do, or want to do. As the Bamboo Community works together to analyze these new narratives and turn them into Recipes, we will build on the range of Activities we can support and imagine the new Activities we need to support. Recipes are a way of auditing what Bamboo does. One mechanism to verify that Bamboo is fulfilling its promise to scholars is to try following a recipe. A Recipe will readily expose what is working and what isn't.

Recipes can be adapted to a given situation. Recipes will be released in a structured fashion and under an open and flexible license for community use so that a scholar can adapt them to his own community and the tools he has at hand. Research support staff for a project or university can take the Recipes their community needs and adapt them to the tools they can support. The community can expand on the Recipes, translate them, add new ones specific to their needs, and link to content they have.

For Bamboo the recipe fills a critical role in linking narratives to technology. Within a narrative will be processes for research, composition, review, communication, creation and publication within the scholar's field. Bamboo seeks to abstract these elements as recipes such that the commonalities and differences between scholars, fields and processes can be understood. Understanding these common processes and the sensitivity to individual differences between scholars, organizations and fields provides analysts leverage in identifying services which can best support scholarship. Recipes are stored in a separate repository as derivative artifacts linked back to the narratives in which they were identified.

The Bamboo Community process for analyzing scholarship can be seen to form a chain from the descriptions of scholarship to the definition of technologies. This articulation identifies the relationshp between the world of the scholar and the world of the technologist and helps members of the Bamboo Community understand how their contribution advances our work. Further, as a portfolio of services is defined, we are able to show our supporters the linkage of those services back to the work of real scholars in our community.

3.3.4 Sustaining the Process

 This approach carries with it some implication of ongoing effort by the community to promote use, curate submissions, and sustain overall momentum. Sharing a new narrative or deriving a new recipe will require deep thought from community members, and the use of these thoughtful contributions will be tracked and recognized. The technology to support the collection of these materials must allow the scholar to make their contribution without a hierarchy of complex steps. Contributing to the shared knowledge of the community in this way will be incentivized as more than a goodwill gesture, however. Bamboo will use textual analysis tools against the community contributed Narratives and Recipes to make connections between these contributions and suggest new possibilities. Simply by sharing with the community, a contributor will immediately and automatically gain further insight into their methods, domains, and questions.

3.4. Tools and Content Guide

The guide allows one to both publish information about, and to discover, tools and content sources that are of value for research and teaching.  Scholarly Narratives and Recipes will draw from and point to this "ingredient list" -- a community-annotated list of tools and content resources.  This registry becomes another "view," like that of the Scholarly Network, Narratives, and Recipes, into 'what is possible and what materials are available to help. Bamboo will employ mechanisms inspired by social media and Web 2.0 to make this process as frictionless as possible for the community.

3.5. Other Educational and Curricular Materials

A place for the dissemination and discussion of other related educational and curricular materials that can help students, faculty, library and technology professionals, and others to best integrate developing digital content and tools into researching, teaching, and public service.

3.6. Bamboo Community Environment

The environment where Scholarly Network, Narratives, Recipes, Tools/Content Guide, Educational Materials can be found. The environment may take two general forms: as a user interface that Bamboo develops and is run for the community and/or by developing each of these elements as information widgets/gadgets that can be incorporated into existing Virtual Research and Collaborative Environments.

The Bamboo Community Environment is the avenue by which a broad range of Bamboo elements are accessed. The elements accessed by the Bamboo Community Environment include the Scholarly Network, Scholarly Narratives, Recipes, Tools and Content Guide, and Educational & Curricular Materials described in this section of the Program Document; as well as the Service Atlas and Bamboo Exchange described in Section 4.

The Bamboo Community Environment is not a single user interface. It is envisioned as multiple "windows" onto the core elements that constitute Bamboo.  It may take two general forms:

  1. one or more user interfaces that Bamboo develops and is/are run for the community, accessible through a web browser; and/or
  2. a set of information widgets/gadgets/services that can be incorporated into existing Virtual Research and Collaborative Environments

The core elements of Bamboo are thus made accessible from web browsers, Virtual Research Environments, Collaborative Environments, or any other application or platform into which Bamboo Community Environment widgets, gadgets, and/or services can be integrated.

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  1. Unknown User (

    Section 3.2 Scholarly Narratives - minor edit, assume should be "Tools and Content Guide" rather than "Tools Guide"

    Section 3.3.1 Recipes Definition, last paragraph - this all gives an interesting flavor, possibly implying that recipes can be implemented as executable workflows with dynamic resource bindings!  maybe that is not the intention, but it sure seemed intriguing to me!  and this then makes me wonder about relationships to workflow engines like Taverna, whether there are XML-based recipe description/execution languages, etc.  And a postscript - at the Services Atlas action planning group, I raised this question and folks thought this was not the intention, just that tools and content and services would be one level of indirection away as live links from within recipes, but hey, why not dream big?  (smile)

    Section 3.3.3 Recipes role in Bamboo, first paragraph - while recipes can describe what can be done with Bamboo, I assume not all Bamboo capabilities will necessarily be contained in recipes?  or do we assume we in fact must encode all Bamboo capabilities in at least one or more recipes?

    Section 3.4 Tools and Content Guide - seems like this needs elaboration about discovery, annotation, rating/evaluation, metadata, curation, maintenance, etc. of such resources in a Bamboo directory, and about relation to other tools and content directories (e.g., would Bamboo be a meta-directory rather than a primary directory?)

    Section 3.6 Bamboo Community Environment - should it also provide access to the Bamboo VRE?  also, what about access to architecture, standards, services - are those also covered here?


    1. Unknown User (

      Jim, you catch everything!
      3.3.1, why not dream big?
      3.3.3, hmmm, I think you assumption of "not all Bamboo capabilities" is correct.
      3.4, good point.
      3.6, caught us on that narrative disconnect between the Scope of Work and here. Again, long story and thanks for catching it. Will be sorted out.