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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.

1. Vision

Table of Contents

1.1 Overview

Veniet tempus quo posteri nos tam aperta nescisse mirentur.
(The time will come when our descendants marvel that we did not know such evident things.) — Seneca


Bamboo is a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and inter-organizational community that brings together researchers and educators, computer scientists and domain specialists, librarians and information technologists, technology professionals and information scientists, and other individuals and groups to develop and apply shared technology services in order to advance research and learning in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences. By building a sustainable community of collaborators within and across campuses and organizations (hereafter referred to as the Bamboo Community), we can collectively share knowledge and develop technology across the diverse range of disciplines and fields within the community in order to benefit not only the participants, but scholars and learners worldwide. The breadth of Bamboo is quite large so throughout this document, "humanities" and the "arts and humanities" are used interchangeably and as shorthand to refer to the collection of disciplines and fields that fall under the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences.

The Bamboo approach is rooted in creating, reusing, remixing, and sharing technology services and digital content across project, institutional, organizational, regional, and national boundaries. Members of the Bamboo Community believe that if we share technologies and content in common ways, we will be able to:

  • increase the potential for greater scholarly innovation as more effort can be placed on new ideas rather than recreating existing solutions;
  • reduce the overall effort in the long term to create and sustain new digital projects;
  • take best advantage of specialized skill sets across the various communities to solve problems;
  • leverage institutional and community-wide economies of scale to tackle problems and sustain critical projects; and
  • share solutions and expertise across all disciplines: the sciences, quantitative social sciences, and arts and humanities.

Bamboo strives to help the humanities flourish and evolve through the development of scholarly "cyberinfrastructure".  At its core "cyberinfrastructure" and "e-scholarship" are about three things: building common understandings at the intersection of disciplinary practice and digital technologies; deploying reliable, flexible, shared tools, content, and services open to many with growing economies of scale; sustaining these efforts through virtual organizations and laboratories that go beyond one campus and link together diverse institutional affiliations and cultures.

Loosely based on the "Borromean Ring" concept developed by Daniel Atkins, Office of Cyberinfrastructure within the National Science Foundation, the Bamboo Vision for Cyberinfrastructure applies the model of "three symmetric, interlocking rings" each which requires the other to function and adapts it to the arts and humanities. The model consists of three rings:

  1. Bamboo as a forum for sharing digital research and teaching practices in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences;
  2. Bamboo as a facilitator and developer of shared technology services; and
  3. Bamboo as a sustaining organization that promotes innovation and evolves over time.

1.1.1 The Forum (Cyberinfrastructure Ring I)

The central ring of vision that focuses on the ongoing understanding of practices and commonalities across the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences is the Forum. Within the Forum there are several major components that include scholarly networking to bring individuals and groups together, scholarly narratives to share ways of working and approaches to problems across fields and domains, digital recipes that articulate specific flows of activity, guides for tools and content, and various user environments and interfaces to these and other resources from within and beyond the Bamboo Community. These components are articulated in detail within section 3.

The components are meant for everybody, from the humanities scholar who seeks guidance on how to take first steps in employing digital resources in his classroom to a graduate student trying to find collaborators in multiple disciplines, including the information sciences, so that she can trace the interpretations of historical figures in 19th century American urban settings by data mining all available newspapers and texts published from 1870-1890. The Forum is the virtual place to find, to share, to debate, to track others, to publish early ideas, to borrow, to build new collaborations, to learn together.

To quote Martin Mueller, Bamboo "plays the proverbial role of the onion in the stew or the role of a skillful host who introduces guests and then gets out the way of their conversation." Although elements of the Forum seem to stand alone, the fundamental principle of the Forum traces back to the foundational concept of Bamboo, shared technology services, and as such all components will be designed to "fit in" to other environments rather than "stand out" by forcing the community to use only one environment, tool, or capability. In other words, the components of the Forum can be shared, remixed, and reused to meet the needs of a specific project, community, or academic context. Although the Bamboo Community is the keeper of the Forum and its elements, any scholar within and outside of Bamboo can take advantage and seek the benefit of its services, capabilities, and components.

1.1.2 The Cloud (Cyberinfrastructure Ring II)

The second ring of the Bamboo Vision for Cyberinfrastructure is centered on shared technology services and in section 4, we define the constituent elements related to facilitating the use and development of shared services: the Services Atlas connects scholarly narratives, recipes and tools to componetized web services across disciplines; the Bamboo Exchange  builds a light-weight market mechanism for exchanging resources and services across institutions; a shared service development lifecycle that takes services from project-level deployment, through incubation, and potentially in to Bamboo-wide deployment; tool and application alignment partnerships that enable core technology projects in the humanities to shape Bamboo and employ Bamboo's cloud-based services; and content interoperability partnerships that start from the premise that collections and corpora of digital content are the gravitational centers of much humanities scholarship and determine how services and tools can be better connected to these content sources.

The mixture of approaches (and metaphors) in section 4 - atlas, market exchange, local incubator, appliance, cloud, "refactoring" partnerships - reflects the challenge of finding a way forward to build sustainable infrastructure for scholarly computing across diverse institutions in a world made up of many actors, associations, interests, incentives, cultures, and technologies. Bamboo in no way proposes to coordinate or solve all technical needs, nor provide all shared technology services, for the humanities. This would be folly. Instead, we seek to create a set of realistic mechanisms to share technical expertise and to jump start deployment of sustainable infrastructure by borrowing from the best technical and organizational solutions available.

The core of our approach centers around the Bamboo Cloud. Some may scoff that the "cloud" is but the latest technology industry fad, highly complex vapor, and/or or of little relevance to most humanities scholars right now. These statements may in fact all be true. But they don't take away from the fact that for the longer-term (five to ten years) we must, in higher education, find ways to provide a cost-effective core and common set of increasingly rich, easy to use, sustainable technology services that are the foundation for scholarship. At this time the most promising approach to solve this challenge is to determine how universities and colleges can band together to define and deploy such services to the higher education community. This is the philosophy behind the Bamboo Cloud. Thus, as a short hand for the somewhat cumbersome and dry "shared technology services" or "sustainable infrastructure", we label this major section of the Bamboo program document, The Cloud.

1.1.3 Bamboo Labs (Cyberinfrastructure Ring III)

The final piece of the Bamboo cyberinfrastructure vision is built around the organizational, partnership, and social models behind both the technology and the scholarship. In section 5 of the program document, we set the scaffolding for Bamboo as a sustaining organization over time and across institutions: Bamboo learning from the evolving models of "community source" software development emerging from different technology consortia in and beyond academia; Bamboo situated in and supporting an ecosystem of projects and initiatives, and, in a number of cases, Bamboo stepping back and staying behind the scenes; Bamboo organized to explore, to plan, and to build; and Bamboo sustain and coordinate the efforts of the Bamboo Community and its members.

Amidst the consortial, financial, and administrative issues in section 5, we highlight an organizational ideal that many who took part in the Bamboo Planning Project workshops called out for, namely the think tank, "skunk works," and/or collaborative center.  That is, a place to tinker, create, build with with a group of talented individuals, whether to explore the initial use of technology in humanities scholarship or connecting existing applications and services across several institutions. The model of labs is one that we believe is essential across many of Bamboo components, and one that we think a wide range of institutions may want to invest in, especially if we can bring together scholars and experts from across the humanities, information sciences, libraries and archives, university presses, learned societies, and information technology organizations.

A Lab may be housed at one institution (as a number already are) or may exist virtually across Bamboo to enable a number of institutions  to explore, plan, and build one of Bamboo's core components. Although there are many dimensions related to Bamboo as a sustaining organization, what ties the community together are the opportunities to investigate and collaborate around ideas, projects, and activities and as such, we think of the sustaining organization as much more than administration: we envision it as a collection of labs around specific topics collectively known as Bamboo Labs.

1.2 Opportunities, Challenges and Benefits

I would like to propose a patron saint for cyberinfrastructure for the arts and humanities .... Benjamin Franklin. Why Ben, you might ask? It is partly that Franklin was a tinkerer with new technologies, a printer and a publisher, someone who established the first circulating library in the US, a politician with more than a dash of provocateur, and a pragmatist who figured out some important aspects of how to make revolution sustainable. Franklin was also famous for his maxims, and one of the best known of those he delivered was at the Continental Congress just before signing the Declaration of Independence. On that occasion, he said: We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall hang separately.  .... That's my short-hand definition of cyberinfrastructure, actually - the environment in which we all hang together, as opposed to the one in which we all hang separately. — John Unsworth

One of the fundamental questions the Bamboo Community needs to be clear about as defines its first three-year implementation phase is what problems should Bamboo address and which communities will Bamboo benefit; and conversely, what problems and challenges should Bamboo stay away from. The Bamboo Program Document is the opportunity to think big, lay out the architecture of a long term program, engage in debate about where we should go, and define a strategy for investment over time.

A creeping vice of such an effort is to suffer from what Neil Fraistat has labeled as "Bamboo as the sublime" - that is, the urge to be all things to all people. We recognize that this is a recipe for failure. At the same time, institutions and organizations are determining whether to formally invest and join Bamboo, and need a sharp picture of what Bamboo will do, what the costs of participation will be, and what the benefits over time will be for different communities within their organizations. Because Bamboo envisioned to be about enabling possibilities, the table below lists a range of communities, problems and opportunities that Bamboo could explore in a 7-10 year period. Those institutions and organizations in the Bamboo Planning Process will use this as a framework to clarify Bamboo's long term vision and to narrow down the focus for Bamboo work in the first implementation phase.
This table starts with a community and a sample problem or opportunity (first column) and then points the reader to the parts of the Bamboo Program that can help to address these challenges (second column). This table represents a framework for thinking about what Bamboo can and cannot accomplish. As Bamboo matures, the means to address problems and opportunities will evolve, so what is outlined here is merely a starting point that will grow and change over time.

Community and Problem / Opportunity

Bamboo Program Element that can Help Address these Challenges - These are Partial Examples

Humanities Scholars: Faculty and Students

The 5-10% of humanities scholars who lead technology projects and/or are software developers and who want to spend more time on research problems and less time developing and managing core technologies

See Services Atlas (4.1), Bamboo Exchange (4.2), Tool and Application Alignment Partnerships (4.4.)

The 90-95% of humanities scholars who want to learn more about digital scholarship and are not sure what is possible, where to turn, what to do

Scholarly Narratives (3.2), Scholarly Recipes (3.3), Tools and Content Guide (3.4)

Faculty and students who want to know what other people, projects, institutions are doing and saying in the humanities and "digital humanities"

Scholarly Networking (3.1), Scholarly Narratives (3.2.)

The graduate students who wants to easily blend together ("mash-up") content and visualizations from different archival sources to demonstrate a promising new area of study

Tools and Content Guide (3.4), Bamboo Cloud (4.3.3)

The Dean of the Arts and Humanities who wants to better support faculty and graduate student development by giving many individuals the opportunity to learn more about digital technologies and scholarly practices

All parts of the Bamboo Forum (3.1 - 3.5)

Humanities Centers and Other Centers for Collaborative Exploration


The campus Humanities Center that is trying to determine what its "digital" presence should be, how best to engage scholars, and where resources will come from

Bamboo Forum (section 3)

The "Digital Humanities" Center that seeks to lead exploration and development of digital scholarship in one or several disciplines

Leadership role in Bamboo organizational model

Computer and Information Scientists


Computer and Information Scientists who want to connect their research to the humanities

Bamboo Forum (section 3) and Shared Services Lifecycle (4.3)

Disciplinary Socieities


Disciplinary societies that want to use "social networking" tools to foster scholarly communication

Scholarly Networking (3.1)

Disciplinary and scholarly societies who are seeking to develop new ways to measure and recognize scholarly publication

Data elements derived from Shared Services Lifecycle use (4.3)

Libraries, Archives, and Museums


Librarians, Archives, Museums who want to open content to many scholars 

Content and Interoperability Partnerships (4.5)

Librarians who want to connect new tools and services to campus libraries, archives, and museums

Content and Interoperability Partnerships (4.5)

The University Librarian who seeks to facilitate partnerships with local campus humanities and technology leaders and other institutions

Bamboo Labs and organizational model

Information Technology Organizations and Higher Education Technology Consortia


Academic technologists who are struggling to find scaleable and sustainable ways to provide technology support to faculty and students from many disciplines

Bamboo Cloud (section 4)

The CIO who wants to ensure that institutional investments in technology are leveraged between disciplines and organizations

Bamboo Cloud and organizational model (sections 4 and 5)

The software developer who wants to share their tool / widget with the world of humanities scholars  

Tools and Content Guide (3.4), Services Atlas (4.1), Bamboo Exchange (4.2)

The national, international, and disciplinary technology consortia that is seeking to re-architect its services platform to take advantage of services-based solutions

Tool and Application Alignment Partnerships (4.5)

Campus and other higher education technology leaders who are trying to determine how to develop and implement "cloud" based computing solutions and common frameworks

Bamboo Cloud (section 4)

Campus Chancellors and Provosts


The Provost who wants to sustain excellence and innovation in the arts and humanities by leveraging technology investments and expertise across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities

Institutional investments and leadershiop in Bamboo Forum, Cloud, and/or Labs

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