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

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This is an outline for a possible 7-10 year vision for the Bamboo Community. The purpose of this document is to provide information to institutions and organizations participating in the Bamboo Planning Process so that they can help determine (1) the long term future of Bamboo and (2) define what activities Bamboo will carry out in its first, 3 year Implementation Phase (from 2010-2012). This document is designed to solicit community input, and is a draft in progress. It is not yet a commitment to carry out all or any of this work.

Please note that we are updating this document frequently based on wide ranging input from the Bamboo community. These updates will occur about every 7-10 days and 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.

3. Bamboo as a Forum (Cyberinfrastructure Ring I)

Table of Contents

3.1.  Scholarly Network

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.

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 listhosts, 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)


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 and marketplace services with the goal of becoming 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

3.2.1 Goal

Project Bamboo will define shared technology services to support the arts, humanities and interpretive social sciences. To pursue this goal collaboratively our community must share an understanding of two very different worlds:

  • the world of scholarship, and
  • the world of technology services

Further our Project must communicate the value of the technology it invents to the institutions which support our collaboration be they participating universities or funding agencies. These two needs are addressed by a community-wide process to relate scholarly work to technology designs which support that scholarly work. The result of this process is documentation which can unite the concerns of both scholars and technologists, and which can serve to demonstrate the impact shared technology services will have on scholarly work.

3.2.2 Context

From its inception Project Bamboo sought an understanding of scholarly practice. It is only this understanding which will permit the design of shared services beneficial to scholarship. Initial efforts succeeded enumerating scholarly activities by analyzing input from scholars at Workshop One. Yet the process created an unexpected gap in communication between our scholars and our technology architects. A scholar could not identify the linkage of her own work to a list of activities nor the service framework it suggested. At Workshop Two the Scholarly Narratives working group (then called the Stories working group) was created to address this division by making clear the connection between the words of scholars and the designs of analysts.

Project Bamboo began with an exploration of scholarly practice. Animated discussion between scholars were fruitful for analysts modeling academic work. From notes taken during those discussions a Services working group derived abstract activities and services to support the Project's constituents. This work was both necessary and beneficial. However the process did not preserve the source material critical to maintaining a shared understanding of the Project's process and deliverables.

Instead the community had a set of notes, an abstract list of activities derived from those notes, and a proposal for a shared services framework. A historian, an artist, or a philosopher, for example, could not easily ascertain how his work related. From the findings of the Services working group, scholars had no means to assess the fit of "activities" or "service frameworks" to the generalized descriptions of their work they had provided in Workshop 1. The line from what was spoken to the interpretation of analysts was cut. It would be difficult for scholars to verify whether the analysis was accurate or to use that understanding to productively contribute to future work

The initial disclosure of this analysis and the clear response from scholars provided a very helpful realization: as Bamboo's design process moves deeper and deeper into the abstract it must always have a direct line back to the semantics, methodologies and practices of the scholar. Without that grounding it will be difficult to validate any analysis, and trust and adoption of what we propose will be forestalled.

In response to faculty feedback, the Scholarly Narratives working group was formed and charged with gathering and organizing scholarly narratives. These narrative are intended to capture the actual descriptions of scholarly practice in a scholar's own words. A cross-cutting process has been developed with the Shared Services and Tools and Content Providers working groups that maintains the links between future analysis and these narratives. This will allow scholars to see themselves properly represented in the narrative description, track the analysis and generalization of their professional activities, and provide a forum and mechanism for input if discrepancies were to arise.

3.2.3 Scholarly Narratives 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. Scope and Boundaries

Much discussion within the Scholarly Narratives workgroup focused on defining the level of detail of narratives sought. Narratives that encompassed too much of a scholar's work were found too broad to impact designs of shared services. An initial effort to collect narratives sought any and all contributions. This was refined to a collection process seeking narratives whose scope was an individual process within a scholar's work. Development of this focus allows the work of the Scholarly Narratives group to dovetail with that of the Tool and Content Providers and the Shared Services workgroups which analyze the narratives for common tools, content and activities Bamboo can support. Role

Scholarly narratives are not an end in themselves; they are understandable entry point for scholars to enter into the world of Project Bamboo. The text of a narrative should reflect scholarly language and methodologies that other scholars would understand. This direct link between generalized practices and self-described practices 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 capture the self-described narrative, it can lead to deeper levels of analysis upon which services can be derived.

3.2.4 Processing of Narratives

Narratives are collected by the Scholarly Narratives working group. A template for documenting and cataloguing a narrative has been created, as well as a repository for storing submissions. Regular calls are made to the Bamboo community to contribute narratives. Anyone can contribute by filling in a template and submitting that template to the repository.

Once a narrative is collected it is subject to review by various groups within the Bamboo Project. First the narratives are reviewed by the Scholarly Narratives workgroup. As curators of the repository this workgroup is responsible for reviewing contributed narratives to ensure completeness and quality. Issues taken with any submission are raised with the contributor in order to improve the submission. Once accepted into the repository a narrative is analyzed by members of the community seeking to identify tools, content and activities within each narrative which might be supported by Bamboo.

The initial analysis of a narrative seeks identifiable recipes within the text. A recipe is a concept borrowed from the TAPoR Project ( TAPoR documents recipes for textual analysis ( A recipe is a familiar metaphor to most participants. It provides a list of ingredients which must be present, and a series of steps for transforming those ingredients into the end product. For Bamboo, the ingredients in a recipe are the tools, resources and content a scholar uses in her work. The series of steps are the process she follows for completing her work.

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.

With a catalog of recipes in hand, the analytical activity diverges into two domains. The Tools and Content Providers workgroup uses these recipes to understand what systems and what sources of material are needed by artists, humanists and social scientists. At the same time the Shared Services workgroup derives an abstract inventory of activities from across the recipes gathered. These activities are given a definition and are linked back to related recipes. Activities then become an artifact which can be used to model shared technology services.

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, 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.

3.2.5 Sustaining the Process

3.3.  Recipes (Workflows)

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.

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 community annotated list of tools and content resources.  This registry becomes another "view," like that of the Scholarly Network, Narratives, and Recipes, on what is possible and what materials are available to help.

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(s)

The Bamboo Community Environment is where Scholarly Network, Narratives, Recipes, Tools/Content Guide, Educational Materials can be found.  The environment may take two general forms: (1) as a user interface that Bamboo develops and is run for the community and/or (2) by developing each of these elements as information widgets/gadgets that can be incorporated into existing Virtual Research and Collaborative Environments.

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