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

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This page is a work in progress and has not yet been reviewed by the Scholarly Narratives WG, the Tri-Group Team, nor the Program Staff
-Duffy, 3/11/09







Intro paragraph

Duffy Gillman



Developed Processing/Analysis Portion

Duffy Gillman



Provided Context and Narrative sections; Reorganized flow

Rich Meyer



Incorporated RM's changes and Duffy's revisions to Context and Narrative definition

Duffy Gillman


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.


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.

Scholarly Narratives

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.

Narrative 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.

Scholarly Narratives 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.

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 (http://portal.tapor.ca/portal/portal). TAPoR documents recipes for textual analysis (http://tada.mcmaster.ca/Main/RecipeStructure). 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.

Sustaining the Process

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  1. Unknown User (jim.muehlenberg@doit.wisc.edu)

    This all looks excellent as it stands.  Two minor wording tweaks - under Scholarly Narratives, the line starting "A scholarly narrative is a self-described description..." might seek a different word for "description," otherwise it seems kind of redundant with "self-described."  And under Narrative Scope and Boundaries, the line starting "Much discussion within the Scholarly Narratives workgroup focused on defining the granularity..." - the term "granularity" is a nice IT-centric word but maybe too technical - maybe consider "level of detail" instead?

    1. Unknown User (duffy@email.arizona.edu)

      Good comments... I removed "self-described" and replaced "granularity" as suggested.