Project Bamboo Workshop 4 Summary

Bamboo LogoIn addition to my written summary, you can find the resulting action plans, poll data, and Twitter commentary here:

I think Bamboo Workshop 4 went well overall and I was very glad to attend. To my surprise, pedagogy seemed to be one of the areas with the most energy and support behind it, and from various quarters including IT, Librarians, and -- to a *lesser* extent -- faculy. The meeting polled the constituents several different times on institutional interest and willingness to commit to working on the areas of the planning document. I marked us down as willing to be leaders in the Education and Curriculum section, and understand from George that we might be willing to lead on others.

The Bamboo organizers worked very hard to change the agenda on the fly
according to the needs and input from the meeting constituents.

My sense of the plan is mixed. I definitely think it's a good idea, and I'm enthusiastic about working on it, but budgetary restraints in these economic times are going to introduce difficulties for overstretched IT departments who might be called upon to allocate personnel or financial resources to Bamboo.

My other main concern was that Bamboo might replicate or rebuild some existing services (like MERLOT or SAKAI), but by the final reporting session on day 3 it was clear that much thinking and planning had been done to avoid that. The question is how to do it. This should be more clear below.

The meeting resulted in sets of principles, 1st year, and 2nd year action plans for all sub-sections that can be viewed on the wiki. The following page will give you a strong sense of the meeting's results, as it contains the poll numbers on the various sections, as well as the action plans, and notes on the discussions taken by Bamboo folks:

You can also view the Twitter discussion (#pb4) here:

Following is my summary of the days' events.


Goal of the workshop is to generate a proposal for the 1st 3 years, as a series of one year proposals. Resources are starting to come into focus. They need to know who (institutionally) will take part, and what kinds of resources they can allocate to the project.

PB4 worked toward PB5, seeking our input on major program elements, the consortial model, etc. through non-binding polls and discussions. The following will happen immediately after PB4:

  • Program staff mtg in Chicago Mon/Tue to debrief + digest
  • Create straw man of first phase implementation proposal
  • Schedule conversations with institutions and organizations to guage interest and commitment.
  • Refine and edit Bamboo program
  • Develop and refine the Implementation Proposal
  • Have something up and operational in 12-month timefrime (what Mellon wants)
  • Meet June 17-19 Washington DC, at UC Berkeley center there, right before digital humanities 2009.

After PB5, they wil:

  • Finish + finalize Bamboo Program
  • Finish + finalize Implementation Proposal
  • Finalize conversations with institutions and organizations (what we can contribute and particpate in: a "sign on the dotted line" kind of moment; who's in, who's going to wait and see?)

Chad and David would like an email on Sunday from institutions about what kind of roles and commitments they might like to make in the project. I am thinking we could commit to the Education and Curriculum part of it (at least I'd like to be actively involved in this), and possibly others?


1. Vision

2. Scope of work -- the idea of moving a big multifarious project forward but not as a single monolothic object -- has to be broken up some how with various semi-autonomous elements (the Cloud)

- How to make this happen at the technology layer (Cloud)

3. Major Activities

  • The Forum - the are already mature efforts (SAKAI, Fluid) that are humanities led, so we need to be careful not merely to replicate these.
  • Bamboo would take a step back and somehow connect some of these, but also lead where identified needs are lacking in resources
  • Bamboo would be a kind of glue for a longer term infrastructure
  • Social model where different people can be in leadership roles
  • But not proposing own social networking environment like Facebook or SAKAI, rather a way to connect them and still allow you to find project related to your disciplinary work, etc. (learned societies).

4. The Cloud
Infrastructure for sharing services, gadgets that minimizes risk, is inherently redundant, low in cost, and introduces the potentional for broad adoption across institutions, organizations and georgraphical boundaries in a sustainable and reliable manner.

Constraints - financial? Ballpark figures have changed to around $1m per year for first three, could be more or less. I assume this is a diminished figure from what was initially offered by Mellon.

Scholarly Narratives working group report -- they tried to fill a gap between scholars' description of work in PB1 and Tech designs in PB2. Met with tech and scholarly people; idea was to provide connection between scholarship and design work. How do we identify and define the needs we're trying to address? How can we design tools and infrastructure to support that kind of work?

PB needs a map -- scholars' needs must be expressible in terms of tech capability. The tech must be describable in terms of the schoalrly activities they support. PB "tri-group" team envisions such a map.

Sch. Narrative --> Recipe /  Activity Definition --> Tools / Content / Services
scholarship <----------> technology

The Scholarly Narratives are often not described as overtly digital or technical; frequently overlap one with another; require deconstruction and analysis.

Recipes are one way to tease out relevant elements of narratives: facilitate processes for other institutions who might need insight in producing their own projects.

The Scholarly Network is ffor managing bibliographies, centralizing resources, seredipitously finding other scholars working on same subject, etc.

The Forum will advance the narrative-recipe-activity service process to become more streamlined and efficient, ie, allow PB to better sort wheat from chaff.

1st Poll assessing our institutional interest in the following sections of area 3.

2nd poll, assessing our institutional interest in the following sections of area 4.

Services Atlas
- Bamboo inviting contributions for user interface design. What will API look like? Etc.

Section 5 - Lab

I don't remember much about this. Sorry: my attention was failing by this point in the day.


This day began with an activity that broke down the constituency according to their institutional roles: (1) faculty, (2) administration, (3) technology / IT / Library. I was placed in group 3 as a technologist. During our small table discussion, teaching started as the main focus. Some of the librarians (these from the Open University in Britain) felt that expertise in pedagogy seems to have shifted to technology services. Also, teaching is important politically because funding and resource allocation for research projects (esp. in small liberal arts schools) needs to show relevance and impact on students.

I added that if a mission of Bamboo is to facilitate digital humanities research and bring up the next generation, much of that happens through teaching, so I would think PB would have a vested interest in best practices and maximizing learning.

Networking -- the IT executives in my discussion group felt that the networking tools proposed for Bamboo would be more of a drain on their staff than a help to their work. However, they also felt that it's good for technologists, faculty, and librarians to keep getting together like this to discuss it all. The IT execs, though open to the project, seemed to have a less idealistic notion of how the work of Bamboo would benefit their own departments, or even their universities as a whole.

Risk of Bamboo is to demonstrate a clear payoff to researchers (faculty) within a defined timeframe. If Bamboo can't communicate that, it will be difficult to make it work.

One IT person said that humanities scholarship is an individual pursuit and that the Forum would not take load off him.

The IT folks began to ask whether PB would just become another MERLOT. Facebook is successful because it reached a critical mass. I don't think MERLOT has the kind of institutional buy-in -- and therefore the motivation for continued commitment for development and improvement -- that PB is looking for. PB strikes me as being fundamentally a multi-*institution*-driven project rather than a social network of individual humanists.

Q&A re: small table discussions:
If digital humanities is going to flourish, then institutional and disciplinary Silos will have to break down and reform. Linear Recipes might be too narrow -- need feedback loop type structure (not sure what was meant by this). Scenarios might be better way to think of Recipes. Why use Bamboo over something like FB for networking? Can we leverage or interoperate with something like FB? Tools etc. are short lived relative to interoperability standards.

Following the Q&A of small table discussions, we took a poll on the level of institutional willingness to commit to the sections of PB in areas 3 & 4.

Small table discussions on what to do next in Bamboo. Establish an integrated core for the first year.

Long range plan has to be to reach beyond that initial group of humanists building Bamboo.

Neil Fraistat: keep humanities scholars engaged in shaping Bamboo at all stages, else the technical/humanities divide will remain.

Elli Mylonas: True partnerships have to go both ways.

Charter: Do we need different versions of it or different schematics to address the different constituent audiences in Bamboo?