Project Bamboo Workshop #5

Notes from the fifth workshop of Project Bamboo, a national/international digital humanities consortium in formation, being held over the next three days in Washington D.C.

Wednesday afternoon, June 17th:
[Small turnout compared to other workshops, perhaps 50-60]

Will decide on final shape and form of the project as it move forward to implementation, including governance structure and project management

Discussions with potential PB participants/partners: held about 30 discussions to date. Provisional discussions without formal commitments. 25 institutions have indicated they want to lead or participate; 4 still considering; 1 dropped out. Everyone affected by financial downturn. Desire to tease out relationship between research and pedagogy, especially in the Atlas area.
Question of what is meant by “community” within PB context? Is it the larger scholarly community that we are trying to draw in or is it more narrowly the groups and institutions that are operating PB.

Bamboo Atlas Breakout Discussion: concerns raised initially about absence of focus on arts and pedagogy in the draft document that seems to focus heavily on humanities scholarhship.
Atlas helps encourage active search for digital solutions for the humanities by linking to ongoing scholarly narratives.

Summary of first part of discussion: material in current draft is the technological tools and what’s missing is the “value added.”At last will allow a community to form about what’s important in arts and humanities, which includes narratives and recipes. Atlas is a forum that allows a community of scholarship to come together to engage with one another about what’s available and what works. Recipes have three forms: content, tools, and activities.

Late Afternoon Discussion of Bamboo Atlas Work Group:

What should be PB’s first-year deliverables?

  • some enterprise level of production services
  • use existing or in formation solutions (examples offered included Univ. of VA and CUNY Academic Commons) and be able to link to them from PB platform, whatever form that finally takes
  • develop some kind of curatorial/editing presence to help shape what gets into the Atlas

Will now report out to full group the main conclusions of the Atlas working group.

REPORT OUT: What are key changes that should be made to the basic PB project plan?

  • Scholarly Networking W.G.: thought scope was fine but wanted it to be more concrete. Not clear what “gadgets” would be built. Change focus from gadget to “solve particular problems.”
  • Atlas W.G.: desire to embed pedagogy and teaching more fully as well as more on the arts (too humanities focused). Feeling that description of Atlas was not clear enough in the proposal. Deliverables should focus on the content side, not on the software. How much can we actually deliver in a one-year time frame? How much curation of submissions would there be?
  • Services Platform W.G.: what are right deliverables for Year One? Cloud capabilities left undefined; specific examples of services will require what other groups are talking about before determining answer to this question. Want services that foster new kinds of digital humanities projects not just make possible existing projects. Don’t step on toes of content owners.
  • Community W.G.: recommend that we fold this in to Project Mgmt and Governance section, Section #5.

Now viewing a demonstrator “movie” detailing what a possible PB exchange website might look like and how it might function.

Thursday, June 18 Morning Session

Budget discussion: Mellon is holding $1 million  a year for next several years for PB; high priority for the fdtn. PB leaders estimate that the project will requiere $3 million per year to achieve it’s goal (a heavy lift, to say the least). Community and potential other funders will have to make up the balance.

Worthy Martin had a very good post on issues of community design: See

Now breaking up for rest of morning into working groups. I will stay with Atlas group since it seems to embody most of our (CUNY’s) concerns and issues, especially related to pedagogy.

Atlas W.G. – what do we want to accomplish in the first year and how will we measure success?

  • focus on Mellon funded tools? Probably not enough of these tools to cover the five area of interst
  • how will we analyze narratives that are submitted? human intervention (curated) vs. machine analyzed?
  • difficulty of extracting scholarly narratives from scholars: maybe less is more and we can limit it to 10 per area of interest
  • what are incentives for scholars to participate in the narratives process – reciprocal access to others work; citation enhancement of your own work;
  • maybe use a model of Bamboo Fellows to help shepherd the narratives/recipes process – I spoke about ITFs as a perfect model of this kind of program; idea seems to have taken hold in this Atlas group
  • argument in favor of using pedagogy and teaching/learning as a major focus for the Atlas group, not just scholarly research. Fits well with all of the elements of scholarly methodology, including marratives, recipes, activities, and tools. I mentioned Randy Bass’s VKP and Crossroads projects as models of SOTL.

Mid-morning break

What is the value of the Atlas?

  • A way to get the lay of the land in terms of what’s available in digital humanities.
  • Forum for finding international standards of digital scholarship.
  • Allow faculty to self-assess their scholarship
  • Credentialize and evaluate tool building/development via scholarly peer review
  • impact of this on tenure/promotion process?

Martha Ross, Dean for Humanities at U Chi, argued that we are putting too much emphasis on pedagogy and that she wanted focus to remain on research. She was fairly heavily criticized for this intervention. Consensus is that it shouldn’t be either/or between research and pedagogy.

Who can contribute prose/ideas to bolstering the Atlas’s value to the community? Deadline for this is June 30.

  • helping IT folks understand community of practice
  • value of Atlas for administrators to help them understand how this can help institutions, particularly in profound budget crunch
  • develop e-journal idea
  • I volunteered, along with Kathy Harris, to write something about pedagogy and SOTL as a value proposition for the Atlas and it will help for Mellon if link is made between scholarship and curriculum

Report Outs:

  • Atlas W.G. – summary of above from morning session
  • Scholarly Networking – use metaphor of tree: trunk, boughs, branches and leaves (huh?); 3 problem statements that will be used for illustrative purposes
  • Services Platform – want to shift emphasis in several area, including making sure that delivery of services is for services that people want to really use (not eternal); measures of success should be focused on one year (e.g., projects have “Powered by Bamboo” on them; and must work with existing, not new, content and tools; use other big projects like Fedora as models)


June 18, Afternoon Session

Discussion of change in Scholarly Networking raison d’etre to take responsibility for developing “front ends”/interfaces that can solve the problems/questions posed by individuals or groups within and to the Atlas.

Voting on first set of ballots is underway. I voted yes for GC/CUNY on all four general descriptions of areas of Bamboo work. You can find the first ballot at:

Vote tabulation: each of the four areas was affirmed by range of 83 to 98% of vote (total of 52 present voters). Voters were 43% Arts & Humanities faculty and 41% technologists. Will discuss the lowest vote total, for the Atlas (83%), and why that happened.

Biggest concern of the abstainers is that Atlas scope is too large and amorphous and needs to be further clarified and refined.

Discussion of Membership in Bamboo: 3 levels: community, members, commercial  affiliates. Number of community members is over 600 at present; members are formally committed institutions and individuals who have come to workshops.

Membership Fees: combines financial pllus equivalent resource investment (ERI). Bamboo Member fees for institutions over 3500 students would be $8K/year in cash plus $12K/yr. ERI (this is for CUNY and for GC; same price for each of two entities so worth it for CUNY to join. Bamboo Leader would require addtl resource investment, but no financial model in hand yet for this. Project mgmt would be kept to a minimum. Grant funding will be used to underwrite major areas of work, not proj mgmt. Mellon will fund only about 1/3 of the first year costs; the balance will be picked up by member institutions.

End day with Demonstrator on Bamboo Atlas

Friday, June 19 Session

Agenda for half-day

Reflections from tables on Day 2 –

  • other funders: NEH; private entities
  • community bldg activity is now folded into organizational structure and this is a concern for some
  • cost of leadership level engagement with PB is opaque still

Discussion of Demonstrators – Atlas

  • 13 attendees at dinner after meeting about Atlas demonstrator presented yesterday
  • key question was what is the Atlas?
  • user centered design and curated content drew most interest of the five work strands for the demonstrator;
  • talk of incentives for participating in the Atlas project
  • Steve Masover of UCB will develop an email list to keep people in touch about Atlas demonstrator – anyone can sign up for one of the five work strands
  • what is proper alignment of Atlas and Scholarly Networking aspects of the project?

Review Timeline thru Oct 2009

  • paragraph contributions and comments on 0.5 draft due by June 30
  • draft 0.6 by July 14
  • finalize institutional conversations by end of August
  • complete Mellon draft by early Sept. for discussion with Mellon
  • mid-Oct final proposal submission to Mellon, incl. institutional letters of support

Presentations by UChi and UCB Deans

  • Janet Broughton, UCB:  impressed by community process; appreciates our hard work;
  • Martha Roth, UChi: UChi committed to seeing this project through; a project that we all need and want;

Wrap-Up: profuse, expressed thanks to all assembled and distantly connected

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  1. Posted June 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for posting these notes on the Commons, Steve. It sounds like there are some interesting (and, hopefully, productive) tensions surrounding the research and pedagogy foci. One of the great things about the digital humanities as a field is that it tends to collapse the distance between the two.

  2. Posted June 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Yes, indeed, George.This project has been struggling with a sense of declension since it started. They are now saying that Mellon is insisting on a one year (!) funding perspective in the funding proposal. It started out with an 8 to 10 year time frame. Smaller may well be better in this context.

  3. Posted June 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Very useful, Steve, and a bit saddening/troubling given what you report on the size of the turnout. But perhaps smaller discussions could be no less productive. My guess is the definition of “community” is going to be especially tricky — and consequential.

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