Published: Feb. 11, 2009

Since October 2008, Lori Emerson (English), Steve Bailey (A&H DATC), Yem Fong (Libraries), and Heather Wicht (Libraries) have participated in workshops organized by Project Bamboo. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and led by Principal Investigators Janet Broughton (Dean of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley) and Gregory Jackson (Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, University of Chicago), Project Bamboo is an arts and humanities community planning project that spans eighteen months. Its goal is to develop an ambitious proposal to the Mellon Foundation to build a cyberinfrastructure for research and teaching that will take on the qualities of bamboo itself—material that is configurable, flexible, sustainable, and reliable.

Through a total of five workshops held across the U.S. and in Europe, the project has so far been attempting to establish common scholarly practices across the arts and humanities and to determine the technology challenges shared by a range of institutions (small liberal arts colleges to research universities), organizations (consortia to content providers), and regions. Since the project is resolutely community-driven, workshop participants have been working to more specifically define the mission and goals of Project Bamboo. For example, at the end of workshop two in October 2008, participants worked together to establish eight different working groups which have since been working separately to identify particular areas or approaches that should be considered for inclusion in the final implementation phase of Bamboo. While CU team-members have participated in most of the different working groups—such the institutional support working group, the scholarly networking group, the tools and content partners group, the shared services working group, and the scholarly narratives group—it has been particularly active in the Education Working Group.

Members of the Education Working Group are especially concerned with specifying how Project Bamboo can effectively support the Arts and Humanities faculty and staff in new and renewed research and teaching activities that both use and critique digital technologies. Members of this group are acutely aware of how a wide range of educational pursuits are open to digital innovation and renewal, extending from conventional teaching, research, and mentoring, to the cultivation of new tools, methods, and curricular goals. As such, the argument is that this emergent environment of innovation must be met with the self-critical awareness that characterizes the Arts and Humanities, plus an attention to new issues related to tenure and promotion that may attend. This group is also concerned that Project Bamboo maintain a sensitivity about an expanded notion of “text” in digital environments, and be alert to exploratory, collaborative, interdisciplinary, interpretive, creative and remixing scholarly and pedagogical practices involving digital tools and methods.

The next workshop will take place in April 2009 in Providence, Rhode Island. With the final workshop planned for June, these two workshops will be crucial for seeing whether it is possible for such a large and diverse community to create a coherent plan for the future of this cyberinfractures, especially as there have already been difficulties establishing commonalities across the Arts and Humanities as well as establishing a common language across Arts/Humanities and IT.

-- Lori Emerson, Assistant Professor of English and Project Bamboo member