Bending and Growing

I haven’t posted here about Project Bamboo, but that’s not for lack of thinking about it.

I spent a few days in Chicago earlier this month participating in Workshop 1b in the Bamboo planning process. Bamboo bills itself as

a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and inter-organizational effort that brings together researchers in arts and humanities, computer scientists, information scientists, librarians, and campus information technologists to tackle the question:

How can we advance arts and humanities research through the development of shared technology services?

Basically, it’s just that – a bunch of technologists, librarians, and faculty members in the arts and humanities getting together to brainstorm the possible. GW is interested in getting involved, so I attended on behalf of my library. It was an overwhelming, challenging, invigorating experience, despite the fact that I felt very young and green amongst the university librarians, the CIOs, and the tenured faculty members.

Bamboo offers a really exciting opportunity for all the stakeholders in the process to be involved, and to collectively develop something – a tool, a tool set, a development environment, a network – that will be mutually beneficial, facilitating discovery, collaboration, and advocacy for research in the humanities. Over the course of the workshops we talked about the need for change in promotion and tenure processes in the humanities to recognize collaborative, “tool-building”, and digital work. We talked about transformation versus improvement in research practices. We talked about smashing boundaries between faculty, staff, and students – between disciplines – between the public and the academy – to encourage more authentic collaboration and feedback. It was tremendously exciting to be sitting on a bus with people from all over the country – and for them to be so excited about what we were working on that the chatter was deafening.

On the final day, the CIO of the University of Chicago framed the discussion in terms of “I’m OK, you’re OK.” He said that we’ve gone through many iterations of this relationship over the years. We have said to those doing research or using technology in different or unfamiliar ways: “I’m OK, you’re not OK.” We’ve said “I’m not OK, you’re OK” in situations where we’ve felt overwhelmed by the technology or the process. We’ve also said “I’m not OK, you’re not OK” in situations where we’ve been asked to collaborate with others, but just haven’t spoken the same language. Bamboo offers an opportunity to say “I’m OK, you’re OK” in the context of a respectful partnership.

Regardless of what GW ends up doing, I’m terribly excited to see what happens with Bamboo, and delighted that I was able to be a part of the process.


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