Project Bamboo: advancing arts and humanities research through the development of shared technology services

The following post is written by Seth Denbo who is the program coordinator of Project Bamboo.


There is no lack of digitized cultural content available on the Web. This ever increasing bounty creates problems of discovery, management, and use of both content and metadata. Alongside the proliferation of content there’s a related burgeoning of tools for performing these tasks. A scholar faced with finding, curating, exploring and analyzing a collection needs reliable information about these tools and their use.

Project Bamboo has been working to facilitate the discovery of tools for scholars interested in digital research by developing Bamboo DiRT , a community site for information about digital research tools. Developed by Project Bamboo, DiRT is an evolution of Lisa Spiro’s DiRT wiki that makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.

Bamboo DiRT also aims to capture the broader ecosystem of resources used by digital humanists and includes entries drawn from the original DiRT wiki, the Humanist discussion list, DH Answers, and other discussion fora. Each entry includes as much information as possible about the resource, including a prose description, supported platform(s), cost, screenshots, and technical information. While Bamboo DiRT is not itself a documentation repository, it contains fields for links to end-user, API, and general technical documentation. Authenticated users can indicate that they use a particular resource (following the model of the “like” button) and add tips for other users of that resource.

The aim is not to provide a centrally managed resource, but rather to enable the digital scholarship community to build and maintain a site that meets its needs. The site allows any registered user to add tools, provide additional information about existing entries, and comment about their own use of the tools. Anyone who uses or creates digital research tools is encouraged to contribute. To foster the community, ensure that the information provided by the site is of the highest quality possible and to maintain site-wide coherence, there is a diverse volunteer editorial board.

The future development plans for Bamboo DiRT include a robust API that will lay the groundwork for integrating Bamboo DiRT information with other parts of the Bamboo infrastructure and affiliated digital humanities websites built on common platforms (Drupal and WordPress). For example, projects listed on DHCommons that use a particular tool could be automatically listed alongside the tool’s entry on Bamboo DiRT. CUNY Academic Commons users could search Bamboo DiRT within the Commons, and the tools they’ve indicated they use could be listed in their profile. By participating in a rich ecosystem of data exchange, Bamboo DiRT will help users find the tools they need, improve the way they work with the ever growing wealth of data available, and build upon each others’ workflows to encourage better research.

Have you used Bamboo DiRT? We would love your feedback on all aspects of the site, so get in touch on email or via the contact form, and please get involved by adding or commenting on your favorite tools.

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