Notes for Project Bamboo Workshop 1

Clai and I sat down to talk a bit more about what we are already thinking about as a way to start clearing ground for building something new in dialogue with Project Bamboo:

**Modularity and the Mature Platform**. One of the things we worry about is the problem that mature platforms which is sometimes known as “software bloat” or “feature creep.” That is, the humanities, let alone the arts and humanities, represent, as some of the sources in the bibliography make clear, a very diverse audience. That diversity is not only in terms of needs/wants but also in terms of interests and abilities. Given such diversity, how does one develop a program or platform which affords the majority of users what they consider to be essential functionality and not, in the process, have it so full/cluttered that it is unusable?

**Granularity is multi-dimensional.** Another thing we discussed was the fact that the fine-grained analysis that the digital era promises also means different things to different people. To highlight one dimension of what we mean by the multi-dimensionality of granularity, we would point only to the current discussions about meta-data. For some users, meta-data are the tags, or descriptors, associated with an item. E.g., the Dublin Core’s suggestive list of tags/meta-data. On the one hand, this notion of meta-data is foundational. On another, this implementation does not go far enough: they would like to be able to tag content within digital artifacts — texts, images, audio, video. For a linguist interested in pronoun usage from a previous era, being able to distinguish between “the” as an article and alternate spellings of “thee” as “the” as a pronoun is crucial. Perhaps another way to say this is that one person’s beach is another person’s coastline. We think it is ineluctable that data will get described in more sophisticated, “fine-grained” if you like, ways as we move forward and that the important thing is establish a base-line from which everyone starts and upon which everyone can depend.

**Achieving platform sophistication means going both ways.** One way around, perhaps only current, potential limitations of being able to carry content with tags both attached to it and attached to parts within it would be to make users more capable. In the example above, the number of “thes” that would amount to false positives could be significantly reduced by better searching, e.g., use of regular expressions. Regular expressions, while somewhat different across various scripting and programming languages, are fairly consistent and not that difficult to use. They are not, however, part of any humanities computing course of which we are aware.