February 14 – Text Encoding, Scholarly Editions, and Interpretation

///February 14 – Text Encoding, Scholarly Editions, and Interpretation
February 14 – Text Encoding, Scholarly Editions, and Interpretation 2017-01-24T16:40:05-05:00

Class Plan

  • Guest Speaker Marion Thain
  • TEI Workshop


Ciula, Arianna. “The New Edition of the Letters of Vincent van Gogh on the Web.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 4, no. 2 (2010).

Cummings, James. “The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature.” In Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), edited by Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens.. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2008.

Price, Kenneth M. “Electronic Scholarly Editions.” In Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), edited by Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2008.

Renear, Allen H. “Text Encoding.” In Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Professional, 2004.

TEI Resources

TEI Guidelines

TEI By Example


Text Encoding Initiativehttp://www.tei-c.org/index.xml

Victorian Letters and Lives Consortiumhttp://tundra.csd.sc.edu/vllc/

Vincent van Gogh: The Lettershttp://vangoghletters.org/vg/

Digital Dantehttp://digitaldante.columbia.edu

Shelley-Godwin Archivehttp://shelleygodwinarchive.org


  1. Jane Excell February 13, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    One thing (among many) that confused me in the “Text Encoding” article was the sudden emergence of HTML on the internet. After all the careful thought about how to best design SGML and the later deliberations that led to TEI, I’m not clear how HTML made its way to the forefront of internet communication. Who was responsible for this decision, how did it happen so quickly, and why was it rolled out with so many issues?

    There are many advantages to the digital edition of Van Gogh’s letters- especially for the researcher, who is presented with a host of tools with which to explore them in greater depth- but I wonder if this version serves the letters’ narrative qualities as well as the print. I imagine that all of the embedded links, notes, multiple panes with different versions, etc. might remove readers from the narrative and make them feel further distanced from Van Gogh himself. Perhaps the letters are already more informative than narratively engaging, but is it possible that there’s something lost among all the bells and whistles of the digital edition? (I must just be a grandma who’s biased toward the “traditional” way of reading these)

    I was struck by Cummings’ statement that, “the intelligent application of markup to a text is itself an interpretative act,” and although he adds that this is “very straightforward,” it made me wonder about some of the broader implications of applying markup to a text. How would a text change if different markups were used on it? In what scenario would knowing what markup was used be important information for a reader?

  2. Hannah February 14, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    I was really interested in the Van Gogh piece. A general interest of mine is making things accessible when they might not be otherwise. I do wonder if it distorts the information at time, to present it so out of sync with its original format.

    Price says, “scholars are no longer limited by what they can fit on a page or afford to produce within the economics of print publishing,” and I’m wondering how you choose what to include with such an incredible amount of freedom. Is there or should there be a limit? What are the best practices for this?

    I still don’t feel like I completely understand what Text Encoding is…

  3. Shoshanah February 14, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    In ‘The New Edition of the Letters of Vincent Van Gogh on the Web’ Arianna Ciula states, “this review considers the added value of the web version.” I wonder how Ms. Ciula measures “value”? She goes on to provide examples potential increased value: 1) readers have more options in how to engage with the material, 2) the content online includes everything in print and more, 3) interactivity creates a richer user experience, etc… Clearly the “use value” is higher in the web version. Are the “exchange value” and “labor value” more or less in the print vs. the web? Additionally I am unclear how the structure of the print version influenced the structure of the web version.

    In ‘Text Encoding’ when Allen H. Renear refers to “natural-language writing system” does he mean the alphabet? (Natural language referring to the one spoken by humans, and the writing system being the alphabet and words that make up that spoken language?)

    I found Renear’s definition of text encoding really clarifying: “text encoding as a representational system for textually based cultural objects of all kinds.” In reading the article I wondered whether markup is the same thing as metadata? Renear refers to it as “metalanguage” (or language used to describe language). Is markup a specific type of meta data used only for text? Or is it the same thing with a different name?

    Renear brings up the “complexity” of TEI. He claims that TEI is only as complex as necessary. “The TEI vocabulary used will be exactly as complex, but no more complex, than the text being encoded.” In this way, Renear is making a claim that the form TEI takes will be analogous to the text’s content. Well… how performative!

  4. Cat February 14, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Much of Arianna Ciula’s interesting article on the Vincent van Gogh web project focuses on how this digitized form helps us more deeply understand him as a man and as an artist. She says that through the web edition of this material, “possibly, the intertextual dimension of the man Van Gogh as writer, reader and artist all in one stands out even further than it does in the book form.”

    I am curious: will emerging history will be be more widely known/better articulated than the archives of the past? Today’s history in the making, like the documents from a 21st century presidency, are digitized immediately. If we believe that these current digital archiving and collecting processes aid in gathering a better understanding of information (when put together mindfully), how will/has our interactions with archives/collections changed with the advent of digitized collections such as this? Do students today view archives in a different way than those of the eighties? And if so, (and I think so), how will this positively and negatively alter future scholarship?

  5. Sarah February 14, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    1) The structure of text: While reading this week, I kept thinking of Lauren’s comment from week #2 about “scrolls.” “The line that stuck most with me was the idea that history has become an infinite scroll of micro events.” It made me wonder about the the structure of print and the act of translation from sheets of paper to digital format. What ways can we _learn about how to read, how to write, how to design_ from a deep historical trajectory of the scroll to digital edition – rather than from paper to digital?

    LAUREN (1/31): “The line that stuck most with me was the idea that history has become an infinite scroll of micro events. The word choice of infinite is interesting in that it highlights the inability to consume it all, the way then people digest it is via a sampling of micro events? Are historical events all just micro events or are we losing the ability to synthesize the big deal events from the overwhelming number of small events we see each day? Is this the problem with a distracted culture that is unable to process things like the changing political situation?”

    2) I’m still caught up with the question of how we might assemble things in digital? This feels to me (as stated above) like an act of translation? Are these new cartographies?

    3) Ironic that Millet’s Gleaners appears in the van Gogh papers, as indexing seems distracting from the act of gleaning or skimming? What is lost in the act of indexed information?

    4) DIGITAL HUMANIST WANTED: MUST BE ABLE TO COLLABORATE. In addition to technical skills and disciplinary training, should we filter Digital Humanities in terms of E.Q. (emotional intelligence)? In a field of collaboration, what are the dangers to shared collaborative projects? Is authorship analogue?

    5) James Cummings, “The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature,” states “It could be argued that what the TEI provides is phenomenology, not ontology.”

  6. phyllis plitch February 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    1. Allen H. Renear reading: In this paragraph, what does he mean by “no damage is done?” More generally what does this paragraph mean and how does it apply to digital humanities? “The second bit of additional precision is that where we used “content object” to refer to the parts of texts understood in the usual way as abstract cultural objects, independent of, and prior to, any notion of markup languages, the most exact use of “element” in the technical SGML sense is to refer to the combination of SGML markup tags and enclosed content that is being used to represent (for instance, in a computer file) these familiar abstract textual objects. Again the distinction is subtle and “element” is routinely used in both senses (arguably even in the standard itself). Typically, no damage is done, but eventually encoding cruxes, design quandaries, or theoretical disputes may require appeal to the full range of distinctions that can be made when necessary.”
    2. Electronic Scholarly Editions by Kenneth M. Price. In the paragraph beginning: “Many prominent electronic editions are referred to as digital archives, and such terminology may strike some people as loose usage…” He seems to hold “electronic editions” up as the definitive label for certain types of archives and collections. Is “electronic editions” still a term of art? In Creating Digital History class at NYU, we referred to digital archives; digital exhibits and digital collections. How important is it in this sphere to have agreement on this kind of nomenclature? Is any of this relevant? (He takes time to get into it, so I assume it’s got some relevance).
    3. In James Cummings’s The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature. In this paragraph that follows, what does Cummings mean by these “empty elements” are dangerous and how does TEI address that? “However, most encoding practice finds it useful to de-prioritize the physicality of texts, even their electronic texts, and understand the primacy of an intellectual structure reflecting this Platonic ideal. In the example above, of encoding paragraphs which break over pages, the TEI uses so-called “empty” elements. Although these are restricted to attribute content only, as opposed to element content, to refer to them as empty — implying they have no content whatsoever — is theoretically dangerous. In the TEI’s case these are milestone pointers which indicate where a change of state happens in the text, for example that the text runs from one page to another, but these milestones do not enclose the content of that page itself.” Thanks, Phyllis

  7. Lauren February 14, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    1) How does TEI handle things that are more of a feel? The asthetic look of a document? How do you represent something that is “beautiful”?
    2) what are the tooling around using TEI? How is governed? Been thinking about I believe that it was Christina’s project from last semester, do museum and scholars share their tags? How are they decided on? How do you collaborate within TEI? Or add yourself to a previous work?
    3) I find a little odd that TEI is so standard, most people don’t write directly in markup languages anymore but use full studios to create the markup via auto generation? Is the same happening with TEI?
    4) One thing I was thinking about is why are more scholarly reports not written using more markup languages, should we be writing more thinking about the first class metadata of the work and would then allow it to be much more cross platform and extendable. Does this open up the ability to make work more extendable and compandable
    5) one of the biggest problems of markup is that it is very specific to the tags if you extended at all making porting of the text nearly impossible, are we worried we are going to lose all the work and markup done now because the tools are not going to be able to keep up and the work will be lost?
    6) should the tei tags be fully descriptive or have nice code names, would people start to read encoding as english and then be able to read metadata and analytics by just reading the metadata?

  8. Whitney February 15, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    1.) What does everyone think about the argument of TEI “being a catalyst for the development of many, sometimes conflicting, understandings of what constitutes a text? Do you think TEI markup constitutes an addition of text to the original piece, or is TEI markup separate, wholly? (From “The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature” by James Cummings.)

    2.) Honestly, I’m a little confused by what Cummings refers to as textual “lower” criticism. He mentions it in relation to a theoretical movement and its influence on the development of TEI. Can anyone clarify this term?

    3.) In his article “Electronic Scholarly Editions”, Kenneth Price notes the “apparently folly nature of investing huge amounts of time and money in what cannot be preserved with certainty” of TEI. After Marion’s visit, I feel like this is only one interpretation of the preservative quality of TEI. I’m now more so leaning toward the idea that TEI, as it evolves, gives an historical insight into the thoughts of the programmer/scholar at any given moment and that that is worth preserving. Considering that the technology will be present to view TEI in the future, would anyone still argue against this view of the preservation qualities of TEI?

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