A Review of James Cummings: The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature

TEIJames Cummings article on TEI and the study of literature gives us a detailed account of the purpose of digitizing. The overall concept of TEI was so that originally printed texts to become electronic texts in the majority of linguistics and literary disciplines. It also sets guidelines, these guidelines are used for many text encoding projects. With new projects and new recommendations, they change as a result of both technology and theory. SGML and XML are constantly evolving and improving.

The Poughkeepsie Principles form the theoretical basis from which the TEI has developed. These principles are in place to provide a standard format for data interchange in humanities research and they also give an outline for the encoding of texts in the same format. These guidelines change as projects change. Each project will be different, different projects require different principles. Cummings points out that XML has been a success throughout the world. XML is now used as a storage format for mostly everything. The difference in SGML and XML is significant, SGML describes a document’s structure. Overall, XML is a much easier mark up language for text.

TEI was founded long before the world wide web, which explains why textual criticism has had a more direct effect on the development TEI. Cummings makes reference to Van Reenens and Van Mulken 1996 theory that textual criticism has three basic parts: Cladistics, this is the statistical analysis to determine which texts are most likely to be correct; Electicism, this is the editor choosing a particular reading as the critical text which is the easiest to perceive. The third branch of textual criticism is stemmatics, and I will quote from the text as I found this point the most difficult to interpret: “The more likely readings of a text are determined through the classification of the witnesses into grouping based on perceived phylogenetic relationships of the readings they contain. Overall TEI is designed to provide a better understanding of the text and electronic markup.

Cummings quotes the foundations of modern electronic scholarly editions, he believes that of all eight, there are three that must be met. They are longevity, accessibility; and intellectual integrity. The need for accessibility refers to a version of software which is required to run a certain programme. Longevity is dependent on market forces for support. In order for it to be able to function properly it relies on accessibility. Intellectual integrity is an important requirement that has to be met; The point of producing scholarly editions is to meet the needs of its readers intellectually. Like everything else that is produced it is designed to meet the needs of its users.

The main body of this article is based on the framework TEI provides for publishers, editors and scholars who wish to digitize their work. As we know more and more literature is available to us via a digital medium. Having literature readily available makes the reading experience a lot easier. The people creating them must ensure that they are available to everyone no matter where they are in the world and what language they speak. Scholarly editions have to be kept up to date with the latest advances in technology and they must be easy to use and reliable. When this article was written Cummings new that it was inevitable that soon printed books would be inferior to online books. With online books and such technologies like ipads and kindles becoming even more popular there is a possibility books could be left on the shelf but in saying that there will always be a place for printed editions. This article was long and hard to read but I would recommend it if you wish to further your understanding of TEI.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Review Of Ken Price’s Electronic Scholarly Editions

Compared with Aimeee Morrisons article I had to re-read this one a few extra times, but I presume I am not alone (hopefully anyways). In this article Price sets out to highlight the reasons why electronic editions are created and how they have set out to shape our future. He then follows on by discussing digital libaries and scholarly editions and the roles they play in the digital resource arena. With Electronic Scholarly Editions there are some ‘teething problems’ regarding costs, complications, audience, text translations and future developments. With a huge amount of time and money the digital scholarship has great potential. With the development of such projects it cannot be completed by one person, it relies fundamentally on collaboration. Thoes that are necessary are likely to be categorized under such titles: Librarians, archivists, graduate students and undergraduates. When creating a electronic edition, design choices have to be taken into account. This is a new experience for many editors, and in order for it to be successful they are required to have some knowledge of the technical issues. For example: mark-up of texts and database design. Price in this article explores the reasons behind why so many scholarly editors find an uncertain project like scholarly editions so attractive. He wants us to fully comprehend what an edition is and how technology can make it better.

When addressing the issue of electronic editions he takes into account Jerome McGann arguement which in short says that not enough has been done to recognise editorial work and the new possibilities of the digital medium. An archive can be how exactly the author wants it to be, it allows them to publish their own work without the interfence of an outsider. When something is published it is edited by the editor, how a work is presented to an editor by the author in the first place is never how it looks as a finished product. The ‘Blake Archive‘ is used as a perfect example in this article. We are given the opportunity to view the work by Blake himself in the way he wanted it to be viewed. With these types of Scholarly Editions they attract a different type of audience, this type of narrative offers no type of guidance. Price used a quote by William Horton to argue this point: “users expect the writers to lead them through the jungle of information”. A project like an archive aims to represent everything, but then why are they not as popular as they should be. Archives can sometimes be difficult to follow especially in comparison with a text. Having an edited form is a lot easier to understand and follow. Price argues that one of the reasons why people are making electronic editions is because of the challenges that they will encounter, in this medium you can change so much there is not one fixed pattern that has to be followed and it allows for a text to be constantly expanded and interpreted in a number of ways. Many well known Scholars have had their work digitized, here is an interesting article on when Shakespeare’s work was made into a digital archive. Another archive which is worth a look at and is mentioned in this article is the Walt Whitman Archive. walt

Price pays due attention to the work-in-progress aspect of an electronic edition. An electronic edition does not have to be completed before it is released, so when creating an archive the editor can release some of their work before it has been finished. He does however highlight a few of the pitfalls attached to this idea. Questions are raised to how will we know when it is finished and ready for use in a library system. Price points out that the internet is always changing technology and its display modes, this in turn means that archives will also have to change.

What can be achieved from digital scholarship has yet to be fully realised. Its software and hardware are constantly changing and becoming more advanced. He says that digital libraries produce quantity over quality and digital archives and editions produce work that is relevant to a specific area of study. Digitizing produces information and editing produces knowledge. To finish his article Price points out the problems to digital editions. Funding is a major one, and he highlights how important the development of XML and TEI is important to the development of digital editions. These editions are available to people all over the world via the web, therefore it is very important that it is accessible for everyone, there cannot be any language barriers. For writers who use this, it is very important that electronic scholarly editions adhere to international standards. Many scholars find it hard to manage interoperability, it is hard to make diverse systems work together, hence, a significant amount of the research potential of electronic work is lost. Price points to Marilyn Deegans remark on interoperability to allow us to fully comprehend the problems it can cause.

To finish with I feel that Price examines in detail what he believes to be the future regarding academics. Certain aspects of the article I found difficult to comprehend but that had more to do with my lack of understanding in this area of study rather that the way Price explained it. I would recommend to everyone to have a read of this article.
Ken Price

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 1:28 am  Comments Off on A Review Of Ken Price’s Electronic Scholarly Editions