From Here to TEI and Back Again

I remarked to a colleague recently (rather flippantly, I must admit) that if I had a DH project that I wanted to pursue, I would march down the hall to the Computer Science Department and see if there was a student interested in an internship. I wouldn’t attempt to code the project myself. This isn’t because I have reluctance to code – I am pretty proud of the amount of digital work I’ve already done, and am fairly comfortable with the theory behind how code works. My comments stemmed from the fact that I have learned over the years that there are some things I am good at, and some things I am not.

I’ve learned to identify when it is best (for everyone involved) to bring in the experts.

I realize that my original flippant comment is fraught with problems. It suggests that I don’t understand that programmers do not live to sit at a computer and code. It also suggests a “This isn’t part of my job description” attitude that I most certainly do not possess. But at the end of the day, I do not understand how to even begin writing a program to search for an aspect of a text that might interest me…and truthfully, I’m not sure I have the brainwidth to learn That is why I would call in the professionals.

However, I did have an opportunity recently to have a little foray into TEI and discover that it isn’t as scary as I might have originally thought. It certainly has its own set of questions associated with it – mainly surrounding the purpose of the coding, and future laminations that might take place. This was brought to the forefront when comparing my independent coding attempts with those of others working on the same text. Whereas I was content with marking up names, titles, glyphs and paragraph designations, others opted to mark up lexical information, line breaks and a whole host of other text features.

The main question that this raised for me had to do with lamination and reproduction. Do we have multiple XML versions floating around of the same text, or do we take one and each add our special touch? Since no one really sees the code, it’s not as much as an issue if there are 5 tags surrounding one word as it would be in more visible code. Right? Or do I just not have enough information, yet?

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