[Humanist] 26.627 XML & what kind of scholarship

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Dec 28 09:56:06 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 627.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2012 06:24:17 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.625 XML & what kind of scholarship
        In-Reply-To: <20121227095250.0B6DB2D92 at digitalhumanities.org>


You seem to be arguing that the process of encoding is somehow neutral
because "the information in the human brain has to get into the
machine somehow ... Introducing paper into the process at various
points seems irrelevant." And you seem to be saying that markup and
text is all kind of mixed up and indistinguishable both in the
artefacts we edit and the way we edit them. But I still think that
distinguishing markup from text, interpretation from fact and analog
from digital is worthwhile.

Take the example of a 17th century edition of Shakespeare that
contains an italic word "really". A 21st century digital humanist
transcribes those black marks on a piece of paper as
"<emph>really</emph>" in XML. That's an interpretation. The printer
didn't write that code, didn't use the digital medium, didn't choose
to mark it with <emph> instead of <hi rend="italic">, etc. On the
other hand, a 21st century writer who composes a text in which the
word "really" is encoded natively in his XML as "<emph>really</emph>"
did in fact write those markup codes, those digital characters. The
result is exactly the same, but the status of the two digital texts is
entirely different.

You seem to be saying that it is easy to move from digital to print
and back again. But is that really true? If you format and print an
XML text can I recover the XML encoding from the printed artefact? I
wouldn't have a hope. I could only re-encode that born-digital text in
XML again through an act of interpretation. Even supposing that you
had used XML would be an interpretation.

We are going to get very confused if we can't distinguish
interpretation from the thing being interpreted. Markup added or
changed by an editor is interpretation, but physical, analog texts,
like born digital texts, are facts.

Desmond Schmidt
eResearch Lab
University of Queensland

On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 7:52 PM, Humanist Discussion Group
<willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 625.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                               www.dhhumanist.org/
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2012 12:33:54 -0500
>         From: Jay Savage <jsavage at fordham.edu>
>         Subject: Re:  26.609 XML & what kind of scholarship
>         In-Reply-To: <20121220093155.44D3839DB at digitalhumanities.org>
> Desmond,
> As a reader, I appreciate your point that
>> In "born-digital" markup is part of what I write. It is a fact. In
>> "born-analog-and-transcribed-to-digital", markup is an interpretation.
>> It is different every time the "transcription" is redone by someone
>> new. In born-digital markup is always the same. Although, as you point
>> out, I may use the same tools in processing both born-digital and
>> born-analog texts, the kinds of interaction between user and text in
>> the two cases will differ significantly. For example, in the
>> born-analog case we often request a facsimile side by side with its
>> transcription so we can verify its accuracy. In the born digital case
>> such a prop would be superfluous.
> This seems to me, though, to be mostly a matter of personal (and cultural)
> discomfort, and not a useful theoretical distinction. One wants a facsimile
> because one does not tust the transcriber or the technology, not because
> the technology requires it, and that desire significantly predates the
> "digital divide": editors have provided facsimiles of various sorts in
> addition to or in lieu of diplomatic transcriptions since the seventeenth
> century. That electronic texts increase the types of anxieties facsimiles
> help alleviate is not surprising.
> >From a theoretical and practical perspective, though, it is difficult to
> see what difference is made by the point in the process of digitization at
> which encoding happens. All CTO texts are, after all, truly "born human,"
> and the information in the human brain has to get into the machine somehow,
> whither through keypunch or scanning. Introducing paper into the process at
> various points seems irrelevant. If I print hard copy of a "born digital"
> text because I find it easier to prof-read on paper and then use the paper
> copy as the basis for a subsequent text (perhaps because of file
> corruption, or because my laptop was stolen. I suspect we've all be in that
> situation occasionally), is the resulting text "born analog and
> transcribed?" Why, then, does the introduction of paper earlier in the
> process change the supposed nature of the text?
> I would argue that this is not a useful distinction, particularly as
> it artificially collects a number of disparate reproductive techniques
> under the single, unuseful and unspecific category of "analog." Can a
> Linofilm-set text from the 1950's really be more usefully compared to a
> medieval manuscript than to a troff-processed, CRT phototypesetter-set text
> from the 1970's?  Digital texts, like all texts, have textual histories.
> Parts of those transmission histories for particular texts may include
> manuscript, hand press, machine press, or digital variants of various
> kinds. Most texts will shifts between processes many times: manuscript to
> galley to written notes to final setting, or MS Word file to printed proof
> to emailed corrections to photoset, ebook, or HTML formatting. Those
> histories need to be accounted for, and cataloging that metadata is one of
> the (arguably few) things XML markup is particularly good at, and the
> so-called "analog" features can be cataloged at least as effectively as the
> digital ones.
> Some types of markup may simply form the core of some "born digital" text
> production, but those texts still require additional markup--that would not
> normally be considered part of the text proper--to fully integrate them
> into any of the various systems we use to manage and explore digital texts.
> Adding that data may happen much sooner for "born digital texts"--in some
> cases it may even be coincidental with their creation--but that does not
> mean the processes are logically different than they are for "analog"
> texts. I would not, for instance, approach the kindle editions of Rushdie's
> "Midnight's Children" and "Joseph Anton: A Memoir" as appreciably different
> electronic artifacts, despite the former being set in print from typed and
> handwritten sources, and the latter composed electronically and released
> simultaneously in print and ebook formats.
> Please note I am not arguing that print and manuscript sources are not
> important to digital editions; they are as crucial to digital editions as
> they would be to subsequent print editions. Digital editors need to curate
> the the transmission histories left to them as carefully as any other
> editors, and scholars of digital texts need to be aware of their
> environments.
> It is possible, though, to simply approach an electronic texts as
> electronic texts, just as one approaches printed books as printed printed
> books.  One's first impulse on encountering a shelf of books is not
> normally to sort them according to whether the authors submitted
> manuscripts or typescripts to their publishers. Why, then, ask whether the
> author of an electronic text used pen and paper, a typewriter, or an
> electronic keyboard?
> Best,
> ----------------------------------------
> Jay Savage, Ph.D.
> Director of Academic Information Technology Services
> Yeshiva University ITS
> jsavage1 at yu.edu
> (646) 592-4092
> "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to
> them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." --Steve
> Jobs

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