[Humanist] 26.634 XML & what kind of scholarship

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Dec 30 10:37:48 CET 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 634.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                              www.dhhumanist.org/
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>         (50)
        Subject: Re:  26.630 XML & what kind of scholarship

  [2]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>         (10)
        Subject: Re:  26.630 XML & what kind of scholarship


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 30 Dec 2012 06:02:14 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.630 XML & what kind of scholarship
        In-Reply-To: <20121229100828.AE0562DEB at digitalhumanities.org>

James,

> When you say that "the result is exactly the same," I take it that you mean
> the result to be the display of italic script on either a computer screen or
> in a printed document.

No, I meant the encoded characters themselves.

This small example - turning an italic print word into its XML
equivalent - was meant to illustrate that converting an analog source
into digital form is an act of interpretation. But some might ask "why
does it matter?" It might not matter much here, but it does in more
complex cases, as with variant structures, segments of text that are
wrapped with <seg> to facilitate their connections to other parts,
sections of text that are repeated because of problems representing
overlap, texts that are encoded in different ways by different people,
etc. We shouldn't forget that all this is interpretation, not what the
author wrote. If it was possible to render everything in XML
graphically one-for-one in print and back again then we would be able
to build an easy to use GUI for TEI, but we can't.

Paolo,

>With XML/TEI, one could
>argue, comes interoperability. But I guess that the question now is: with no
>easy human-readability nor ability to edit the XML source directly, is it
>still worth trying to fit a human's suit (XML/TEI) to a Vogon's body (my
>'musical score' text model)?

If a machine is writing the text in this form then you are in a
position to verify its correctness at the program level. But if you're
not going to edit it manually then I would ask "why XML?" Having it in
TEI-XML doesn't give you interoperability at the level of your
encoding, unless someone else has a different program that can also
process this type of markup. XML-level interoperability just means
that someone else can parse it. Even searching is problematic, since
the repeated encoding of the same text in a "musical score" format
would produce two or three hits per unique item, depending on how
similar they were.

Wendell,

Let me just re-iterate that I think the LMNL data model is cool. It's
the only range-based model with annotated ranges, and hence the only
one that can import XML without significant data loss.

But allowing people to edit markup encourages them to encode their
subjective judgements into the actual data format. Then we can only
interoperate those texts at the XML or LMNL level, not at the
application level. If machines read and write XML they don't do that,
and so we can have truly interoperable XML formats like SVG. Do you
need to edit your Word files? Your SVG files? Then what's so different
about humanists that they need to edit their format? A properly
constructed GUI would recognise their need to encode their subjective
judgements about the text in a formal and interoperable way. They
don't need to see the nuts and bolts of how that works.

Desmond Schmidt
eResearch Lab
University of Queensland



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 30 Dec 2012 11:27:43 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.allan.schmidt at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  26.630 XML & what kind of scholarship
        In-Reply-To: <20121229100828.AE0562DEB at digitalhumanities.org>

To avoid wasting people's time with misunderstandings some changes are
needed in my last post:

"to build an easy to use GUI for TEI, but we can't."->"to build an
easy to use GUI editor for TEI, but we can't."
"Do you need to edit your Word files?"->"Do you need to edit your Word
files in binary?"

My mistakes, sorry.

Desmond Schmidt
eResearch Lab
University of Queensland.





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