[Humanist] 23.775 noticing the inadequacies

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Apr 25 10:07:10 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 775.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Desmond Schmidt <desmond.schmidt at qut.edu.au>              (15)
        Subject: on the inadequacy of embedded markup

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (32)
        Subject: fashions

        Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2010 14:09:20 +1000
        From: Desmond Schmidt <desmond.schmidt at qut.edu.au>
        Subject: on the inadequacy of embedded markup

Hi all,

I'd like to garner some reactions to my paper recently published on advance access by LLC at http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/fqq007?
ijkey=ilzrEgphmlEtphb&keytype=ref . I find it interesting that, even in the most recent posts on Humanist ('23.771 publications: Web history; digital classics; documentary editing'), one can read things like:

>With only rare exceptions, any
>edition published by Documentary Editing must be in XML (Extensible Markup
>Language) that complies with TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) Guidelines,
>which have been widely accepted as the standard for digital textual editing.

Apart from the fact that the TEI Guidelines are not in fact a standard, I don't wish to contend with the truth of that statement, merely to point out that knowledge of the inadequacy of using embedded markup to record born-analog texts is also 'widely accepted'. I have no quibble about the quality of the TEI Guidelines themselves. I think they are as fine a piece of collaborative scholarship one is likely to find. But what they are based on is embedded markup, which has, in my opinion, too many technical flaws in it to form an adequate basis for a lasting encoding of born-analog texts. 

I have put everything I know about this subject into the article, and I would be happy to discuss openly on the list any aspect of the points made therein.

Yours sincerely

Dr Desmond Schmidt
Information Security Institute
Faculty of Information Technology
Queensland University of Technology

        Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2010 09:04:21 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: fashions

Ordinarily I don't comment on postings on the day that they are made, so 
that I'm on the same footing as everyone else here. On this occasion, 
however -- things being so quiet on Humanist on the one hand, and on the 
other too many little things crowding in and threatening to derail my 
thoughts -- I'll put in my 2 cents immediately. (Is that expression 
still current, I wonder?)

I do hope that some here will comment on Desmond Smith's note on 
embedded markup because I think there's been remarkable little critical 
examination of the idea. Like him I do not mean to imply denegration of 
TEI, XML and related technologies. But what about the scholarship, 
properly so called? What about the research -- pure, 
curiosity-motivated, wicked or whatever one wishes to call it?

I wonder, here outloud, whether collaborative projects, based on a 
common understanding of what's going on, don't tend to attenuate 
creative thinking. I wonder whether standards (so-called or otherwise), 
which enable a common effort, don't at the same time dampen experiment? 
Once something that can be routinised is moved from the laboratory to 
the factory, isn't it time to move on? Or, even more annoyingly perhaps, 
isn't it time to question our successes?

If our role is to serve others -- a fine thing to do, no doubt -- then 
our concern must be for smooth, timely delivery of products as 
specified. If it is to go where none have gone before, then our concern 
is rather different. Some of us sort ourselves one way, some the other, 
and so there is tension, creative if we manage it right.


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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