[Humanist] 23.776 inadequacies of markup

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Apr 26 07:10:16 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 776.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (17)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.775 noticing the inadequacies

  [2]   From:    "John A. Walsh" <jawalsh at indiana.edu>                     (29)
        Subject: Reaction to the inadequacy of embedded markup

        Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2010 08:54:17 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.775 noticing the inadequacies
        In-Reply-To: <20100425080710.19FCB5303F at woodward.joyent.us>

These juxtaposition and standards and experiment are as old as that
between the Dionysian and the Apollonian, and I'm referring to
Nietzsche's referent, not his discussion of it.  It is possible to
have standards and be experimental at the same time.  Too often
"experimental" is just another word for "sloppy, careless, and
thoughtless."  Any truly experimental work worth reading conforms to
its own standards and, by doing so, sets new ones.


On Sun, Apr 25, 2010 at 4:07 AM, Humanist Discussion Group
> 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?

        Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2010 21:58:58 -0400
        From: "John A. Walsh" <jawalsh at indiana.edu>
        Subject: Reaction to the inadequacy of embedded markup
        In-Reply-To: <20100425080710.19FCB5303F at woodward.joyent.us>

Certainly XML and other existing markup schemes are imperfect. Desmond
Schmidt's article outlines many limitations. Some I accept; others I

I'd like to comment on two specific points.

Although he points out that one of the designers of XML was a
humanist, Schmidt nonetheless repeatedly criticizes XML, in the
context of digital humanities projects, because XML is an "industrial
tool." But the printing press and the World Wide Web are industrial
tools (regardless of whatever they started as), and they seem to have
served many humanists quite well.

My major issue with Schmidt's argument, however, is the claim that the
embedding of subjective content in the text, through the application
of markup, is somehow a problem. Many humanists, and I am one of
these, would argue that all texts and all representations of any given
text are subjective. A "plain text" ASCII or Unicode version of
Shelley's Prometheus Unbound is no more objective than an extensively
marked up version. For many humanists, and I am one of these as well,
the fact that markup allows one to unite a reading and interpretation
with a source text is a desideratum--a blessing, not a curse. If the
only goals are to archive and preserve, perhaps we do not need
markup--ASCII, Unicode, or formaldehyde may do. But if the goals are
additive, generative, critical, and creative, then markup, imperfect
as current implementations may be, is very powerful indeed.

| John A. Walsh
| Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Science
| Indiana University, 1320 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN 47405
| www:  http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/jawalsh/ 
| Voice:812-856-0707 Fax:812-856-2062 <mailto:jawalsh at indiana.edu>

More information about the Humanist mailing list