Friday, 31 January 2014

this week's blogging question: TEI in the wild

How do digitization projects, digital editions, and other forms of digital humanities research use and talk about TEI? Can you find a digital project that not only puts TEI to use, but also provides some explanation of its XML encoding strategies -- or even shares its XML for other researchers to use? Let's use this week's blogging question to find out.

Thinking back to the examples we considered in class, the Folger Digital Texts project and the Women Writers Project, can you find an example of a similar XML-driven project that uses TEI? It doesn't necessarily have to be a book-oriented project, and certainly doesn't need to be a literature project like these two, but it should be doing something scholarly and interesting with TEI.  This question will require you to do some hunting around the web, though you could start by looking into the TEI community's online presence, and looking for projects affiliated with TEI or those that simply reference it.

Once you've found an example that interests you, tell us just a bit about what the project is, and how it puts XML to use. Does the project website give much detail about how it uses XML, and the encoding strategies it uses? Has the project gone so far as to publish articles about its methods and challenges? Finally, does the project make its code available for others to use? The answer to this last question could be more than a simple yes or no -- for example, a project might make code available only to subscribers, or, like the Folger Digital Texts, to anyone who provides a bit of personal info.

My guess is that DH projects that actually share their code (as distinct from talking about sharing it) will be in the minority -- or perhaps I'm just world-weary and jaded, and you'll prove me wrong! In any case, we should be able to build a collective picture of what TEI looks like in its natural habitat as of early 2014. (And remember, if you encounter any <bear> elements with children, try to exit the area quietly without drawing the mother's attention...)

follow-up to week 4

This week's lecture slides, along with the overlapping hierarchies handout, are now posted in the usual place on BB. If you'd like to take a closer look at the 1609 version of Shakespeare's Sonnet 129, which we used as the basis of our markup exercise, can check out this digital facsimile provided by the Internet Shakespeare Editions. I also provided a handout showing the 1609 version and a modern edition taken from Stephen Booth's parallel-text edition of the sonnets: If you'd like to read more about punctuation as markup, the definitive work is M.B. Parkes's book Pause and Effect: an Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West:

We also looked at a couple digital projects to see how XML markup can be put to use (a topic that we'll pick up again next week). One was the Folger Digital Texts project, which makes XML versions of the Folger Shakespeare Editions available for public use. The other example was the Women Writers Project, including some visualizations created with their XML.

Finally, I've added to this week's "recommended readings" a book chapter that I'm working on called "Encoding as Editing as Reading," which explores the rationale behind our encoding challenge assignment, and discusses the exercise we did in class this week (which is why I didn't share it before). It's still rough, unpublished work that hasn't yet had the benefit of revisions based on peer review, but it might still be useful to anyone interested in markup theory and practice.

Friday, 24 January 2014

our next blogging question: on representation

Our sequence of classes on XML and TEI lead us into the topic of using digital technologies to create representations of existing artifacts (like digitized books), as distinct from born-digital artifacts like video games and hypertext fictions. This week's blogging question is designed to get us thinking about representation, digital technologies, and what's at stake in that relationship.

At the beginning of one of our readings for this coming week, Michael Sperberg-McQueen starts with a counter-intuitive claim: "Texts cannot be put into computers. Neither can numbers. ... What computers process are representations of data" (p. 34). This helpful reminder serves to point out the paradox of the term digitization: when we say we're digitizing a book, we're not actually doing anything to the original book (usually; there are exceptions), and are really just creating a new, second-order representation in digital form. Yet the English word digitization, and its grammatical form of an action (making digital) performed on an object (something not digital), can elide the act of representation that underlies all digitization. Why is this important? Sperberg-McQueen's answer is that "Representations are inevitably partial, never distinterested; inevitably they reveal their authors' conscious and unconscious judgments and biases. Representations obscure what they do not reveal, and without them nothing can be revealed at all" (p. 34). This line of argument leads to a deceptively simple consequence for everyone involved in digitization: "In designing representations of texts inside computers, one must seek to reveal what is relevant, and obscure only what one thinks is negligible" (p. 34). All digitizations, being representations, are choices -- so we'd better learn how to make good ones.

This week's question, like last week's, asks you to share examples. Can you think of some specific act of digitization -- it could be anything: an image, an ebook, digital music, you name it -- where an originally non-digital object or artifact (very broadly defined) has been digitized in ways that reveal interesting (or controversial, or funny, or illuminating) representational choices.

For example, if you bought the Beatles's record Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on vinyl LP when it was first released in 1967, you'd experience it in at least a couple of different ways than if you bought it on iTunes today, or on CD in 1995. For one, an LP listener would need to flip the record over partway through, which may or may not give the impression of the whole album being divided into a 2-part thematic structure: some bands exploited this imposed division of records into Sides 1 & 2, but not all did. More to the point, an LP listener reaching the very end of the record, in which the song "A Day in the Life" ends on a long E-major chord that would just keep on resonating in a continuous loop until one lifted the needle from the record. A CD track or MP3 file can't (or simply doesn't) do this. What is the representational choice here, and why does it matter? I'd offer the answer that the original design of the Sgt. Pepper LP involves the listener physicially in the music, in that "A Day in the Life" only ends when you chose to lean over and stop the record. That effect is lost in the digitized version of the album -- or is it replaced by something else?

This might not seem to have much to do with books, but noticing this kind of representational choice, in which form and meaning become intertwined, is exactly what bibliographers and other textual scholars do. Your example need not be as involved as the one I've spun out above: the point is to get us thinking about how representation works.

follow-up to weeks 1, 2 & 3

Normally I'll post a follow-up each week, but this week's post will be a bit of an omnibus to get caught up. In our first class we considered Ramelli's book wheel, which you can read more about in the supplementary article I posted to the week 1 readings, titled "Reading the Book of Mozilla." The film version of The Three Musketeers in which the book wheel makes an appearance is from 1973, directed by Richard Lester. In week 2 we compared the Ramelli book wheel with another image of the future of the book, as it was imagined in 1935:

This image came from an issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics, and was recently popularized in a story in Smithsonian Magazine. The U.S. patent filed for the device can be found here: . A tip of the hat to my RA Matthew Wells for finding this.

In this week's class I began by mentioning some of the iSkills workshops that might be useful in relation to our course. You can find them listed here: The Inform also has a number of e-reading devices of various kinds, from Kindles (old and new) to iPads, which are described here: Our intrepid Inforum librarian, Elisa Sze, who curates this collection has also provided a more detailed list of the e-readers you can find there:
Kobo e-Reader (1st generation)
Kobo eReader Touch
Amazon Kindle (1st generation)
Amazon Kindle DX
Sony eReader PRS-505
Sony Digital Book Reader (model from 2011)
Kindle (model from 2011)

You can also take out the Inforum iPads and purchase and install your own apps as long as you sign on with your own Apple ID.  Just don't forget to sign out again when you return it or someone might charge a bunch of Justin Bieber songs to your account. To clear the Apple ID on newer models of the iPad: go to Settings > iTunes and App Store > Sign out. To clear the Apple ID on the 1st generation iPads: go to Settings > Store > Sign out.

Finally, in class this week I briefly mentioned one particular implementation of XML for creating marked-up representations of comic books and graphic novels. It's called Comic Book Markup Language (CBML). If you're considering a comic book or something like it for your encoding challenge, this should be helpful. We'll spend a lot more time on specific applications of XML next week.

Friday, 17 January 2014

first blogging question

Welcome to the public blog for INF 2331, The Future of the Book! Each week I'll post follow-up items from our lecture, as well as the set blogging question for the group blog assignment. Lecture slides will be available only on Blackboard. I have a fair amount of follow-up material to post for our first two lectures, but for now I'll get straight to our first blogging question.

As we considered in class this week, the field of bibliography concerns itself with the relation between a book's physical form and the meanings it makes available for interpretation. The author of one of our readings, D.F. McKenzie, even goes so far as to argue that "forms effect meaning" (in Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, p. 13). Note his choice of words here: effect as distinct from affect (though once or twice McKenzie's text has been misprinted with "affect," which changes the meaning of his argument but proves his point by accident...). This week's blogging question is fairly open-ended, and geared to get us thinking about the materials we'll study in this course: when was the last time you encountered a book, whether printed, digital, or otherwise, whose form affected or even effected its meaning in a way that struck you as interesting? What made it interesting?

Please include a full reference so that others can hunt down the book, and be specific about the formal feature(s) that caught your attention. These could be design features -- subtle or overt -- or physical attributes of the book, or some other kind of inventive or playful approach taken by the author, designer, or others involved in the book's making. Remember, too, these effects don't need to be intentional: accidents that happen to books as physical objects can be illuminating, too.