A spoonful of sugar: encoding and publishing in the classroom

E. Spadini

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperScientificpeer-review

Abstract

This paper pursues the use of text encoding and digital publication in teaching textual criticism.
A number of concepts and rules of textual criticism can be put into practice during a course thanks to the use of digital resources and tools. In dealing with original materials (text sources), the students or participants have to learn the importance of, among others: identify and analyse the document’s structure; select relevant features for their research question, establish transcription criteria and conventions, understand the content and identify entities within the text.
These concepts and rules can be addresses through exercises in text encoding. This paper suggests that, in addition to text encoding, an appropriate and not too technical demanding solution for digital publication of the encoded texts will further foster the understanding of these key points.

More and more training courses are now available on how to encode texts, following the Guidelines of the TEI Proposal 5. At the end of these courses, the students or participants have produced a number of documents with markup. While the separation between the encoded text and how it will be rendered is fundamental to descriptive markup, focusing only on the encoding may result in more difficulties for the students to grasp the key concepts of markup and specific practices suggested by the Guidelines. Rendering the encoded texts will thus not only stimulate the participants' enthusiasm, but also foster their overall understanding about markup and its various applications.
The visualization per se of TEI data can be accomplished through the TEI transformation framework in oXygen, or through dedicated “lightweight solutions” as TEI Boilerplate and CETEIcean. Another option has recently been released as a common effort from the TEI and the eXist-DB communities, the TEI-Publisher Tool Box. It is based on the TEI-Simple Processing Model, integrated into the native XML database eXist. The Tool Box includes an App Generator, that will automatically create a web application, where to upload the encoded texts and customize the rendition through the ODD if needed. If compared with other publishing framework, the TEI-Publisher offers extra functionalities, due to the fact that it is built upon a database. Two searches options, for instance, are available in the web application automatically generated, one for the text and one for the metadata.
The use of TEI-Publisher in an academic course is underway at the Laboratorio Monaci, a workshop for undergraduate and graduate students held at Sapienza University of Rome, whose goals are the study, promotion and edition of the materials of the Archive of Ernesto Monaci (1844-1918). During a section of this workshop, students are introduced to the Text Encoding Initiative and to how to apply its Guidelines. As soon as the letters are aptly encoded, students are able to upload them into the web application generated through the TEI-Publisher, to browse and search them. When combining the work on the XML editor with exercises on the web application, it may be easier to understand the above-mentioned concepts and procedures: significant text structures are visualized, as well as the relevant features that had been encoded ; discrepancy in transcription criteria can be detected, alongside misinterpretation of the references within the text, that may lead to unsatisfactory results of a query.
To conclude, also a number of downside aspects of the use of digital tools, and in particular of publication framework, in the educational context will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2017

Keywords

  • TEI
  • edition
  • scholarly editing
  • digital edition
  • digital humanities

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