TEI Workshop at UCLA 2011

April 29th, 2011 § 1 comment

Text and the Digital Humanities

On Thursday and Friday last week, we spent some time debating substance and form and learning about ways to represent textual materials digitally. A group of roughly twenty faculty members, librarians, and graduate students gathered in a computer lab on UCLA’s north end of campus to learn about the Text Encoding Initiative from experts Julia Flanders and Syd Bauman, both of the Women Writers Project at Brown University. Here’s a little information about the Text Encoding Initiative and an overview of a few of our collections that use it.

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a common tool used in the digital humanities and digital library worlds. It’s an advanced way of creating a digital text that can later be re-presented in a number of ways, based on the simple principle of using markup language to describe the meaning and function of a text without focusing on layout or design. Then, you can apply any sort of formatting at any time based on meaning and function, and you won’t be stuck with that formatting because the formatting is just a “view” of the underlying data. TEI is expressed in XML and can be used to represent digitized or born-digital texts of all sorts, including manuscripts, epigraphs, letters, books, dissertations, scholarly articles, and just about any other form of writing.

Digitization of textual materials can be more challenging than digitization of images, and TEI is one of the ways to make a text useful in a digital environment. With visual materials, the content is the image and therefore a high quality digital image of an image is a good representation of the original content. However, with a handwritten letter, a digital image of the letter transmits the visual aspect of the letter, but doesn’t digitally convey the words of the letter. To be able to search the letter using a computer for the word “cat,” you need to “convert” the image of the letter into machine-readable text, often called “full text” or “plain text” in the library world.  This digital text can be very helpful for research and analysis. In addition to conversion, many libraries and scholars choose to invest in encoding text, which allows for more sophisticated digital representation and reuse of textual artifacts, and can facilitate more complicated textual analyses.

At the UCLA Digital Library Program, we have used the TEI for a few collections to offer effective display and search and retrieval of textual materials. Currently available TEI projects are the St. Gall Monastery Manuscripts and some of our Oral History Interviews.  For examples of each project, see, Codex Aug. 18 from the Karlsruhe library, and the Dorothy Healey interview.

Dorothy Healey at a City Council Debate, 1950

Written by Elizabeth McAulay

§ One Response to TEI Workshop at UCLA 2011

  • Johanna Drucker says:

    Thanks for this posting. Julia Flanders and Syd Bauman are expert teachers as well as skilled TEI/XML professionals. Their introduction to basic concepts about markup was very lucid. The event was a very useful introduction to teaching TEI/XML in addition, and the recognition that we have a community of interested scholars, staff, and students was also very positive.

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