Bootcamp — Text encoding

Presented by Conal Tuohy.

This session will be an introduction to the practice of “text encoding”, and to the markup language known as TEI (Text Encoding for Interchange).

Much of what constitutes “source material” in humanities scholarship exists in written form, whether that’s in the form of manuscripts or printed materials,  gravestones, graffiti, clay tablets, or election billboards; audio recordings, paintings, or some kind of “born digital” text such as a PDF or a website.

Each scholar has their own theoretical framework or perspective (historical, linguistic, legal, poetic, biographical…), which they bring to their texts. “Text encoding” involves nothing more than formalising that theoretical framework as a vocabulary of terms, and embedding those terms (in the form of XML tags) right into the text. The resulting “encoded text” combines a “base text” with an intellectual superstructure which imposes a specific set of meanings on it. You could say that those XML tags have uplifted the text from being merely a sequence of characters into being a “text” proper – a document with structure and a significance.

Once we’ve encoded what’s of interest to us in our texts, we can begin to approach the texts using automated tools. We can deploy an impressive array of XML-based software tools to process the text. We can:

  • query the texts as if they were databases;
  • re-organise them;
  • index them;
  • visualise them;
  • map them;
  • align them with other texts;
  • and generally slice and dice them in ways limited only by our imaginations.

The session will include a demo of TEI-based work, and a chance to do some actual text encoding of your own.

If you have some idea about some text which is of significance to you, or if have any questions or suggestions (especially if you think you might attend this session), please leave a comment below:

§ One Response to “Bootcamp — Text encoding”

  • Robyn McKenzie says:

    I am working with what maybe ‘a text’ that could be encoded. (Don’t have it in digital form at the moment however.) A set of instructions for making string figures (patterns that you make on your hands with a loop of string). Thinking I would like to come to your session to see what the fit is like.