Elena Spadini: TEI and web-based editing tools
I’m Elena Spadini and I work as a Dixit fellow (ESR6) at Huygens ING in The Hague, with Peter Boot and Karina van Dalen-Oskam. My project is about editing tools. It comes out from a very practical situation: an editor stands in front of his materials thinking that a digital tool may help him in his work. Then, he has to make some choice. The ideal tool, the one that satisfy all his requirements, doesn’t exist and probably will never exist.
In the last years a lot of editing softwares, mostly as browser applications, have flourished around the world; some of them are conceived or more suitable for special purposes, in terms of materials (e.g. T-Pen for medieval manuscripts), functionalities (e.g. Transcriptorium for … transcriptions), theoretical approches and editorial aims (e.g. TextLab for genetique criticism). Others can be used in a wider range of cases (e.g. eLaborate, Textual Communities, etc).
In the last two, almost three, decades the Textual Encoding Initiative (TEI) have provided extremely rich guidelines for encoding humanities data. As a recognized standard and for the subtlety of its markup, it has become a very powerful resource.
Web-based editing tools and XML-TEI encoding are not two separate worlds: they are more or less compatible and XML-TEI is supported as an input or output format (and in some rare case as one of the internal encoding possibilities provided) by some tools. But the interaction between them should be further studied and exploited and this is the main point of my research.
Moreover, a web-based tool and a XML-TEI editor (editor, not encoding) are two different worlds: on one hand you might have nice coloured buttons with intuitive names to mark-up or annotate the text and on the other hand a frightful multi-panel window with a big white page to be fulfilled with not always intuitive tags and too many things around it. Well, I’m exagerating.
So, going back to the editor standing in front of his materials, he has to make a difficult choice. Which kind of tool is the best for his aims? Should he profit from the twenty-years work of TEI specialists and amateurs? He will probably open a file.doc and start his work singing the terrible adagio: things were better when times were harder …
So mine is a support project for stressed editors. I would like to let them talk about their desires, without judging their choices.
Trying to speak seriously, we have so far a lot of experiences (cases of study) for what concerns editing (browser) applications and XML-TEI native editing projects. Therefore we can bring the best of both together and going further working on a modular and customizable and user-friendly tool (or additions to existing tools) to editing texts.
I assume that modular and customizable are two of the key-words in my project. As I said, I don’t believe in a comprehensive ideal tool and this is because, as some illuminated textual scholars taught us, it doesn’t exist a unique good solution for all textual problems and editing cases.
There are a lot of questions about editing procedures and technical features that I haven’t contemplated here and I hopefully will consider in next posts. This was just a first overview on the project and this is an overview about my education: Bachelor’s degree and M.A. in Lettere at Sapienza University of Rome; PhD in Romance Philology at the same university (work in progress); M.A. In Digital Humanities at the École nationale des Chartes.