Freedom to constrain: Introducing TEI customisation
The Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative have become a de facto standard for those undertaking historical textual research projects in Digital Humanities. These Guidelines provide in-depth recommendations for standard methods of the representation of text in digital form. The international membership consortium that supports the maintenance of the Guidelines and related software includes institutions, projects, and individuals from many different disciplines inside and outside the traditional humanities fields. As a freely-available, open source, community-based standard, the TEI tries to cater for as many needs as possible through the generalisation of the representation of textual phenomena and through a comprehensive method of customisation of the schemas users rely on to validate their texts. This literate programming method of writing a meta-schema, a TEI ODD customisation, containing both documentation and machine-readable descriptions of how one’s project differs from the TEI as a whole, is one of the great strengths of the TEI. It enables projects not only to produce a schema that is right for their project, and provide localised project-specific documentation, but also to record their use of the TEI framework for archival documentation for long-term preservation.
In this talk, Dr James Cummings will introduce the customisation mechanisms of the TEI on a general level (no previous TEI experience is required), before investigating some of the benefits and drawbacks of these methods. He will investigate issues with community development, interoperability, software development, analysis, and collaboration with respect to the use of the TEI. The investigation will be supported by examples drawn from Cummings’ extensive experience with research and institutional projects using the the TEI for a wide variety of purposes.
Dr James Cummings is the Senior Academic Research Technology Specialist at the University of Oxford’s IT Services. Dr Cummings helps academics plan research projects with digital aspects, and is the founding Director of the annual week-long Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School. He has been an elected member of the TEI Technical Council for over a decade and often manages projects related to text encoding. He completed a PhD in medieval drama at the University of Leeds, and also holds an MA in Medieval Studies from the University of Leeds, and a BA in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto. His PhD investigates the archival survival of information concerning the performance of drama in medieval culture. Dr Cummings acts a liaison between developers and researchers, sometimes taking on principal investigator or project management roles within digital humanities projects. Occasionally he still gets to do some active coding and development on workpackages related to XML, markup, schemas and digital editions.