In regard to the relationship built while encoding text, I do believe that TEI helps you better understand the subject matter and writing itself, and even though the same understanding could be accomplished by hand and paper, it could not be analyzed to the same extent, nor shared with the same ease.
In my experience marking up the semantics within Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue the first observation I noted was that there were multiple titles and names used to describe the main characters—which I found could pose difficulty if not identified specifically. I also found that it would be most effective to limit the items that I identify to those of most relevance to the story—the evidence from the crime scene. Lastly, I believed that Poe’s use of French and Latin proved to be a significant part of the story as well. So, with this all considered, I framed my markup accordingly. To identify the main characters, I used keys to indicate whom Poe was referring to. For example, “Frenchman” was a term used to reference Dupin, so I encoded it as such: <rs key=”Dupin” type=”person”>Frenchman,</rs>. Next, to identify which items I believed to be evidence, I marked them as such: <rs type=”evidence”>grey human hair</rs>. Finally, when foreign terms were used, I identified them as such: <foreign xml:lang=”latin”>_quondam_</foreign>. Overall, TEI provided precise identification tools that weren’t available in the previous programs we used in class, allowing me to not only categorize key themes or ideas within the story, but also to organize each accordingly by type and their underlying intention. Thus, TEI pushed me to dig into the text deeper, which I might not have done if I were simply formatting the text.
In our most recent project involving the Declaration of Independence, we explored more of the origin behind the documents creation—the analysis of the signers themselves. When filling out the person ID, you are allowed to go into as much or as little detail as required. For Samuel Adams, I was given many choices as to how I could interpret the tags and thereby fill them out. For example, in the affiliation tag, I was given the choice between stating the religious or political affiliation; instead, however, I decided to incorporate both. Thus, I used “n=” to distinguish one from the other: <affiliation n=”Political”>Democratic-Republican</affiliation>. Next, considering Adams did not simply have one occupation, I chronologically listed his professional progression using “n=” as well: <occupation n=”5″>President of the Massachusetts Senate</occupation>. Finally, to indicate those in relationship to Adams, I was not able to use the typical “active” tag, since we solely identified signers of the document with xml:id’s required. So, given the slightly confining nature of the “relation” tag, I expressed the spouses of Adams using “n=”: <relation name=”spouse” active=”#SAMA1″ n=”Elizabeth Checkley”></relation>. Overall, TEI allowed the reader of our document to go beyond simply reading the signatures within the Declaration of Independence to being able to grasp a quick summary of each signer, to see both how they all connect to the document and how the document ties them all together.
For these documents and others we have interacted with during class, they possess the potential to be shaped and formatted in ways that expand beyond merely displaying text. As indicated by Krista Stinne Greve Rasmussen, there is a “distinction between stationary and sequential works: stationary works (such as paintings and sculptures) are conceived in space, while sequential works (such as literature and music) are conceived in time.” These “sequential works” allow us more liberties in regard to their presentation, allowing for original and innovative means in both their formatting and analysis. Now in connection to the use of TEI, these coding liberties extend all the way from being able to identify the author’s syntactical choices to expanding upon the context within the text—providing links to historically relevant information, background information, or even linguistic origins of certain words or phrases. As stated by Elena Pierazzo, “for digital editions based on text encoding the editorial interventions are all present at once in the source, they are just not displayed at once.” I believe this accurately articulates how informative TEI can be. TEI can be as dense or as empty as the encoder wants; yet, the depth by which this work goes into is solely revealed by the extent at which the reader interacts with the document. The work done with TEI is not one that is blatantly obvious. Instead, it is embedded within the text, and its recognition is at the mercy of the reader. Thus, both the encoder and decoder play a large role in how the work is perceived and thereby understood.