The purpose behind the previous two assignments was well met, and I now acknowledge how difficult, yet rewarding, text encoding can be. For the first assignment, I encoded the first segment of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Initially, I thought I would be able to markup the text just by scanning one sentence at a time. Soon after I began did I realize that I could not do sophisticated markup without first reading the entire segment. As I started adding tags after first reading the text, I could see how different pieces of this segment fit together.
For instance, I found using <trait> and <state> tags tricky, and I could only use them appropriately once I read both the text and the TEI P5 documentation. In my opinion, text-encoding is an iterative process which helps you truly understand the content. Ideally, you are scrutinizing each line to see if there is any possibility to add useful tags. Such a process even fosters research out of context. As an example, while doing the Declaration of Independence assignment, I had to look up websites other than Wikipedia to know more about the person I was assigned – Francis Lightfoot Lee. Even though the assignment had little to no reading, I read another article to best encode the personography, primarily <event> and <relation> tags, of Francis Lee.
Throughout the process, I kept referring to the following statement from Elena Pierazzo’s paper A rationale of digital documentary editions:
Secondly, if every editor necessarily selects from an infinite set of facts, it is evident that any transcription represents an interpretation and a mechanically complete record of what is on the page.
I glanced over how students had encoded other segments of Poe’s text, and realized how different the markup would have looked if it were done by someone else. Every editor has a unique style, and without establishing a strict standard as a team, a single text cannot possibly be marked-up the same way by two editors. While researching out of text, editors can derive their own meanings. Since there are boundless ways to encode text using TEI, different meanings may lead to “fundamentally incomplete and fundamentally interpretative” (Robinson and Solopova, 1993, p. 21) versions of encoding. At first, I was bogged down and could not decide the point where I should stop encoding. But then again, the only limits are “the limits of the imagination.” (Driscoll, 2006) So I went to bed.
In addition, I particularly connected with Rasmussen’s discussion of various reader roles. (K. Rasmussen, 2016) In relation to my work with Poe’s text, I acted as a reader to “understand the work in and through the texts of a scholarly edition” as well as a co-worker who “[took] part in the editorial work at some level.” However, contrary to what Rasmussen believes, one may not necessarily be both a reader and a user to be a co-worker. In such a short span, I did not function as a “user” because I did not focus on “other texts [segments] that explain or relate to the work,” i.e. The Fall of the House of Usher. While dealing with the second assignment, on the other hand, the distinction between my roles as a reader was a bit vague. I could have been playing the role of a “contributor,” not fully knowing the original work but still contributing to the project.