As we delve deeper into the constructs governing digital representation, specifically this week with TEI (Text Coding Initiative), I find myself constantly amazed by the ingenuity displayed by the nameless groups or individuals who defined the systems in use today – all underneath the surface, all requiring a certain level of interest and perseverance to understand. Modern computers have been abstracted so far away from the electric pulses, boolean algebra and binary digits that allow everything to work underneath the hood, providing the beautiful Graphic User Interface that all of us utilize regularly. But it is not only digital geniuses who have the ability to create in this digital space. Similar to TEI, text-based languages and unique schemes functioning on top of this graphic window abstraction give us and any other regular person the power to create content as well.
Although the TEI article is titled with “introduction,” I think it would be helpful to read a few other pieces to understand XML a bit better before beginning. I found Introduction to XML for Text on the TEI website very useful.
In it, XML is described as “an open and non-proprietary standard that specifies ‘a simple data format that balances the needs of people to read/write data with the needs of machines to read/write data.” The fact that XML gives us a general framework to define our own language to markup documents and define data schemas makes it much easier to save and share different web documents (filled with data) on the Web.
For a better understanding of how XML can be very useful, check out the two examples of how XML has been used to create standard ways of sharing data concerning news and weather here.