To be honest, I’m still confused about the differences between XML and TEI and all of the other loud, angry, high-tech acronyms that this reading shouted out at me. I looked up videos on YouTube to try to clarify things, and I found a few useful basic introductions (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0k5ySZGPBc), but I still don’t fully grasp all of the concepts and examples provided by the reading. I reread sentences and tried to transform my mind from a human brain into a robotic intellect. I somehow expected to immediately understand and remember every little aspect of encoding. But learning these metalanguages seems to very closely resemble learning any language; at first glance, it seems impossible to comprehend, but then once you start to learn the basics and gradually progress into more complex territory, suddenly it all starts to make sense (or so I’m hoping). I’m fascinated by this new behind-the-scenes look into the world of computers and software. I want to learn how these metalanguages work and how people have been using them. I’m eager to apply these skills to the life histories that we have been entrusted with. But first I have to realize that I won’t immediately get all of this overnight, that this is a whole new way of thinking that has been invisible to me for years.
The TEI Consortium seems to contain democratic ideals. Its “four fundamental principles” include the requirements that “The TEI guidelines, other documentation, and DTD should be free to users,” “Participation in TEI-C activities should be open (even to non-members) at all levels,” “The TEI-C should be internationally and interdisciplinarily representative,” and “No role with respect to the TEI-C should be without term.” These principles are impressive with their out-right focus on open access and widespread representation. Yet my mind goes back to a previous week of class, in which we discussed whether or not coding should be taught in schools, and if so, to what extent. How democratic can these metalanguages be if I barely knew they existed until now, in college, an institution that many people don’t have easy access to? How many people actually put in the effort to learn these skills, and how useful are they in the everyday world, regardless of one’s career? Computers are everywhere; should most of those who use them also know the behind-the-scenes aspects of them, such as encoding?