why TEI?

After reading this week , I still don’t feel extremely competent in my understanding of  the TEI beyond a conceptual level. That being said, I think the idea of necessity in relation to TEI standards is an interesting one. I think that all of the benefits of using an encoding system are overshadowed by one major benefit: symbiosis. For both computers of varying styles and people of varying education backgrounds, using the TEI allows harmony between all. Because they are not tailored to specific people/places/things, the TEI standards have allowed “a standardized way to structure and express [information] for machine processing, publication and implementation” since their inception around the 1980s. Helping the computer separate information (the text in the document) from meta-information/metadata (the text about the document) makes search, retrieval and review a smooth, streamlined process.

Think about the idea of form and content, or the relationship between them. I think the idea that purpose is directly related to performance or utility of the TEI is a valid claim. In “A very gentle introduction to the TEI markup language,” an assigned reading for my ENGL 530 Class, the archives of Supreme Court materials were mentioned. They are predominately audio files, however one stops to think that when “the TEI is used to encode the written transcripts and synchronize them with the audio files so that you can listen and read at the same time,” this doesn’t separate form and content—it increases your ability to embrace the relationship between both. The triple translation lets you see the content (read) while hearing the content in its original form (listen). The only thing missing is the reality of being in the courthouse when the opinions are read. This then allows for not just search and retrieval with ease, but the power to more readily consume data.

Another reason (although not so sound) that the TEI may be deemed useful is it’s extant longevity. “The use of markup goes back to the beginnings of electronic text technology…Without markup, only very simple searches can be carried out on a text… When large quantities of text are being searched, markup becomes more crucial…. It is the only way to indicate the location of words that have been retrieved or to restrict the search to portions of the textbase, for example works by a particular author or within a specific period of time. Attempting to search a text without markup is rather like searching a library catalogue which is a continuous sequence of text, where the records and fields (author, title, subject, etc.) are not distinguished at all.” Because markup language and encoding texts have proved themselves useful time and time again, I think that the possible detriments (too many options, not specific enough, loss of form or alteration of content and context) are superimposed by the benefits.

Something to consider when talking about the utility of the TEI, however, is whether or not it will continue to stand the test of time. It has been upheld as standard for so long that one cannot help themselves from thinking that at some point, something else will challenge its position.

link to ENGL 530 reading, if interested: http://www.tei-c.org/Support/Learn/mueller-index.htm

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