Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Conference

This post by Rebecca Loewenstein-Harting originally appeared on the Brandeis Library & Technology Services blog.

On October 22nd and 23rd, I attended the TEI Conference, held in conjunction with the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science, in Evanston, Illinois. TEI stands for “Text Encoding Initiative,” which according to its website is “a consortium which collectively develops and maintains a standard for the representation of texts in digital form.” The conference was at the Orrington Hotel situated next to Northwestern’s campus on the shore of Lake Michigan. The weather was gorgeous and helped make my first time in the Midwest thoroughly enjoyable!

I heard several interesting presentations in my very first session, which was called “TEI Digital Editions”. One that was especially intriguing was “Critical Apparatus, Annotation, and the TEI” by Hugh Cayless from Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing. He spoke about some of the issues involved in marking up texts from critical editions and his vision for future work which could include collaborating with undergraduate and graduate students to annotate texts such as Propertius 1.15, an ancient Latin document that is not well researched or understood. The other presentation that stood out to me was called “New Publishing Alchemy: Creating Page Layout from XML Files for a World War I Memoir” by Odine LeBlanc of the Massachusetts Historical Society. She explained how the historical society uses TEI and publishing platforms to publish manuscripts from their collection.

The Plenary TEI Session, held at the end of the day, was very interesting because it discussed the release of 25,000 EEBO-TCP (Early English Books Online – Text Creation Partnership) books in 2015 and the pros and cons of this distribution. Michael Witmore (Folger Library), Clark Hulse (University of Illinois at Chicago), Paul Schaffner (University of Michigan) and Sebastian Rahtz (University of Oxford) shared their points of view and conversed about solutions to potential issues. They stressed the importance of making the texts accessible to all users and the ongoing annotation/addition of metadata to texts.

On the second day of the conference I attended the DHCS Panel, the main portion of which was entitled “New Directions in DH Centers.” The panel consisted of Katherine Walter (University of Nebraska – Lincoln), Julia Flanders (Northeastern), and David Smith (Northeastern). They gave a broad overview of the programs, staffing, funding, and infrastructure at both the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and Northeastern Digital Humanities Labs and then answered questions from the audience. Hearing about the development of these DH Labs was quite inspiring, and the detailed information about their programs helped me visualize what the lab at Brandeis could look like in a few years.

I also attended a session on the HathiTrust and the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC). The HathiTrust is a partnership that was originally started by the University of Michigan and other Big Ten schools in order to collect and manage digitized material produced when Google scanned their collections for Google Books. The HathiTrust aims to collect, preserve, and provide human access to these materials. Their research center (HTRC) is an organization that offers members of its partner institutions (and Brandeis is one such institution) computational access to millions of digitized books in many different languages. The HTRC aims to operate on a non-consumptive research model, which means that its research environment enables trusted parties to do computational research with copyrighted material, but also restricts activities that might violate copyright law. The types of datasets that are generated from this research model are especially useful for people working in computational linguistics, computer science, literature, and library science, but many other fields can benefit from the resources of the HTRC. It is a fairly new organization, and I am looking forward to learning about the grants and projects that are currently in the works.

I have outlined the discussions that were most relevant and related to my interests and work in the Digital Humanities Lab at Brandeis, but I also attended several interesting talks on other topics. For example, there was a session devoted to music encoding, as well as one focusing on TEI Visualization. Since I am fairly new to the world of TEI, the more technical discussions were a bit of a stretch for me; however, it was fascinating to see how TEI could be used in a diverse range of areas from the U.S. State Department to Tsurumi University in Japan.

Not only did I acquire a lot of knowledge at the conference, but I also developed some professional connections. Cees Klapwijk works in management at the Digital Library for Dutch Literature. We conversed in Dutch, which facilitated learning about his organization. During the poster session I met Eva Nyström and Patrik Granholm of Uppsala University in Sweden. They are working on a project called “Greek Manuscripts in Sweden,” where they are hoping to digitize all 120 Greek manuscripts in Sweden. It reminded me a lot of Professor Lenny Muellner’s Homer Multitext Project here at Brandeis. I also met James Coltrain from University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He is a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, and he presented a poster about a program he developed for 3D modeling of architecture. The example he showed was of a Classical Greek building, but he said the program was applicable to other types of architecture and could even incorporate GIS data.

I had a wonderful experience at the conference and learned a great deal about the field of Digital Humanities. I am looking forward to applying my newfound knowledge to my work in Brandeis’ very own Digital Humanities Lab. You can find more information about the TEI Conference on the websites http://www.tei-c.org/index.xml and http://tei.northwestern.edu/, and you can also follow them on Twitter @TEIconsortium and #TEIConf2014.
Of course, e-mail me with any questions at rebetama@brandeis.edu or come visit me during my office hours in the DHLab!