“Straying Into This Wilderness” : A First Taste of TEI [0]

TEI for Actual Beginners

This semester, I am taking Digital Scholarly Editing, a new module created by Dr. Mark Sweetnam at Trinity College, Dublin. Eventually, I will produce a fully-encoded TEI project; however, step one is wetting my feet with a practice exercise. Learning to encode demands balance between theory and practice, like learning to ride a bike. You need to know to sit in the saddle, hold the handlebars, and push the pedals before you start, but no matter how hard you listen, advice like “brake slowly” just doesn’t mean anything until you are on the pavement with a skinned knee.[1] Initially, I spent a few weeks familiarizing myself with TEI and doing warm-up exercises. For those interested in getting started with TEI themselves, the next paragraph reviews the resources I used. If you want to read about TEI in practice, skip to the following section.

A little girl riding a pink Strider.

Of course, if you are creative about it, you can always skip a few steps. (Image courtesy of Joel Hagan/Wikimedia Commons.)

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Strange Bedfellows: (H)ac(k)tivism and Digital Humanities

Studying DH, I’ve acquired lots of academic jargon. Most terms are technical (metadata, NLP), but some are political, like “open source,” “copyleft,” and “hacktivism.” I find “hacktivism” particularly interesting; it evokes a constellation of practices, beliefs, aims, and criticisms, and a range of cultural actors. In this post, I interrogate examples of hacktivism[1], and point to activist work with which I hope the digital humanities will engage.

   W O R M S    A G A I N S T    N U C L E A R    K I L L E R S
 \__  ____________  _____    ________    ____  ____   __  _____/
  \ \ \    /\    / /    / /\ \       | \ \  | |    | | / /    /
   \ \ \  /  \  / /    / /__\ \      | |\ \ | |    | |/ /    /
    \ \ \/ /\ \/ /    / ______ \     | | \ \| |    | |\ \   /
     \_\  /__\  /____/ /______\ \____| |__\ | |____| |_\ \_/
       \                                                 /
        \    Your System Has Been Officially WANKed     /
  You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war.

The first example of hacktivism, from a 1989 anti-nuclear worm, according to Julian Assange.

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Confidence and Education: Virtual Worlds and MOOCs

The promise of virtual worlds

In her blog post “Does a virtual world make our world better?”, Olga Vasileva celebrates the emancipatory possibilities of virtual worlds in online education. From her own experience as an educator, Vasileva knows that students with disabilities or in rural settings value the opportunity to seek education on the accessible, anonymous Internet. She embraces virtual worlds (VWs) for their ability to allow these students “to interact similar to the real class experience through their ideal avatar.”

Some avatars hanging at an amphitheatre in Second Life.

This is a real Polish-language university space in Second Life, or so I’ve been led to believe by Wikimedia Commons. (cc) Dex Euromat

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I’ll Tell You What I Want (What I Really, Really Want)

1) (I want ah, I want ah, I want ah, I want ah, I want an easy to search database of thematic research collections. Possibly hosted by the Internet Archive. Zigazig-ah.)

the spice girls with the text "if you wanna be my archive, you have to be easy to find"

These are the Spice Girls. They care deeply about making things last forever (“research never ehhhhnds”). (Image: Kura.kun, Wikimedia Commons)

As a digital humanities (DH) student, I see amazing projects from around the globe on a daily basis. However, some of the projects I read about for class are no longer available online. Why? The most common response I’ve received is “funding”— the funding dries up, the project can’t be maintained, the project disappears. Scholars move on (just like they move on after writing books and articles), and institutions move on, because scholars don’t use these projects frequently enough.1 Fair. The humanities, however, are not thriving if innovative projects simply disappear. In this post, I argue for a small research infrastructure project with big implications; I will explain why I think the ethical imperative is on digital libraries to facilitate the development of this tool; and finally, I will address a critique of research infrastructure and explain why a database of thematic research collections (TRCs) sidesteps these problems.

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