The Women Writers’ Project course on TEI encoding is well worth the attention of any scholar who is already involved in digital humanities or who is considering taking a leap into a project that includes encoding a text. While it’s not for everyone–I know some serious coding junkies–Syd and Julia succeed at casting a wide net.
If you have background (you’ve gone beyond handholding baby steps and wrangled a few texts on your own, you’ve drafted portions of an XSLT style sheet, and you’ve been involved at a digital project), the introductory sessions will be a bit slow. But the more advanced sessions would probably be helpful to even seasoned hands on electronic projects. Unless you’re interested in text encoding as an intellectual exercise of its own–and thus you devour guidelines with relish–work on a project can give you a limited sense of the coding possibilities available. It is easy to repeat what you already know how to do rather than venturing out.
This course encourages ventures. The emphasis on oXygen has also been useful. Although I’ve known oXygen to be around, I’ve always been annoyed by its interface. I’m not going to spend time learning an annoying interface when something needs to be done, so the sustained use of it for the course has been helpful. I had learned to encode XML using NoteTab clip libraries and tool directory (part of Rare Book School). While I won’t discard NoteTab (because I like much of its simplicity and quick loading), I’m rapidly becoming agnostic about the tool used for encoding. oXygen is a robust application, one that I expect would appeal to undergraduates familiar with commercial software.
I on the other hand was more pleased by the use of CSS to display encoding. I had not thought of that because I had always forced myself to write XSLT style sheets for the simple as well as complex tasks. So the course has given perspective on the alternation of tools. One caveat. External entity references ruin the simplicity of reviewing CSS display of XML in the Firefox browser. It has been a few years since my last serious efforts at writing ambitious XSLT style sheets, but I think a refresher is coming up in tomorrow’s sessions.
The class is highly recommended. If you have not done so already–and you have the opportunity–sign up.