TEI and {Wikisource} / Doubt and Imperfection

TEI and WikiSource

Taking on the responsibility of a work through TEI markup is daunting because a detailed markup can yield so much information about a text and a basic markup proves, largely, irresponsible.

It was odd using TEI Markup language to reinterpret the English language.  Firstly, I was learning a new language.  That was humbling.  Here I am, an English student and would-be writer attempting to do all I can to improve my manipulation of the English language and suddenly another language is required of me?  My immediate response: I am too old for this!  But of course this is completely untrue.   Continue reading

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Adaptation, Fear of Collaboration and Hobbes

[I]n an eminently self-conscious age, when every hero sings his own epic. — John Oliver Hobbes

(This post started off as a response to Michelle’s post “The Votes are in…and…Shakespeare’s The Man” until I realized it was too long and spoke to exactly what I planned to discuss this week!)  I would like to answer more to the question you pose, Michelle, regarding whether or not we have to remix and modernize every old or classic piece of literature for students to relate to and enjoy the material.

Continue reading

Posted in Week 8: Editing and Remixing, Week 9: Reflection on John Oliver Hobbes and her work | 1 Comment

Is “doneness” a thing?

As our project with JOH has been coming to a close, our blog posts have touched on the topic of “doneness” and “completeness.” For the most part, this feeling of completeness seems to missing because these social editions are constantly in a state of flux, constantly being updated (or at least have the possibility of being easily updated). My own sense of anxiety over the social edition being “incomplete” stems from the need to be done (for good) and move on to a new project.That being said, in the age of web 2.0, we are in a constant state of flux – one that we embrace in some areas ( like social media – twitter provides a quick way to constantly update people on your life), so why can’t we embrace this in all areas – including academia? Continue reading

Posted in social media, Week 10: Second reflection on the Social Edition and Wikisource, Week 12: Doneness | 4 Comments

An Epilogue of Sorts

Our work on the JOH social edition thus far has opened my mind to the various ways a text is impacted through digitisation. Like Sasha, I felt disconnected from A Study in Temptations because of the limited nature of my interaction with it. My access to the text  in terms of annotating was further impeded by my almost complete lack of knowledge about Victorian literature, and by the fact that I am from the British Isles. It was hard for me to know whether some aspects of the text would be obvious to a reader who is more familiar with the literature of the time period, and therefore, not necessary to annotate. Also, many of the more “British” words, phrases, and references seemed entirely normal to me, and so it felt strange to annotate them. Overall, I could not tell whether my judgment in annotating was really on point. That, I suppose, is the beauty of the social edition – no one “editor’s” judgment ranks supreme. I suppose time will tell whether my annotations are useful, and as a participant in the social edition, I am happy for other users to amend the annotations as they fit.

As I was reading a little about the rise of the social edition generally, I came across an interesting article written by Constance Crompton, Ray Siemens, and Alyssa Arbuckle. The main point that caught my attention in the article is the authors’ dissection of some illuminating statistics in relation to Wikipedia users. As it turns out, “only 16% of editors on Wikipedia are women”, and further, “new female editors are more likely to have their edits reversed than new male editors”. The article goes on to state that the underrepresentation of women “has skewed the content and quality of subjects about women, like the history of women’s writing.” Although these statistics are in relation to Wikipedia, it would be interesting to see similar statistics for Wikisource, the platform on which our JOH project is featured on. When I read these figures, I felt that our project has even more relevance and weight in terms of the social edition, as not only are we drawing attention to the work of a relatively unknown female writer, we are group of editors predominantly comprised of women. Thus, I feel our project has some significance in broadening, not only the readership of the work of John Oliver Hobbes, but also, the possible “gendered platform” of the various Wikipedia Foundation models.

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Editor or Author? and WHO is this elusive “reader” we talk so much about…?

Looking back at the comments on this blog, I started to see a trend: we are very focused on moving away from authorial intent and towards the post-structuralist view that a text is in fact created by its reader. The strange thing with creating an annotated edition of a book, that is accessible to everyone with internet access is that we really have no idea for whom we are annotating. What words might they not know? What level of comprehension can we assume? How learned are they in terms of the Victorian context?And I guess the most important question asks – does the reader even figure into editorial choices?

Often, “academic” books, a category an annotated edition would commonly fall under, are meant for other scholars or students. These books are not often the top of a bestseller list, but are picked up by academic institutions who keep a copy in their library. This means that the target audience may have a range in the knowledge they already have, but most of these texts are written assuming their reader has some understanding of the subject matter addressed – how else would they have come across this book? When we shift to publishing our work in an open source medium, we are no longer catering to only academics, but to a much larger group who may, literally, stumble upon it. Is our work done for that person who wouldn’t have access to it if it sat in a university library? Or is it for those academics who just find it more convenient to search an online copy? Is there a way that we can cater to both audiences without over-annotating?

These questions are what I found most difficult of annotating my portion of our social edition, as I was unsure about what was common knowledge and what was not. This distinction, of course, depends on the readership, which drives us back to asking (again) who it is? I find this how circular this becomes to be highly aggravating, and wonder what kinds of solutions can prevent this issue?

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But I Can’t Cite It?

Students have a secret– something that lurks in the shadows, a spectre that haunts all of our papers. Deny it all you want, but the truth remains . . . we use Wikipedia. We don’t care. We love it.

We use Wikipedia more than any scholarly source. We use Wikipedia more than we use the OED (blasphemy!). Guess what happens if we didn’t understand what you said about Nietzsche in class? Wikipedia. What if we didn’t quite finish off the that tome of a Victorian novel? Wikipedia.  What is the difference between metonymy and synecdoche? Wikipedia. Who is William Shakespeare, and why should I care? (Just kidding!) but if I didn’t know, I would go to the source of all knowledge: WIKIPEDIA.

All this to say, I think that our annotated version of The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes is actually remarkably useful, just like Wikipedia articles are useful.  Okay, so we don’t have PhDs, nor do we technically have our Masters degrees. But we are competent people! If we are capable of shaping the young, vulnerable minds of first year students as Teaching Assistants (too much credit?), then I think we are more than capable of linking to various words and phrases on the internet in order to elucidate a text.

The importance of our annotations is that we draw attention to words that you think know, but might not understand  within a Victorian context. Or maybe you don’t know a word, but you are too lazy to look it up yourself (don’t lie– we’ve all been there). The definition is at the bottom of the page, conveniently located to enlighten the reader. Of course, annotating is necessarily subjective, but that is not to say that our editorial choices don’t contribute to a more nuanced reading of the text.

Annotating was a good exercise for us because we were forced to consider words and objects outside of our contemporary cultural centre. Yes, we always consider books in relationship to the context in which they were written. However, words and details that may elude the modern mind remain unexplored as we leaf through the pages.  What is the history of the word “footman”? What precisely is a dowager and does she actually matter? These are words that we may take for granted, but when annotating we pay attention to them and we develop an understanding of history and language that was previously neglected.

My problem now is that I just want to cite Wikipedia. If the annotations in Wikisource are perhaps more conscientious than the ones found in a published book, then why must we feign distain for an incredibly useful resource?  I think its limiting to force both students and scholars into believing that Wikipedia is taboo in the academic sphere. Our annotated edition was compiled by students, and should be considered a valid source of information for other students and like-minded individuals.

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Touching from a Distance further all the time

TimeEnough

I don’t know if I have a real relationship with John Oliver Hobbes. I haven’t really read her work here in a proper way. I’ve only read it in these fragments and these isolated chapters. I’m annotating A Study in Temptations, but I don’t really know what A Study in Temptations is about besides terrible rich people and that’s a high majority of 19th century fiction. And I’m not really reading these chapters. I’m not pacing my reading in a way where I’m imagining the scene and imagining the characters in a full way. I’m scanning to see where the Paradise Lost reference is. I’m taking this text and filtering it through this half-working algorithm that is my brain.

I’m not necessarily looking at it like a math problem either because it isn’t just this problem or equation. It is still a text but I feel a greater distance to it. I feel less involved with it. I’m not engaged with it like a book but I’m focusing a lot on what the text is referring to outside of the text. I’m looking at the data of the text more than the words of the text. I’m looking into it’s subtext and focusing on what is underneath these words/data more than the words as they were when they were on paper. I’m reading and I’m not reading. I’m scanning.

This is an interesting thing to take away from this project because there is this distance in a wikisourced text. I don’t have the same concentration or focus if the text is just screeched out on a screen. I lose focus and scroll down to see how long it goes til it hits the bottom. I don’t have that same relationship or same focus that I do with a physical book and that’s the hurdle the digital atmosphere of this project and projects like it have to jump over. The digital edition has to maintain this focus first and foremost if it wants to replicate and improve the book. The digital edition can provide this large volume of extra content and information, but if it doesn’t provide this focus to the word and focus on the actual material as material, it just creates this distance to the material because it doesn’t provide this same relationship a book does with a reader. The book creates this pleasant isolation that a machine connected to every distraction cannot necessarily maintain.

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(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Like some of my classmates, I have had a number of serious questions about the arbitrariness of our Wikisource annotations. Based on the lack of definitive guidelines that Wikisource offers to contributors, it is pretty safe to suggest there’s a level of guess work involved in annotating. Like Michelle discussed in her blog post, it is difficult to determine if we as contributors have included enough information in our annotations or if we’ve even annotated the right type of information. How can we know for sure that our contributions to an annotated Wikisource text are enough? This is especially complicated by the lack of completion involved in Wikisource.

As students of literature, many of us have come to understand the book as an object with definitive limits. There is a start, there is an ending, and the book has clear boundaries. Once a book is published it cannot change – it exists as an object incapable of variation (unless subsequent editions are published).

But Wikisource doesn’t offer us this satisfactory sense of completion. Continue reading

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Poetry and Code

A quote by theologian Anthony Thiselton seems relevant here:

“loss of stability, loss of stable identity, and loss of confidence in global norms or goals breed deep uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety.”

It is interesting that in the history of TEI-markup, what pressed its development forward was an intense fear, that if did not adopt a common practice – chaos would ensue. With this idea, we can view this language as a means for seeking control. It’s no wonder than, that in class, some of us felt uncomfortable. As one person put it, “I can’t afford to miss a word.” We are driven to understand this language for a grade, yes, but we are driven by a further fear that knowing just one language, English, is no longer enough. Our attachment to technology is so inextricable, and yet, so many of us cannot speak the language of computers that run much of that technology. As someone said, it is like learning a new language, because it is a new language. Many of us seemed to have mixed feelings towards this new ‘language’. It implies being outside something, and working towards getting to some kind of knowable centre, where our tongue will bend and conform to its mold. I guess like learning any new language, we are also afraid of saying the wrong thing, in this case, of doing the wrong thing, or worse, living in the margins of silence. Perhaps, we don’t want to feel left behind, and as everyone grapples through this process, it becomes interesting, because we’re learning to combine our understanding of both languages. The literary language of poetry and the TEI code together. And it is interesting that we are at once insecure, and trying to secure fixed structures. A wildly passionate practice that draws from inspiration, and one that is stringent and fixed in computer science.

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Personal Personography

TEI coding is confusing, but strangely mesmerizing at the same time. When Dr. Boyd was discussing TEI “personography” I became intrigued. I began wondering about the extent to which characters can be truly represented. As literary scholars, we are all able to make appropriate observations on character traits with regards to their positions in the text. Protagonist, antagonist, major, minor, static, round, flat, stock… These are all relatively universal terms to provide textual meaning to the actions of a character. But are they really universal?

We know that interpretation is key when analyzing literary texts. However, when a single interpretation is what defines an entire text (such is the case with one person developing a TEI personography), is this singular interpretation problematic?

If I was to write a personography about myself, it would include terms such as: female, young woman, student, healthy. I actually did try to adhere to the physical appearance of the personography in this blog post by using the proper coding style, but apparently the formation of the blog didn’t want to maintain the physical formation I had arranged.

While I know that this personography is fairly basic, even within these basic distinctions there is room for potential discrepancy. For example, I see my current main role as a student. To others, whoever is interpreting my “person” could view me instead as a friend, daughter, or (hopefully not) some sort of degenerate. I view myself as a young woman, but that again is a fairly fluid distinction. I also view myself as healthy, but healthy connotes different meanings to different people. So I ask, is there really any true universal way of creating a personography?

As we have discovered throughout the course, some things in the digital universe that we wish to have a clear-cut answer or ending sometimes do not. Much like analyzing literature, each analysis varies on the person doing the analyzing. Two people can read texts in very different ways. Are there standards set within personography in which those creating must adhere?

When creating a personography, it seems that being objective is pertinent. Separating yourself from the characters is a key factor in order to give the most appropriate character analysis. Is it important to have other scholars edit/revise these personographies? Or are we to trust one scholar alone to give the most effective description possible?

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