What is the TEI? And Why Should I Care? (A brief introduction for classicists)

Recently I gave a lecture to those interested in Digital Classics at the University of Oxford as part of the Digital Classics Seminar Series with people much more qualified to talk about Classics (digital or otherwise) than me.  I’m not, nor ever have been or ever will be a classicist. Ok, I did learn Classic Latin at one point but quickly replaced this with the much more complicated (though not necessarily more sophisticated) Medieval Latin as I did an MA and PhD in Medieval Studies.  So I was understandably nervous speaking to a room full of classicists.  Luckily I was talking about something I know fairly well, and only making reference to its use in Digital Classics.  In this case the title of my talk was “What is the TEI? And Why Should I Care? (A brief introduction for classicists)”.  There are versions of the talk online:

I needn’t have worried, of course, the audience was wonderfully attentive as I  through, at a fairly basic level a brief introduction to:

  • Markup: I looked at the differences between Procedural, Presentational, and Descriptive Markup, and why one might want to annotate information in this way
  • XML: I quickly covered the basic descriptions of how XML is formatted and what its rules are; the power of deeply nesting annotation; and compared the pros and cons of XML vs Databases
  • TEI: I surveyed what the TEI is, what it is not, how it is customisable, and how it is developed and used.
  • EpiDoc: Lastly I discussed a vibrant TEI community of epigraphers and the EpiDoc TEI P5 customisation they have made. As someone only on the very edge of this Digital Classiscist community I probably didn’t do it justice, but it is a very good example of people customising the TEI (as a pure subset) creating even more targeted resources that conform to the needs of their community.

I encourage people to go to the other Digital Classics Seminar Series lectures or follow them as they are live streamed that evening (or catch up afterwards). The live streams are advertised shortly before the talk at: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~corp1223/DigitalClassics.htm

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