Connect & animate – & correspondences, again

The TEI Conference 2015 is now in full swing. After the opening keynote by Milad Doueihi that took us through the depths of literate coding yesterday, today’s program began with both a panel and a paper session which made me regret my lack of ubiquity. The panel dealt with the contribution of infrastructures and repositories to the development of TEI-based projects and DH research at large. I had the privilege to officiate as Laurent Romary’s substitute in that panel where a vivid discussion engaged between the panelists (Julia Flanders, Sibylle Söring, Thomas Kollatz and me) and between the panelists and the audience. What can scholars expect from infrastructures, how can those contribute to pedagogical approaches, how important is data curation really, what is the meaning of the TEI as a standard in the development of tools that allow a wide exploitation of research data? The range of questions adressed showed the importance to leave enough room not only for criticism, but also for constructive perspectives. My personal conclusion of the panel would be that a solid outreach and dissemination road map is really a condition sine qua non to connect and animate the TEI…

The parallel session (that I hence could not attend) was dedicated to correspondences, so obviously I would have loved to be there too. But I did not miss all of what had to do with correspondences. The part of the correspondence workshop I had attended on Tuesday morning had sufficed to convince me that letter editors have become a solid part of the TEI community. The workshop provided an excellent review of the evolution in that domain in the last years. The task force that developped the correspDesc element (which is officially part of the TEI-P5 since April 2015) has based their work on a hypothesis that really goes against the current scholarly fashion of defining letters on the basis of their materiality. Stating the act of communication as a theoretical frame as they do in their element model has a series of epistemological and practical consequences that only display themselves when you start to work with the model. Several workshop participants had been working with the creation element as long as there was no correspDesc element available, and a discussion unfolded about the real need for a correspDesc element and why creation would not really cover the structural needs.

Today’s meeting of the special interest group correspondence addressed other interesting issues we had encountered while developing our edition and not really solved in a satisfactory way. Yes, I am talking about you, envelopes! Or more precisely those envelopes that are just the verso of the letter being folded and sealed. Are those text or not? In case of such a recurring issue, it would in fact be useful to have an encoding recommendation of some sort. Several participants of the SIG meeting were very much in favor of the taskforce making predefinded correspondence stylesheets and schemas available (for this kind of tricky cases for instance), while I was more in favor of a portfolio of examples in order not to be too prescriptive. We’ll see what direction they decide to take and what their free time allows them to realize. Anyway, getting correspDesc to become an official feature of the guidelines is per se a great achievement, and cost the three of them (Sabine Seifert, Peter Stadler and Marcel Illetschko from Vienna) enough time over the past two years – they have deserved to slow down the development rhythm (here their github repository). The kind of task I would envision now is mostly a great dissemination campaign towards editors of letters corpora, inviting them to implement the Correspondence Metadata Interchange Format – and add their corpus to the correspSearch interface. And then maybe even play with the data in nodegoat


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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