Monday, 1 February 2016

week 4 follow-up

Now that the hectic start-up month of January is settling into the routine of February, I'm hoping to post these follow-up notes a bit more promptly. By the way, for anyone who's interested, this morning's wake-up music was some Shakespeare-themed jazz by way of Duke Ellington, in the spirit of the Fisher exhibition opening. Like the best XML/TEI encoders, Duke knew a thing or two about adaptation, representation, and the potential that lurks in details.

Lecture slides for last week and this week are now posted on Blackboard, and you can view them here:

We covered a fair amount of technical ground today, and the specific files we examined in class can be downloaded from BB, under the reading schedule entry for today. I also mentioned a couple of pieces of software that may be useful as you work on the encoding challenge. An XML file, like an HTML file, is simply a text file that you can open in any text editor, but which can also be recognized by a web browser or other XML-aware software. (If you are trying to open an XML file in something other than a browser, you may need to use your operating system's "Open with" command, usually found by right-clicking on the file, rather than by double-clicking the file icon itself.) For working with XML and other kinds of web documents, I find it helps to have an XML-aware text editor. A good simple freeware editor for the Mac is TextWrangler, and a good PC counterpart (though not freeware) is EditPlus. But there are lots of others out there, and some are reviewed in this LifeHacker post:

Another piece of software that's a step more advanced than these is the oXygen XML Editor, which is made specifically for working with XML and offers features such as well-formedness checks (which you'll need for your assignment) and validation (which you won't, but is worth knowing about anyway). oXygen is the most widely used XML editor in the digital humanities, has good cross-platform support. It takes some getting used to -- hint: to check well-formedness, look in the "validation" button's sub-menu -- but it's a great place to learn to write and edit XML (and it has a 30-day free trial period). In any case, whatever you do, don't work with XML in a word processor -- and definitely don't use Microsoft Word's "save as XML" function. Not to get too Yoda-esque, but text encoding (like hand-press printing) requires us to unlearn much of what we've learned from word processing.

Speaking of printing, I also mentioned the fun coincidence that our class takes place nary a block away from Coach House Books, one of Canada's most technologically innovative (and just plain cool) small presses. It's a "crucible of electronic publishing technology," as my colleague John Maxwell in publishing studies at SFU has described it. (John is currently writing a book-length technological history of Coach House Press, and when it comes out it's going to be one of my drop-everything-and-read books.) When I mentioned earlier that this course attempts to leave the death-of-the-book debate and its polarities behind, I was inspired partly by the printers who've been combining knowledge of bookmaking and digital technology for decades. If you're ever looking for an intelligent and illuminating conversation about digital markup and the technologies of bookmaking, just ask a printer.

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