TEI Encoding and Headers


            The main parts of a TEI Header are the file description, encoding description, text profile, container element and revision history. In the case of the Williams poem, the Header informs us of the poem’s bibliographic information, the encoding description lets us know the poem was keyed in using Google books and the text profile lets us know it is in English. Together, these components provide a text’s variety of users with accurate information about the text’s origins and the history of its transcription. In some ways, I view the TEI Header as an extension of the type of textual history exemplified through the page as an interface visualization.

            The idea that written texts may now have digital histories is a bit foreign to me, and I would equate this with the novelty of the idea discussed in class that poetry does not necessarily have to be written by humans. This broadening of the traditional view of a text to include the digital is perhaps necessary given the emergence of new technology. And though I may still grapple with what is lost when I text is moved from page to screen, I view TEI encoding as a positive force that allows us to preserve what is on the page.

            That being said, we have discussed how when encoding, you have to choose which structural elements to preserve and which to keep, and that encoders take on an editorial function. Although the practice of choosing what to encode can be enjoyable and thought-provoking for the viewer, I’m not sure how to feel about the idea that encoders have the liberty to make these decisions. I suppose one could equate these changes to different editions of a written text. However, the idea that these liberties are taken once a text becomes digital, which is already a big leap in itself, makes me wonder what’s next.

            In other words, will new platforms and technologies emerge that force us to take texts to places that are even further from the original? Or will all new written texts just one day be digital? It is these concerns of mine that make me feel the long Header is justified, as I do not think one should sacrifice accuracy for precision in this case.