As a literary scholar, I have had little exposure to the digital humanities until now. This is the first time I have been involved in a small part of the broad field of coding, and the first time learning more extensively about data storage and sharing. So, at first, it was a bit challenging to follow the unfamiliar equations and combinations required to transfer written language to a digital platform. However, after some time, I understood the basics, as the TEI XML format is very well organized, and I quickly realized the benefits of portraying the collected information and data in a logical way.
Oxygen-TEI XML is an optimal platform to create, edit and manage TEI XML documents. It incorporates already existing TEI guidelines that are used as an outline for projects which use this program. The programmer can, however, also implement their own custom language for documentation. To distinguish the different units of a newly created document, Oxygen color codes the elements used within the program. When creating an element, the program will suggest elements that may be useful for the specific space in which the researcher moves in at that moment. Each element comes with a thorough description of what it does when. The same occurs within each descending specific section of the editor. The format can be adjusted at any time and errors are detected by the program and marked accordingly and are combined with a short description of what kind of mistake was made. Therefore, any edit that is made correctly is also validated automatically by the program. In this context, the different settings that can be selected when creating a document are also very useful. By choosing a different format at the beginning, various editing options are activated. Since the range of formatting hints varies depending on the format selected, the programmer can determine how much assistance the program should give them. I think this is a fantastic approach for people with different programming skills to get familiar with the features of Oxygen XML step by step. The format can be customized at any time to suit individual needs. Moreover, certain keyboard shortcuts provide options and alternatives for editing a project. Therefore, the program is also very flexible and offers options for different types of layouts, depending on the programmer’s needs. This also includes accessing other sources such as CSL. Oxygen also stays in the mode that the programmer used the last time he opened the program and the file.
Because the Oxygen program works with the XML guide, XML files can be found within the program and used as a template for further editing. The elements can be dragged directly from an XML file and placed onto an ongoing project. Furthermore, the layout image of an XML file can also be copied into a project as a larger guideline on how a final product could look and function. The code templates also allow the programmer to insert small document fragments, such as images, creating a well-rounded captivation of the physical document. When a programmer takes begins to implement these different ways of creating the final project, the program will provide a preview of the refactoring action. This gives the programmer a moment of reflection on how each action will present itself without necessarily requiring an erasure of an existing element.
Another important feature is the linking of different documents via annotations. The annotations seem to me to be the heart of value of digitalizing texts. Being able to connect manuscripts in an efficient manner is almost a requirement for the culture of 21st century research. One has adapted to an age where focus on a single thing is no longer fully necessary, and speed of information travel encounters everyone daily. Annotations are the bridge between these two elements in the literary world. Although I had no experience with digital editors before taking the course, I now see the necessity and versatility that comes with them. Digitizing texts with annotations allow for broad accessibility to a worldwide audience. Online access to texts promotes education and encourages new discussions about literature that may have been forgotten.
In my personal studies, I find the ability to utilize the annotative qualities of this program very appealing. While not being directly involved with these digitalizing projects, I do think that they can be a valuable tool for conducting efficient research. On the official TEI website, the range of the program’s audience extends to teaching as well. After some thought, I realized that through its simplicity, the TEI system may also encourage students to conduct proper research as well. I realize that this may seem like a superficial realization but, especially when visuals are included, an appealing way of presenting and explaining certain topics. I am thinking especially of the Dietrich website, which incorporated images of his original handwriting at the very start of their website. It is a clever way of reminding the viewer that what they are seeing was originally handwritten years ago. In essence, not only is the information preserved in a digital format, but so is the texts’ historicity.
Furthermore, I find great value in the idea of rare texts being available beyond their home areas of libraries, monasteries, and museums. Historic texts which are kept from public view (for good reason such as weather damage) were edited upon in detail. The drawings, notes, and doodles even of young monks in charge of copying old manuscripts could only become available to people around the globe through their digitalization. It is unfortunate that up until recently the interaction between curators and literature can only be accessed through oral explanation. With an increased ability to confront these relationships more personally, I believe that the texts will become more valuable and the information that they contain will become more widespread.
I do have a suggestion regarding further development of these projects. I believe it would be incredibly useful of documents could be linked by topics rather than by person as well. Maybe Humboldt and Dietrich contain similarities in their themes on natural phenomenon? While they are vastly different people and very different time periods, unifying the topics, or making them more easily connectable for researchers would benefit a writer through an ease in finding sources.
I am sure that there are endless possibilities in the content that can be digitalized not only in the field of humanities. It is fascinating, however, to see a classically physical artform being transformed and adapted to fit into the everchanging landscape of digital technology and education.