Reflections on the TEI

Peter Robinson:

Several digital scholarly editions have indeed used these [TEI] guidelines profitably, so it must be said that in terms of their immediate aim—to provide encodings which would support such editions—the guidelines were and are successful. But in terms of another aim, to provide a system which any reasonably competent humanities scholar can use (which, eventually, is the only aim that matters), the guidelines are a failure. One has only to see the look of dismay on a scholar’s face when encountering their full horror for the first time to know this. One may contemplate, with equanimity, every complexity of Byzantine medieval military history but be quite defeated by the unfamiliar vocabulary of the mysteriously interconnected universe which is the TEI. All scholars bring the same two questions: where do I start? and where do I find what I need? But the answers each time are different, and even those expert in the TEI may struggle to find them—while engaging in intense theological disputes over the correct interpretation. Little wonder then that scholars choose to find other things to do—or to make print editions.

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