TAPAS in the 2023 DHSI Text Encoding Fundamentals Course

Guest post by Lee Zickel and Connie Crompton

We started using TAPAS in our Text Encoding Fundamentals course at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in 2018. Held in Victoria every year, the DHSI has featured TEI and XSLT courses for over 20 years led by a number of instructors from across North America. In our course, participants use TAPAS not only to visualize their encoding efforts (and learn that even text on screen is a visualization), but also to think through project planning and development. We have found that students are able to upload necessary content to their individual collections and display that content without the support of a project team.

TAPAS has been a welcome addition to our TEI teaching toolkit. It fills a gap in the TEI project development lifecycle: there are dozens of TEI workshops offered around the world every year, with enthusiastic attendees keen to learn to use an easily archivable encoding language with a broad scholarly user base, but without the team or expertise to publish their encoding-based scholarship online. The TEI is an excellent tool for text analysis and non-textual visualization, however, many project directors plan to use TEI to disseminate scholarship online. There are numerous TEI publication workflows, many of which involve XSLT transformations to create HTML or populate a database. For project teams that have taken a text encoding course, it may take a few months or even years to learn XSLT and set up a Web publishing stack or to find the funding and develop the team that would support full-scale development of this kind. TAPAS is the perfect platform to get TEI documents published right away (and to show funders, colleagues, and other students who aren’t ready to look at pointy brackets, some of what TEI encoding has to offer).

With a number of transformation options, TAPAS-based classroom projects offer students a chance to learn about editorial best practice, metadata creation, paths, transformation, the difference between content and visualization, and digital sustainability, while helping them visualize a version of their work. TAPAS is an excellent platform for students who want readers to toggle between <sic> and <corr>s and <orig> and <reg>s, display page images, read footnotes, explore diplomatic transcriptions, or click through to ancillary bibliographies, placeographies, or personographies.

If you are an instructor considering using TAPAS in the classroom, we recommend that you browse through TAPAS existing projects to see the encoding that underpins their visualizations (we highly recommend A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, Digital Dinah Craik, and University of New Haven students’ Digital Editing collection). After you have read through the classroom guidelines and FAQs, download the TAPAS templates and test them out with a sample of primary source material, which you can upload back into TAPAS.

If you have XSLT experience, we also recommend writing to the TAPAS team to get a copy of TAPAS’ stylesheets. If you can, walk your students through the TAPAS transformations, so that they can see how the stylesheets are transforming their text -- and so that they will understand not to encode to please the stylesheets, but rather to encode based on their own editorial principles. There is always room to edit stylesheets to change the visualization.

We have taught dozens of TEI courses over the years, and have collectively taken even more. We have been guided by a host of amazing instructors whose style and content deeply inform our ongoing instruction. We learned to put the Fun in Fundamentals from them! It was the addition of TAPAS, however, that changed a foundational and information rich course into one about the full text encoding life cycle, concluding with concrete output. When once students came away from our course with pointy-bracketed .xml files, through TAPAS we are now able to provide a them with a way to display the results of their work in the context of the broader TEI community, and pitch its value to non-technical funders, supervisors, and colleagues. For novice encoders where a Fundamentals course is their first experience with the TEI ecosystem, this proved to be transformational.

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