Importance of Tagging in TEI

Close reading is a great tool to help categorize people, places, events, and more within a specific text. Using TEI, we analyzed Linn’s diary by choosing what words to tag. For example, one of our class discussions consisted of whether or not “cossack” should be tagged as a place or object. I argued that a cossack, which is a type of boat, is always an object but depending on the context of the sentence, it can be a place, too. In Linn’s diary, cossack was frequently used so we knew that we needed to tag it. We decided to tag it as object because in some instances in the diary, cossack wasn’t always a place.
Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 3.52.50 PM

However, we resolved the place vs. object dilemma by categorizing it as an object but by also specifying what kind of object it is. Thus, we specified cossack by placing an object type tag as “boat”. By consulting with my peers, I realized that there can be multiple different perspectives and outlooks of a word, phrase or even an entire document. Cossack is a great example of a word that can be interpreted differently depending on its context. I may feel strongly that cossack is an object, but others can interpret it differently. Collaborating throughout Linn’s diary will allow our class to determine and classify words, which will also help clarify different opinions and interpretations.

In general, marking up the transcription has helped me better understand the context and circumstances of Linn. For instance, we individually started separating the people in the database by union and confederate army. Most of the people are union, which is to be expected because Linn is part of the union army and talks about the military men surrounding him. I also learned a little more about the men in the specific diary entry I transcribed.Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 4.13.46 PMI thought that Alcot, Ripley and Prawe were all part of the union army but they were actually reporters who were supposedly neutral during the war. This helped clarify the context of the diary entry when I knew they were not directly involved in the war. As shown above, Alcot, Ripley and Prawe are reporters for the Herald & Inquirer. Before we started categorizing people, I assumed they were part of the military and I was confused why a newspaper company was mentioned. Now the context of this diary entry makes more sense!

In Pierazzo’s essay “A Rationale of Digital Documentary Editions”, she discusses the process of tagging selection. One of the most challenging aspects of specifying by tagging in TEI is knowing when to stop. You could essentially tag everything but that’s very time-consuming and does not distinguish significant phrases or words from less important ones. Pierazzo writes, “…we might conclude that one possible and tempting answer to the question ‘where to stop’ could be ‘nowhere’, as there are potentially infinite sets of facts to be recorded” (466). This causes a wide variation in interpretation. If there’s no limit, then one would think there is essentially no structure or guidelines between different articles. Although there may not be a hard limit, “the vast majority of decisions we make in this realm are decisions on which all (or most) competent readers agree or seem likely to agree (p. 196)” (466). Pierazzo makes the point that the tags made are (almost) universally acceptable and understood. There is room for interpretation, but the tags are not completely random. Therefore, there is some order when tagging words. Additionally, Pierazzo feels that when tagging, it is important to consider your audience. She writes, “to achieve the purpose of the edition and meet the editors’ needs, one needs to ask which features bear a cognitive value, that is, which are relevant from a scholarly point of view” (469). This demonstrates that the person marking up the document must consider the audience and make thoughtful, educated decisions when tagging. Although there’s no limit or “correct” way to tag words, Pierazzo believes that there are ways to make it somewhat orderly and structured while also having room for different interpretation.