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2023 Joint MEC and TEI Conference: Encoding Cultures

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By Alisa Chen

From September 6th to the 8th, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the joint MEC (Music Encoding Conference) and TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) conference, Encoding Cultures, at Paderborn University in Paderborn, Germany. As this was my first Digital Humanities conference, I was hoping to receive feedback from other DH scholars on my DH project for the Gradaute Certificate in Digital Humanities, which is a comparative study of British Romanticism and Chinese Tang poems. In my project, I aim to use a customization of the TEI schema to encode similarities in themes, poetic devices, and pastoral elements between the poems of the two eras.

I am new to the world of DH and the TEI, having been introduced to both during my time at Northeastern. In turn, it was inspirational to see how scholars from different fields utilize TEI to conduct and expand their research projects. And, even though MEI (Music Encoding Initiative) is not a tool that I use in my own project, I was still excited to see the scholarship and research that use its capabilities. 

One presentation that inspired me in my own work was entitled “TEI Processing and Computational Analysis on Encoding Judgement Text” from the Encoding the Global Humanities panel. The data that the scholars were working with were the case files of judgment texts from the legal systems in Taiwan. As a fellow Taiwanese, I found it refreshing and validating to see that the scholarly passion for DH and TEI crosses borders and language barriers. Their encoding was completely done in traditional Chinese, which encouraged me to expand my project further. Namely, I would like to encode the actual Tang poems in classical Chinese, in addition to encoding the English translations of the Tang poems, which is the corpus that I currently am working on. 

Another presentation that I enjoyed was entitled “Digitizing Buddhist Genealogy: Encoding the Shinran Shonin Montei Kyomyocho.” This presentation focused on the relationships, associations, and geographic connections of Buddhist disciples and their mentors. The scholars were able to map the relationships of the mentor-disciple and create unique identifiers for the figures that are present in multiple mentor-disciple relationships. This project provided a structural format that I could follow when my project progresses to the step where I link poets from both the Chinese Tang and British Romanticism periods and map out their relationships based on their communication and interaction frequency (letters/ mentorship/ written a poem for). 

In addition to listening to these enriching presentations, I was able to present my poster “Multicultural & Multilingual TEI Encoding: A Comparative Study of British Romanticism and Chinese Tang Poetry though the Lens of Romantic Ecology and Affect Narratology” at the poster slam session on the fourth day of the conference. My project was in the early stages of development, and I received feedback on my TEI tag choices and encoding structural setup for when I dive deeper into the encoding part of my project. 

Furthermore, I was able to attend a wonderful conference dinner at Gut Lippesee. The atmosphere was vibrant, and everyone was engaging in lively conversations, both scholarly and leisurely. I even got some restaurant, museum, and excursion suggestions from several local conference committee members and attendees. I was able to check out the Window of the three Haresat Paderborn Cathedral and walk along the Pader river during my free time. 

After participating in this conference, I realized that there are so many ways that MEI and TEI can be applied to various genres and fields of research. I am excited to implement the helpful feedback I received in my current DH work. Through this experience, I discovered that the MEC and TEI community is passionate, innovative, and collaborative. Having witnessed the diversity of scholars and scholarship at this conference, I am excited to be a part of the endless possibilities of text encoding and DH research more broadly.

Image Credit: Alisa Chen

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