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Humanist Archives: Jan. 31, 2019, 7:54 a.m. Humanist 32.402 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 402.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org


    [1]    From: Patrick Sahle 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.399: the McGann-Renear debate (153)

    [2]    From: Desmond Schmidt 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.399: the McGann-Renear debate (22)

    [3]    From: Alexander Gil 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.399: the McGann-Renear debate (18)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-01-30 20:59:57+00:00
        From: Patrick Sahle 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.399: the McGann-Renear debate

Herbert, I think what McGann was saying was that every technology is a
(particular) theory of text and realises a model of text and as such
privileges certain views on text and impedes others. In this case markup
and the OHCO model privileges views, McGann was less interested in and
impedes views, he was more interested in.

Desmond, when you emphasise the relevance of keeping renditional aspects
in textual representation (like digital text encoding), we are on the
same side. We both say that they matter because they bear 'textual
meaning'. Whether to represent renditional aspects as renditional
information or as interpreted structural information is up to the
textual model of the 'editor' (and interests in the utilisation of
textual representations). I am very happy for XML/TEI to support a
multiple view (and encoding).

Gabriel, we are all grateful for the work of Allen Renear and others who
made it clear that for many textual genres hierarchy is an essential
structural feature. We will never fall back behind that. But we should
be careful not to lose sight of other aspects of textuality.

Gabriel, "even character encoding conveys textual meaning by renditional
features" is very trivial. There sometimes is that strange assumption
that e.g. ASCII was just a set of writing characters and that on this
assumption a clear borderline between characters and other script
features can be drawn. But some people argue that "line break" or
"underscore" or "quotation mark" have a renditional function. Now one
could say "there is a set of items that comprise all essential elements
of text - everything else is renditional" - but such a "theory" of a
basic code set will never hold across time, across many textual genres,
across modes of extracting textual meaning, across technologies and
surely not across different notions of text.

Best wishes, Patrick

Am 30.01.2019 um 06:42 schrieb Humanist:
>                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 399.
>              Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                     Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                         www.dhhumanist.org
>                  Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>
>
>      [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
>             Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (19)
>
>      [2]    From: Desmond Schmidt 
>             Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (25)
>
>      [3]    From: Gabriel Egan 
>             Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (31)
>
>
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>          Date: 2019-01-29 22:19:45+00:00
>          From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
>          Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate
>
> Do you remeber Humanist 32.176: releasing the hares (resp. 173 "On
> Annotations"):
>
> [quote] It is for this reason, or something like it, that I take what Ronald
> Haentjens Dekker or David Birnbaum says about data structures for the
> representation of text seriously, but not what some other scholars say
> about that topic.  Jerome McGann has suggested indirectly that his
> rejection of SGML and XML is analogous to quantum theory's rejection of
> Newtonian physics.  But I have sought in vain in his work for any
> alternative suggestion concrete enough to implement (let alone one that
> works better for scholarly computing than SGML and XML).  I fear that
> from where I sit, McGann's attitude towards SGML and XML looks much more
> like the Flat Earth Society's rejection of Newtonian physics, or
> creation scientsts' rejection of geology, than like quantum physics.
> [/quote]
>
> Greetings, Herbert
>
>
>
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>          Date: 2019-01-29 13:54:13+00:00
>          From: Desmond Schmidt 
>          Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate
>
> "Text is renditional" - what is that supposed to mean? Are you trying
> to justify the fact that XML encoding blurs the distinction between
> semantic and renditional aspects of markup? Because it sure as hell
> does. But what are we going to do with the semantic aspects of markup,
> exactly? Are we going to analyse marked-up texts of novels and
> discover that the meaning of chapters is that they are composed of
> paragraphs? Or that [author] tags in poems by Charles Harpur quite
> often contain the words "Charles Harpur" Wow. Now sometimes in
> newspapers the author is in a smallcaps font. Does that mean that we
> are going to render all authors in smallcaps? Of course not. Where it
> occurs we will add an extra smallcaps tag. So there is zero
> renditional data in the  tag. We might as well delete all the
> [author] tags because they are useless.
>
> The only markup worth having IS renditional. You can't markup all
> desirable semantic aspects of a text without spending $10,000 per page
> and then no one could read it. So even then it is worthless. You're
> better off marking up a text lightly with renditional features and
> then extracting meaning with a concept mining tool or AI.
>
> Desmond Schmidt
> eResearch,
> Queensland University of Technology
>
>
>
> --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>          Date: 2019-01-29 08:24:18+00:00
>          From: Gabriel Egan 
>          Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate
>
> Dear HUMANISTs
>
> Patrick Sahle wrote:
>
>> Texts are not hierarchical -- markup languages are.
> I would want to defend the claim by Allen H. Renear and
> others that texts are indeed essentially hierarchical.
> Teaching computational methods to English Literature students,
> I would describe this insight, which we approach through
> DeRose et al.'s essay "What is text, really?", as a revelation
> to them.
>
> Students repeatedly express astonishment that nobody had
> told them about tree structures before, and once they learn
> about them they see them everywhere. They do of course spot
> that some literary texts resist hierarchies, and they take
> that in their stride in the same way that they take some
> poems violating the meters they are written in. The norm
> is reinscribed as the norm by the very violations of it.
>
> I'd be interested to hear Patrick Sahle expand on his remark
> that "even character encoding conveys textual meaning by
> renditional features".
>
> Regards
>
> Gabriel Egan

--
Apl. Prof. Dr. Patrick Sahle
Universität zu Köln (http://www.uni-koeln.de) - Cologne Center for
eHumanities (CCeH) 
Koordinierungsstelle Digital Humanities der Nordrhein-Westfälischen
Akademie der Wissenschaften (http://cceh.uni-koeln.de/DH-AWK/)
Data Center for the Humanities (http://www.dch.uni-koeln.de/)
Institut für Dokumentologie und Editorik (http://www.i-d-e.de)
Büro: Meister Ekkehart Straße 11, 50923 Köln, Raum 2.07, Tel.: 0221-470-3894
@patrick_sahle (https://twitter.com/patrick_sahle) - @CCeHum
(https://twitter.com/CCeHum)


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-01-30 20:04:23+00:00
        From: Desmond Schmidt 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.399: the McGann-Renear debate

Hi Gabriel,

It was I who wrote that bit not Patrick.

But I'm not persuaded by your argument which is based only on anecdotal
evidence. In fact you reinforce my point by admitting that the
hierarchies are expressed in markup or "tree structures". That's
software, not text.

Last time I looked at a copy of Shakespeare there were no
angle-bracketed tags, just black marks on the pages. It is quite
possible to model Shakespeare without any reference to hierarchies,
even though there are acts, scenes, speeches and so forth.

So the hierarchies are only in your head when you analyse a text. It
might be a familiar way of modelling them but it's just that - a
model, not a fundamental property of the text itself.

Desmond Schmidt
eResearch
Queensland University of Technology


--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: 2019-01-30 16:59:24+00:00
        From: Alexander Gil 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.399: the McGann-Renear debate

Dear Herbert and all,

McGann is no flat-earther in his thinking on textuality. A simple exercise
should suffice. Think of a circle drawn on a whiteboard. It is hard to
determine whether that circle is a zero, the letter o, capital letter or
not, or just a circle. It is probably all at once (quantum). The computer
does not accept these ambiguities at a certain layer of the stack, but it
can certainly represent them on a screen, depending on font and context.
XML is part of that stringent layer which cannot operate beyond the
allographic, and must even mediate the bibliographic through allographs
... I hope that simple example clarifies McGann a bit, and
shows you how textuality exceeds any attempt by TEI to encapsulate it.

Signed,
A student of Jerry.





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