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TEI-L  September 1998

TEI-L September 1998

Subject:

the future of the TEI: a communique from the executive committee

From:

C M Sperberg-McQueen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

C M Sperberg-McQueen <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 3 Sep 1998 00:07:02 CDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (126 lines)

As most readers of this list will be aware, the work of the Text
Encoding Initiative (TEI) has depended on short-term grant funds ever
since the project began in late 1987. While appropriate for a research
project, short term funding is not a secure foundation for the continued
maintenance and development of a standard. The TEI's executive committee
has therefore been considering alternative options for long-term support
of the TEI for some time now. Its current intention is to encourage the
establishment of some form of membership-based consortium in order to
secure ongoing funding and organizational support for the TEI.
 
The purpose of this note is to inform potentially interested members of
the TEI community about this proposal, to solicit bids for hosting such
a consortium, and to initiate a wider debate about the future of the
TEI.
 
Note: If your institution is interested in bidding to host a TEI
consortium, please contact C. M. Sperberg-McQueen at [log in to unmask] as soon
as possible.  Preliminary discussion with some potential hosts is
already underway, with the intention of making a final decision in
January 1999.
 
More information about the TEI is available from its public discussion
list at [log in to unmask] and its website at
http://www.uic.edu/orgs/tei; additional background information relating
to the consortium proposal is given below.
 
 ------
 
Background information
 
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is an international cooperative
effort to develop and disseminate guidelines for the encoding and
interchange of machine-readable texts for research.  Sponsored by the
Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH), the Association
for Computational Linguistics (ACL), and the Association for Literary
and Linguistic Computing (ALLC), the TEI began in 1988, published
drafts of its work in 1990 and 1992-93 for comment, and published the
Guidelines for Text Encoding and Interchange (TEI P3) in May 1994.
Since 1994, the TEI has largely concentrated on dissemination
activities, such as workshops and publications. Its proposals are
internationally recognized as essential material for anyone currently
considering serious academic work with electronic texts of any
kind.
 
However, its Guidelines are now, after four years, in serious need of
revision and extension. A new round of technical work was carried out
in 1996-7, largely relying on volunteer effort and residual
funding. This work has yet to be published. In addition, the TEI has
recently chartered several new work groups to address in depth some
specific subject areas in which the existing Guidelines are clearly
incomplete or inadequate. A formal mechanism exists for these groups
to report their recommendations, but incorporating them into a
revision of the Guidelines will require further editorial and
dissemination effort.
 
As one specific example, the TEI has been heavily involved in the
development of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) and related
specifications.  The editors of the TEI both participated in the
design of XML, and one also served as a co-editor of the XML
specification; the TEI's extended-pointer notation has been taken as
the basis for the Xpointer language; the TEI's tag-set documentation
will be part of the input to the deliberations of the new XML Schema
and Datatyping Work Group sponsored by the World Wide Web
Consortium. Yet while there has been uch discussion of the need to
adjust the current TEI DTD o take account of XML and related
specifications, and although the relevant TEI work group has begun
identifying the required technical changes, no infrastructure exists
for publication and dissemination of the results of that work.
 
Over the last ten years, the Text Encoding Initiative has been funded
through grants from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, an
independent federal agency; Directorate General XIII of the Commission
of the European Union; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the Social
Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  The TEI cannot
rely indefinitely on such generosity, and in particular we do not
believe that it can or should continue in the absence of a reliable
and well-funded publishing and maintenance infrastructure.  By far the
greatest contribution to the TEI's success, however, has been the
generous donation of time and expertise by the scores of researchers
who have served without compensation on TEI work groups and technical
committees; they and their host institutions have provided an
incalculable contribution to the preparation and dissemination of the
Guidelines.  Their generosity, too, can best be put to use by a
TEI possessed of a reliable infrastructure.
 
As originally conceived, the TEI was expected to remain in existence
only as long as necessary for its Guidelines to be published, to be
used then by anyone interested in so doing. The Memorandum of
Understanding between the three sponsoring organizations which set up
the TEI makes reference to the need for some sort of maintenance
scheme for the Guidelines, but does not elaborate how it might be set
up.
 
It seems clear that the maintenance of complex technical
specifications like the TEI Guidelines is hard or impossible with at
least some level of ongoing technical and editorial work. Editorial
work must be funded, and there are inevitable travel costs both in the
development work, and in the dissemination activities necessary to
keep the TEI Guidelines up to date and usable by the community they
were created to benefit.  The organizational structure of the TEI,
originally intended for a fixed-term project, must also be adapted to
serve its new role as an ongoing service effort.
 
The TEI executive committee has been discussing these issues for some
time and has tentatively concluded that an appropriate funding model
would be to establish a membership-based consortium, the object of
which will be to support the ongoing maintenance and development of
the TEI as well as to organize related dissemination activities.  The
exact focus of such a consortium, the likely scope of its activities,
and its relationship with the original sponsoring organizations are
all yet to be determined. The executive committee seeks input from the
community of those engaged in computer-assisted work with textual
material, to confirm this decision and to help decide the many
questions it leaves unanswered.
 
Many thanks to all who have supported the TEI in the past; we hope,
with your help and continued support, to build on the TEI's success,
making it an even more useful tool for all those interested in the
creation and reuse of textual resources.  >
 
-C. M. Sperberg-McQueen
 University of Illinois at Chicago
 
-Lou Burnard
 Oxford University

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