Learning is Growing

They say that you are the pilot for your own path of learning. In taking this course, I really feel like I have taken that role of being in charge of my own learning in a whole new direction. A direction that at first, I was pretty uncomfortable with, a direction that has opened my eyes to so much more than I was seeing. For instance, the abundance of possibilities that a machine, our machines we have right in front of us, can do. A machine that can do so much that us as humans cannot even complete in a quarter of the time it takes for the machine to do so. Our machines are so much smarter and quicker than us! In another essence, humans are capable of reading in between the lines, making meaning behind something that is not explicitly stated, something our computer cannot do. How interesting, one aspect we hold over the technological world.

I would say the absolute most interesting thing I now know, that I did not in the beginning of the semester is XML – Extensible markup language. Extensible, meaning it allows us to extend our perception of what a document really is, what it really entails. Markup, meaning the explicit language used, more specifically the tags (opening, closing) or components of it. Lastly, the language part simply allows us to define other languages in a computable way. XML is a language for describing the culture of textual content and data which has opened my eyes to a greater dimension of the capabilities of technology. I mean, how incredible! Learning XML has made me think deeper, in a different way about things that I have not before. For example, the spaces in a book. WHO has EVER read a book and noticed or commented on the spacing between the lines, paragraphs, sentences, etc?! I certainly haven’t! Well, although I haven’t, someone has and to that someone, it is SUPER important. Quick side note in relation to life because I am such a stickler for life learning, different things will be more important than others to different people and having this view on technology is important because one little incorrect comma has the ability to alter an entire command, just like one thing to someone in life has the ability to change something immensely that maybe wouldn’t affect another person. In saying this, precision is absolute key. A simple misspelling or typing of a character or symbol can invalidate an entire document. In playing around with XML, I took a simple webpage, as a matter of fact our digital humanities group page, and placed it into a google sheet with a specific command line [ (=IMPORTXML(“websitelink”,”//item”) ]. With this I was amazed! The computer recognized it was XML and put it into an organized google sheet. It took all the content and did stuff with it because the content has the structure that the specific markup language has given it. The computer not only went to the webpage, but straight to the part where the item is (that level) and took all the items and separated things into data (author, ID #, time, etc). Imagine how l o n g it would’ve taken a human to organize and sort that for a whole blog post webpage. XML tells us that the documents are really a hierarchy of information, a hierarchy that it can easily organize into different “families” or “categories”. It makes things more visually appealing for the ease of our eyes, the webpage verses the breakdown of components in the webpage. However, in doing this, behind the webpage itself was this incredible amount of organization that is so interesting. In essence, XML provides a way to structure textual data (all the organizational information) and makes it so a machine can do something with it (make the webpage!). You can use XML to describe the various structural components of a novel by transforming it into a Microsoft document and telling it to separate paragraphs by a line or a different font for headings, etc. XML has the capabilities to do all of this! Overall, I have learned that XML is a markup language that consists of a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable. It allows you to separate information from the presentation of that information. This was definitely the most interesting thing I have learned thus far. This knowledge has changed me because it has made me realize that the computer is much more behind our perception. In other words, the webpage is much more than what we see of it.

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