Author: Cindy Castillo

Project: Encoding Thoreau

By: Emilio Garcia, Sandra Ching, Cindy Castillo, Nicole Logrieco, Mallory DelSignore

Our Project, Encoding Thoreau aimed at inquiring deeper into TEI, the markup language most commonly used for scholarly digital editing. Briefly covered in class, our group heavily focused in understanding TEI more thoroughly as well as using it to encode two of Thoreau’s journal entries using TEI. The purpose of our project was to not only transcribe the text into TEI, but to add more dimension to the text itself. By identifying locations, we were able to make a map, and through the tags, add more detail into our files about Thoreau’s journal entries. Together, we produced a journal entry in TEI code in an effort to not only better understand many aspects of TEI, but also Thoreau and his life.

As a whole, we had to decide what pathway we wanted our project to take. We initially rolled around with the idea of tracking changes through manuscripts, but eventually settled on taking two entries and encoding them into TEI using the software, Oxygen. After the long journey of finding our focus, it easily fell into place shortly after. We broke down the tasks into two teams: The Research Team and The TEI Team. To begin, Sandra created a Google document and shared it with the team, as well as typed up our two chosen journal entries, January 30th and May 14th. Mallory and Sandra marked up and color coded the text, using different colors to identify proper nouns, nouns, real, and artificial nouns. From there, Nicole took those nouns and properly tagged them. Emilio then used those tags in Oxygen to complete the actual encoding itself and tasked Cindy into looking over the files created to make sure everything looked in order as well as edit and format the groups blog post. As central as the process of encoding was to our project, there was also a great deal of research conducted in order to grasp a deeper understanding of the actual content we were looking and marking up so meticulously. For this mere reason, we were very much interested in researching on Thoreau and the locations he’d mention via his journal. In order to help our viewers conceptualize this even more definitively, Sandra went a step further and put together a map of all the places mentioned in the journal entries we encoded using Google Maps.

As we take a step back now and reflect on the areas in which we felt we excelled and the areas in which we had the most difficulty, we all came to the mutual agreement that perhaps our first initial challenge stemmed from the utter fact that we did not fully grasp the task of our own project and just the TEI language overall. As we all identified ourselves as novice level regarding how comfortable we felt with TEI, having never worked with TEI or tasked with a similar project as the one proposed by this course, we were all a tad flustered in the beginning–probably more than just a “tad.” In fact, when we were first assigned to this project by Professor Schacht, we toyed with the idea of using fluid text, however, we eventually split ways with this approach as we could not locate enough versions of the journal entries that varied from the original one we had in order to complete that. As we internalized the reality that this approach was not exactly feasible, we went back to square one. From there though, we decided to regroup and focus on just picking out and identifying the nouns in the journal entries we had all agreed on so we could encode them. Although this was a step towards the right direction, we ran into the issue of marking up nouns that could not be encoded because we did not have enough knowledge of the TEI guidelines at the time.

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Sustainability in the Age of Information

As I pondered on what I’ve gained in this course, many thoughts emersed. I could begin by delving in what I consider the most significant change I’ve noticed which is the way I now interact with information and knowledge not only as an academic but as a human and member of society. Before this course, technology and information seemed more conceptual to me and although I understood its pressing inhibatance in modernity and in my own life, I had never really taken the time to speculate what this rigorous immersing of engagement between humans and technology really meant for me or for the world. This class offered by the tools and environment I needed to step back in order to truly cogitate on the subject. One of the many qualities I’ve enjoyed about the structure of the course thus far has been the open discussions among my peers and our instructor, where constructed commentary, short witty anecdotes, and insights were offered in how they all personally interacted with information and technology. It was this open conversation between everyone in the classroom that led me to the basis of my observation: the role of technology and information in the idea of sustainability. I would like to explain this connection in further detail, but first, I’d like to disclose the most prevailing way sustainability is envisioned and conceptualized. When reflecting on the idea of sustainability, it will often come in the form of envisioning its materiality in three pillars: social, economic, environmental. What this metaphorical rendition offers, is a way in which to understand how a sustainable system requires balance from all three pillars in order to be deemed as efficient and effective. What it outlines then, is a call for the need of balance and harmony within the three pillars of sustainability, prioritizing the needs of not only ongoing economic production, but of environmental and social sustainability as well. This is where the role of technology and information begins. According to a report published by Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, restaurants, food and beverage companies often target Black and Hispanic consumers in an effort to sell their least nutritious products, all which fall primarily under the category of fast-food items—high in sodium and fat, with barely any nutritional value. Through market research data, researchers were able to measure TV advertising spending in total which revealed how the majority of companies spend a significantly greater amount of money targeting Spanish-language and Black-targeted networks. By having unhealthy food marketing purposely aimed at minority youth, companies are able to contribute to the lack of proper diets in lower income communities, increasing diet-related diseases such as high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity and high-blood pressure. By having a significantly higher exposure to the marketing tactics by companies, Hispanic and Black children continue to face diet-related disparities among communities of color. This is one of the ways that technology, such as broadcasting networks and market research data, can impact quality of life.

Technology, Humans, and Art

First and foremost, I was a bit hesitant coming into this course, I had never really considered myself technologically savvy so naturally, I felt quite nervous having to work with programs I had never even heard of, including atom. “Markdown and text? What the hell is that?” I thought to myself. This kind of reluctance was surely in some way provoked by the mere fact that I felt uneasy about taking a course that would have such a heavily rendered focus on technology. Most of my knowledge about computing came from my experiences during high school where I was thoroughly introduced to AutoCAD, illustrator, and photoshop. Having attended a specialized art high school in the restless and bustling city of New York, I was trained comprehensively in AutoCAD (a design and drafting software) for a daunting amount of three years, where I would eventually gain my AutoCAD certification during the spring of my senior year. Read more