Design, Development, and Documentation: Hacking TEI for Black Digital Humanities

Jessica H. Lu
Jessica H. Lu
Associate DirectorDesign Cultures & Creativity (DCC), Honors CollegeUniversity of MarylandRead Bio
Caitlin Pollock
Caitlin Pollock
Associate Librarian & Digital Scholarship SpecialistUniversity of Michigan LibraryRead Bio

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a standard of extensible markup language (XML) that prides itself upon the ability to adapt and evolve to the ever-changing needs of its users, who rely on the guidelines for scholarly modeling, analysis, and digital collections. Now in its fifth major iteration (P5), the TEI guidelines are a productive building block for Black digital humanities work. However, close attention to TEI tags, elements, and “best practices” expose how the guidelines relegate Black DH to the margins, as an addendum to or variation on scholarly markup. In this talk, we will share a framework that addresses challenges and tensions Black DH researchers—including librarians, graduate students, and independent scholars—encounter in TEI standards. This framework of critical care and codework grapples with the complexities of transforming historically de-centered voices into data, the politics of labeling the Black body using tags, and the role of encoders in interpreting and annotating Black voices. It also enkindles the design and development of a Black DH Schema for TEI. The Black DH Schema is an anti-racist and anti-colonial effort to reimagine the uses and users of the TEI guidelines and move toward encoding that presumes Blackness and Black people as central to engaging text—whether in discovery, access, analysis, collection, and/or preservation. This talk will share the early progress of this project and a preliminary draft of the tag set. We will further emphasize and discuss the values and principles guiding this project in both process and product, including limning and cultivating collaboration, workflows and timelines, the importance of feminist timekeeping, and critical kindness—from design to comprehensive documentation.

Jessica H. Lu earned her Ph.D. in Communication and Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she now serves as the Associate Director of Design Cultures & Creativity (DCC) in the Honors College. Trained as a rhetorical critic, she is concerned with how we can practice greater care for past, present, and future humans---especially those whose lives are shaped by precarity and state-sanctioned violence---in the ways we use language to create, design, and destroy our worlds. She examines, in particular, the ideas and rhetorical practices that form, advance, and disrupt racist logics in public discourse in the United States. Her work is further positioned at the intersections of African American history, archives, and digital humanities, as she specializes in adapting the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) standard of scholarly markup to critically model, analyze, and amplify Black people's practices of rhetorical invention and innovation.

Caitlin Pollock is the Digital Scholarship Specialist for University of Michigan Library, where she works with students and faculty on digital scholarship workshops, projects, and initiatives.She has a BA from Vassar College and received a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute and a Master of Arts in Digital Humanities from Loyola University Chicago. Her research interests include Black digital humanities, inclusive humanities data, critical race feminist data praxis, and African American women's history, focusing on the Black female activists of the late nineteenth century.


A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues page.

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All talks free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches.

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