POST: Whither TEI? The Next Thirty Years

Just in time for the Annual Meeting of the Text Encoding Inititative (TEI) Consortium slated to begin next week in Vienna, Martin Mueller (Northwestern University) has written “Whither TEI? The Next Thirty Years,” in which he takes “a critical look at the TEI, focusing on shortcomings and on what should be done if the TEI is to do well in the next thirty years.”

Mueller pays special attention to the role libraries have had in supporting and sustaining the TEI, arguing that the consortium should seek to “broaden its base” and engage in outreach efforts towards core academic disciplines to avoid “complacency”:

Libraries have increasingly become the “go to” place for Digital Humanities. They are very sensitive to what their patrons want. If they hear from faculty and their chairs in history, literature, linguistics, and other disciplines that the TEI matters to their scholarly and pedagogical work, they will invest in it. If they don’t, they won’t. They are not hearing this from them now.

Mueller goes on to discuss the need for increased outreach and education, as well as issues such as governance and financial support, noting the voluntary nature of TEI work since 2012.  He closes by highlighting the need for a changed governance system:

In 2011 I made a recommendation for a unicameral board of directors, composed of technical and non-technical people so that the relationship between the technology and its non-technical end users would be written into the sovereign body of the organization as an explicit and continuing challenge. There were two responses at the time. The Council said that they found the Board’s work boring and didn’t want to do it. This I understand because the Board also finds it boring and doesn’t want to do it. A Board member said that the Board and Council called for different skills. This is true in one way but not true in another. I looked through the membership of the Council and the Board, and discovered two things. First, quite a few people have served on both the Board and the Council. Secondly, some people on the Council have had day jobs with budgetary responsibilities that exceed the budget of the TEI by orders of magnitude, and many them have had considerable administrative experience.

Why then does the TEI have a governance structure that systematically excludes from sustained discussion the most important questions worth asking? My experience on the Board has confirmed my sense that the TEI would do better with a Board of Directors that brings technical staff and end users together in a single body responsible for thinking about the TEI schema and its uses.

dh+lib Review

​​This post was produced through a cooperation between ​​ ​Caroline Barratt, Jennifer Dekker, Rachel DiCresce, Heather Hill, and Ashley Maynor (Editors-at-large for the week), Roxanne Shirazi (Editor for the week), Sarah Potvin (Site Editor), and Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Caro Pinto and Patrick Williams (dh+lib Review Editors).