10.0905 a synoptic view of the snow (a.k.a. Olsen contra TEI)

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 23:10:54 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 905.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 1997 19:29:44 -0400 (EDT)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: precipitous precipitation


Whether in rain, snow, sleet or hail, Marc Olsen, the Johnson quoter,
seems to be awash in solvency of the temporal sort: there are many
levels of irony to invoke in the trope of time mispent in teaching,
using or learning TEI guidelines. Even more irony when the
waste-is-haste variation of the temporal trope is used to launch the
setting the overcoming of objections, possible and otherwise, as a
prequiste to teaching. However, in the Chicago flurry of raised objections,
one last one added by Marc Olsen to the super saturated solution mixed
up for our mutual benefit renders a very pedagogical precipitate. (And
just in time!)

I wonder if Olsen argues that to introduce students to tagging and SGML is
counter indicated in all workshps and seminars or just those that also
serve to introduce TEI. If I explicitly quote and re-read the
assumption that Olsen claims is implicit, to the effect that

> whatever is tagged,
> however it is encoded, WILL BE USABLE!

I do believe that what is here present is a future tense. The claim to
be useable everywhere in the now is, I would venture, false in any
weather, to any encoder, whatever their mark up language.

Following upon the weather metaphor and liking to use umbrellas for
shade from the sun as well as shelter from the rain, I would seed the
clouds with workshops. As a critical mass of users develops, some will
tag; others will develop applications: some rain is bestowed on the
growing corn and some lightning strikes the old oak, providing
firewood for the hearth. Software is not a natural resource, just like
the gathered kindling and the water flowing in an irrigation ditch, it
is shaped by human intent, energy and work.

Now, if the child is not allowed to handle a twig or play in a mud
puddle, will she someday become a programmer, a system designer, a
protocol negotiator, will she sit on a standards body, will she engineer

> a reliable export model

or will the child be bid to wait? Worse, will the child's choice of
friends and associates be imposed? I favour the problem-creation child
who learns to communicate with the other problem-creators: they are
cheaper to educate.

Ever the synoptic view from the bottom line,