What is text, really? TEI and beyond

The development of the TEI and the discussions around it have shown how manifold text(s) can be, and how far-reaching the TEI approach is. Thus, this year’s theme ‘What is text, really?’ poses a fundamental question, which goes beyond the pure reference to the seminal 1990 paper by DeRose, Durand, Mylonas, and Renear. They answered it somewhat pragmatically introducing a model for text as an ordered hierarchy of content objects which can easily be formalised with digital technologies, but, as they said later on: text can be much more than that. Text encoding can make various aspects of texts explicit, enabling scholars to examine their nature and their relationship with other objects. In this context, the power of the TEI relies on its technological interactions, supporting software of all kinds operating upon texts, from visualisation to annotation tools, digital publishing systems, or statistical analysis. The TEI framework is a way of modelling knowledge and engaging in a dialogue with ontologies, conceptual models, and recent approaches such as text as graph. For text-centric disciplines the TEI offers a range of solutions that address core research needs. However, for object-based disciplines, like archaeology or museology, where text and its encoding is only a small part of their data modelling ecosystem, the value of TEI is not so clear and it competes with other modeling approaches.