Episode 63:
David Michelson and Michelle Taylor

On this episode of Leading Lines, we feature a conversation between a librarian, a faculty member, and a post-doc about a course two of them taught recently at Vanderbilt University focused on TEI, the Text Encoding Initiative. The course was team-taught by David Michelson, associate professor of the history of Christianity, and Michelle Taylor, a post-doctoral fellow in digital cultural heritage with a background in English literature. They’re interviewed by Leading Lines producer Cliff Anderson, who also happens to be the associate university librarian for research and digital initiatives.

In Episode 11, Cliff also interviewed Kathryn Tomasek of Wheaton College about her use of TEI to teach her history students how to practice close reading. See the list below for a link to that conversation.



[0:00] (music)

Derek Bruff: [0:04] This is Leading Lines. I’m Derek Bruff. One of the things I like about the digital humanities is how collaborative the DH community can be. The image of a lone scholar working away in an archive may have been accurate for humanities projects in the past, but digital humanities projects often involve multiple scholars from different fields on different career paths and with very different kinds of skills. On this episode of Leading Lines, we feature a conversation between a librarian, a faculty member, and a post-doc about a course two of them taught recently at Vanderbilt University focused on TEI, or the Text Encoding Initiative. The course was team taught by David Michelson, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity at the Divinity School here at Vanderbilt and Michelle Taylor, a postdoctoral fellow in Digital Cultural Heritage with a background in English Literature. They’re interviewed by Leading Lines producer, Cliff Anderson, who also happens to be the Associate University Librarian for Research and Digital Initiatives.

[1:05] We’ve discussed TEI here on Leading Lines in the past. Back in Episode 11, Cliff interviewed Kathryn Tomasek of Wheaton College about her use of TEI to teach her history students how to practice close reading. Check the show notes for a link to that conversation. In today’s interview, David Michelson and Michelle Taylor share their experiences with TEI, the roles digital tools play in their scholarly work, and the challenges and opportunities of teaching a graduate level course in the digital humanities

[1:35] (music)

Cliff Anderson: [1:39] Hi, I’m Cliff Anderson. I’m Associate University Librarian for Research and Learning at Vanderbilt University. And it’s my pleasure to be with Dave Michelson And Michelle Taylor. I’m gonna ask Dave Michelson to start by introducing himself, then we’ll get to Michelle, then we’re going to talk about digital humanities, the TEI, and where we’re going with digital scholarship at Vanderbilt University.

Dave Michelson: [2:02] Thanks, Cliff. So I’m Dave Michelson. I’m an associate professor with a dual appointment in the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and in Classical and Mediterranean Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. I’d been involved in the digital humanities research for about a decade. I’m the general editor of Syriaca.org, an online project focused on the history and culture of the Syriac language in the Middle East.

Michelle Taylor: [2:31] And I’m Michelle Taylor. I’m the current postdoctoral research fellow for the Digital Cultural Heritage research cluster, here at Vanderbilt. I have a PhD in English, and over the last ten or so years that I was in graduate school, my masters and PhD programs, I’ve been working on various TEI based digital humanities projects.

Cliff: [2:51] Great. So thank you. So Michelle, you mentioned the TEI. Why don’t we start there? How did you both get involved in digital humanities and then in the TEI, in particular? And we should mention for those listeners that don’t know TEI, just by shorthand, that that stands for the Text Encoding Initiative. So who would like to start?

Michelle: [3:10] I’ll start. So, when I was a research assistant for Herbert Tucker at UVA, he was working on a project called, “For Better, For Verse,” which teaches students how to scan poetry. And so my very first job in digital humanities was helping him scan the, the meter for various poems in English. And so I learned TEI, just the basics of it at the scholars lab at UVA. Really just learning the parts that I needed to do the job that I was doing. And then from there I took a job at Encyclopedia Virginia through the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and learned how to encode much greater number and variety of texts.

Dave: And I first got involved in the TEI, Text Encoding Initiative, out of looking for various best practices for digital cataloging. So, I guess I should explain that while I’ve become a big fan of the TEI, I found it through a process of researching different approaches. We were interested in cataloging Syriac manuscripts and so had to look at various formats and standards such as EAD or MADS. I won’t go into all of these library acronyms. And we kept finding that the existing standards that were in use, weren’t satisfactory from a historian’s point of view. They work perfectly well for library cataloging purposes. But if you wanted to encode data at the detailed level that historians want for their research, we needed something more until finally, someone said, “Well, why don’t you look at the Text Encoding Initiative? It’s primarily designed for literature, but it has this sort of robustness and flexibility that could be used for historical research.” There were some existing projects such as the EpiDoc project, that’s a project that encodes historical inscriptions. It began primarily with Greek and Latin inscriptions, but has been used for inscriptions in Asia, historical inscriptions around the world.

[5:20] And I think I’d want to add to that, one thing that’s really attractive about the TEI is the size and longevity of the scholarly community that’s been using it. So for many, perhaps most of the people listening to this podcast, this might be the first time you’ve heard of the Text Encoding Initiative, but it’s actually an initiative that’s been around for more than three decades. Just by counting the members of the listserv, there’s something more than 2 thousand scholars who’ve been involved in the project. If you look at the technology itself, so it’s a subset of XML tags, if you will, for classifying data. And there are over 500 tags. They have well-defined descriptions or definitions of how they’re to be used. So it’s surely a broad based digital humanities community and not a sort of fly-by-night operation, if you will.

Cliff: [6:17] (laughs) I don’t think anyone has ever thought about the TEI as a fly-by operation, but that’s good. Definitely isn’t one. Thank you. So actually, this sets up well, for the next question, I want to ask you, which is, how does it serve your own disciplinary interests? So, Michelle, you mentioned that you come out of English and Dave mentioned that that was actually one of the initial use cases. Can you talk about its use within English Literature? And then we’ll go to Dave and talk about history.

Michelle: [6:41] So I have a, even before I learned the TEI, I was interested in scholarly editing, print scholarly editing. And so it was really a natural transition for me to start thinking about how to represent the texts that I wanted to represent in print in the digital format. So moving forward, when I am finally working on projects that are entirely my own projects, I hope to employ the kinds of scholarly editing traditions that the TEI allows us to do by using the critical apparatus features. So any editing I hope to do in the future, I hope to do as a joint endeavor between print and digital editions.

Cliff: [7:21] And I should mention that you and I collaborated on an edition, the Abraham Kuyper stone lectures, which you helped tremendously with. It was all about the critical apparatus. And, you know, I think it really showed that just having the ability to, to read carefully, to compare the editions, and to, to note what’s irrelevant. Where does the text, in some cases, could be silently corrected? And what needs to be explicitly corrected and how that is depicted in what tags you want to use? I mean, those are scholarly decisions that you have to make. They aren’t just obvious ones. And so knowing the traditions of scholarly editing really informs your usage of the TEI, I would suppose.

Michelle: [7:58] It does. And the one thing I really appreciate about it, is that it forces you to make decisions in cases where you might not have to make those decisions in working with print materials. So I think, I think everyone who does any kind of editing should work with the TEI at some point because it, it changes the way you think about the texts and how you work with it. And I think it makes everyone who uses it a better editor, whether they’re, even if they’re just going to be focusing on print materials from here on out.

Cliff: [8:24] So Dave, you mentioned this is useful for historical purposes, history as literature or beyond sort of editing historical texts?

Dave: [8:34] Well, so that’s a good question. I would say, because the TEI was created for editing text, editing primarily literary texts than the, the historical disciplines that are close to editing texts, so classics, medieval studies naturally picked up the TEI and began to use it first. But in our project, Syriaca.org, for example, we’ve really branched out. So we have one project that describes historical geography using TEI. So we’re describing places, not texts. Again, though, especially for ancient and medieval historians, a good deal of our data comes from texts. So the fact that the TEI is so useful for describing texts, is really valuable for historians at least working in the areas that I’m working in.

Cliff: [9:26] So let’s move on and talk about why a student, these days, sort of coming into the digital humanities, might want to learn the TEI. Because as you know, there’s a range of possibilities in the digital humanities, from digital mapping to 3D imaging. Just a huge variety of things you could learn. And so I’m curious why you think that students might want to start or, you know, kind of early on went to learn the TEI?

Dave: [9:50] Well, I want to take us back to my comment that the TEI is not a fly by night operation…

Cliff: [9:54] (laughs)

Dave: [9:56] …because I think that’s actually pretty important. I guess the antonym for that would be that the TEI is an established scholarly institution. And I don’t want to single out any particular digital technology, but I think we can all think of examples of things that were presented as the next big thing in technology, even in digital humanities, but then after five years are obsolete and no one’s using. And so for any students starting out in the digital humanities, you need to think, “Okay, I’m going to put in a lot of effort putting my data into a particular format.” It’s important that you try and future proof that as much as possible, and I think the longevity of the TEI, as I said, more than three decades, puts you in a good position. In other words, there may not be the same TEI guidelines ten years from now, that there are right now.

[10:48] But enough scholars have invested enough time and enough libraries are hosting important databases in TEI that you can be sure that just as no doubt, now we’ll be able to open Word documents ten years from now, even if there’s not Microsoft Word, people will find a way to convert TEI documents as well, just because they’re just that advantage of a, of a large-scale community of humanists.

Cliff: [11:11] So, you know, just sort of pressing maybe on that question though, for students, of course, thinking about the long-term is maybe not natural to them when they’re just getting started. I think everything you said makes perfect sense to someone who’s been in the digital humanities for a while. But on the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily have the flash of some of the other. And Flash, of course, is a technology itself that came and went, but finesse of some of the other digital humanities tools out there. So how is it that you think you can sort of get students to see that long range perspective? Or is that just because you’re working with historians and that comes naturally to them?

Dave: [11:45] Well, I maybe want to defer to Michelle here and have her input, as well. I think we can say that we both found. So just so the audience understands, we just concluded teaching a TEI seminar together here at Vanderbilt in the spring of 2019. And we found that it was very appealing to the students to have a sense of, “I’m creating data that’s not just going to be on my hard drive for me to use, but that could be contributed to larger projects, is encoded in ways that others can understand it.” In fact, we had them do project reviews of other projects. One they had to do very on two weeks into the semester and one they did in the final month of the semester. And one thing you could see in the difference between the two, was when they did their second set of project reviews, they were much more aware of, “oh, here’s where this project could have made their work interoperable or could have thought about the bigger picture.” And so I think that bigger picture’s actually really appealing for students. Now just to be clear, these are all graduate students. So I think graduate students do have a bit of a longer career trajectory view. Michelle, would you want to add anything to that?

Michelle: [12:56] Yeah, so going completely the opposite direction, I’m going to be teaching general education literature in the fall. And I’ve already begun to think about the ways that I like to use TEI in that class. And so these are students that, most likely will not be creating digital archives in their futures. But I think because the TEI is text-based and because texts are the basis of many humanities disciplines, certainly English and history, that there are things to be gained from teaching students the basics. I think allowing students to work with TEI early on will give them a new appreciation for, say, the way that texts are structured. Ways to think through why texts are structured a certain way. Allowing them to do some basic tagging will enable them to really hone in on literary themes, will enable them to track characters or places throughout a text.

[13:54] And then you’re talking about these other wonderful digital humanities tools that are out there most of the, I mean, I guess I’m thinking particularly of network analysis, but if you have TEI documents as the basis for that, you can get a lot more out of some of these other technologies as opposed to just putting in plain text. So even though I don’t imagine a lot of these students going on and creating digital archives later, I still think they can get something out of the tagging process that will enable them to better understand the structure and the content of literary texts.

Cliff: [14:28] Great, and I’d love to come back around and talk about the class that you both taught together, that Dave mentioned because you know, interested in thinking about how you put together the goals for that class. And how you sort of translated these ideas about the longevity and the importance of the TEI in helping you to read and understand text better and how you package that together as a learning environment in this particular class. So maybe we just start from the beginning. Dave, you mentioned a little bit about this class, but what was the name of the class and how did you advertise it here at Vanderbilt? And how did you frame it in terms of what discipline? Because as you know, DH can be taught across a wide variety of disciplines, as we’re talking about. So we’ll just start there. Maybe Michelle, if you want to pick that up.

Michelle: [15:13] Yeah. It’s hard to tell how many disciplines we marketed the course for. I made the posters and I sure made a lot of posters for different disciplines. We probably had maybe eight or nine different disciplines that we marketed the course to. Unfortunately, we still had a rather small turnout, but yeah, so we had mostly students who were interested in religion, either as religious studies, grad students, or divinity students. And so that was actually nice in a way because it meant that we could tailor some of our exercises and our, our class project that we did on texts that we knew that all the students would have an interest in. So in that way, it was helpful.

Dave: [15:59] And we also had a history PhD student and a couple of art historians.

Michelle: [16:05] Oh, right. Thank you.

Dave: [16:07] History and religious studies were probably the main folks.

 Michelle: [16:10] Yeah, I guess I was. Yeah, we did have auditors at the beginning, and I think that I was, as they sat through the first part of the class, first half of the class, and we’re actually teaching the skills. Whereas the second half of the class, was much more focused on students working on their individual projects. So about halfway through we had reduction in numbers and I was thinking about the people in the latter half.

Dave: [6:33] Well, you might also be thinking about we didn’t successfully recruit literature students, even though that was your aspect. So that’s probably, I would say we’re describing a class that’s mainly history and culture focused.

Cliff: [16:46] But I think it is a challenge in teaching an interdisciplinary digital humanities class. Because even though Vanderbilt really stresses that we want to have interdisciplinary scholarship, the framework is still very disciplinary based. And so just in terms of the requirements that students have to fill their various obligations, it’s hard for them sometimes to step out and take a class that won’t count towards credit in their particular discipline. I think. Is that one of the issues that you ran up against?

Dave: [17:11] Yeah, that’s a real challenge, I think for digital humanities courses. Obviously, the faculty member is in a department. And so students in that department or program, are going to perhaps gravitate towards the class because it’s in their department or program. But it’s much more challenging to get, say, a DGS, in a different department to endorse the course, if the faculty members aren’t in the department, even if in this case, teaching TEI XML is a broadly applicable skill useful for history, literature, anthropology, linguistics, et cetera.

Cliff: [17:44] And to be clear, DGS is Director of Graduate Studies.

Michelle: [17:47] Right.

Cliff: [17:46] Okay. So let’s just talk about the format of the class itself. So this was a class that met twice a week for an hour and 15 minutes, roughly?

Michelle: [17:56] Yes.

Cliff: [17:57] Okay. And so I’m curious about how you balance sort of the lecturing/teaching. Maybe you didn’t do any of that with the practical exercises. How did you structure the interaction with the students in the class?

Michelle: [18:07] Yeah, so the first half of the semester, we spent about half of each session with a lecture on a particular portion of the TEI. So one day we might do representing primary texts, the next day we might do representing variants and texts. So roughly half an hour, 40 minutes or so, guiding students through the different elements that they would use to accomplish those goals. And then we had exercises setup, so that for the second half of the class session students would work on, instead of a workshop setting, sometimes together and sometimes on their own, to work through a given exercise so that they could put the skills they just learned to the test and we would walk around and help them when they reached snags.

Cliff: [18:55] Okay. And then in the second half of the class you were doing really project-based learning.

Michelle: [19:01] Right, so students had chosen projects if they wanted to work on. And they would come to class with questions they had about encoding practices for the particular kinds of texts that they were encoding. And they would work in pairs to talk through their problems. And then we would walk around and help them and make sure that we were addressing the various problems they had that were specific to their individual projects.

Dave: [19:23] And in fact, I might add we kind of even stair stepped it, you might think that the class actually had three sections. So for the first part of the class, we taught the skills and they did homework assignments and that was totally, you know, sort of exercise based. Then we actually did a mini project of our own design that they worked on. We used pair programming techniques so they were working with each other. But the project was one of our choosing, that only took about two weeks. And then finally, the last part of the class, we still use pair programming, but they did their own projects of their own design and choosing. But that middle section, I think was actually kind of useful because.

Michelle: [20:12] Yeah,

Cliff: [20:13] Because it transitioned them from, okay, now we’re going to work on a project, but here’s what’s working on a project and doing pair programming on a project looks like.

Cliff: [20:20] Got it. Yeah, that’s a really interesting approach. Well, so what aspect of your seminar did you consider most successful? And you know, by contrast, what did you consider least successful?

Dave: [20:33] Hmm, that’s a good that’s a good question. I mean, I think the outcomes were also different for the students. When you do project-based learning, often the payout depends on what the student’s willing to pay in. I would say the students reported. And actually, I think Michelle maybe even had a better sense of this because she interviewed some of the students afterward, of they were much more motivated to work on their own projects, then they were to learn, to do the sort of thematic exercises. On the other hand, I don’t see how they could have designed their own project without covering the thematic content of the thematic exercises. So I think the projects in general, for most of the students, were quite a success. And several of the students reported that they’re going to continue working on the project after the class, which I think is a good, indicator or metric for success there. What would you want to add, Michelle?

Michelle: [21:36] Yeah, so just to chime in about what we maybe could have done a little bit better. Something we discussed after the last day of class at our decompressing lunch was that, and I’m sure this is true for any project-based learning course. We probably should have had more, more deadlines throughout the second half of the semester, which is difficult because every student’s project was different. So it will be hard to say, okay, this part is due at this point and it’s not that we weren’t checking in, because twice a week the students got lots of chances to check in, but some students just got really behind on their personal timelines. So were we to teach it again, I think it would be important for us to find a way to, to hold students more closely to their, the deadlines that they set for themselves. That might be the answer right there. You know, they, they were the ones that broke down the number of steps for the project one, they hope to accomplish them. So just holding the students to that, not terribly rigidly to the point where, you know, because obviously things change and projects develop and shrink over time, but at least try and hold them a little more tightly to their, to their own standards so that at the end they actually had accomplished a great deal. I think maybe it would have been a little bit better.

Cliff: [22:49] Yeah, so like project management skills alongside actually learning the TEI and being able to encode.

Michelle: [22:53] Yeah, and we certainly did. I mean, we did we did that. We definitely talked through that a lot.

Dave: [23:00 ] We introduced them to using various sort of tools that are useful for projects. So GitHub, a few project management…

Michelle: [23:09] Asana.

Dave: [23:09] …right type pieces of software. But in some ways, when you have individualized projects, that it kind of comes down to what the student thinks will be useful or not. I don’t know. I’ve done enough teaching that I’ve also had where I really do trace the deadlines out and the student complains afterwards, “You didn’t leave me free enough to work on my own timetable.” So, you know, sometimes maybe you can’t you can’t. “One size fits all” doesn’t work for a project-based class.

Cliff: [23:40] So, you know, turning maybe to the broader context. What are the things that you think the TEI community as a whole and people involved in TEI could, could do to make learning the TEI more accessible to both undergraduates and graduate students? And I’m thinking just, you know, learning resources, textbooks, the type of materials that you might find, you know, if you’re taking a basic astronomy or physics class. What do we need to be able to bring more students into this community?

Michelle: [24:08] So we did offer a lot of workshops throughout the, throughout the year for TEI here at Vanderbilt. But that was not something that I actually had been exposed to very much at the other universities of which I’ve been a part. It was always sort of like, “go to Victoria, Canada, DHSI to learn these skills.” And for a lot of people that’s quite a barrier to learning. Even though DHSI offers scholarships for both tuition and for the travel to get there and lodging.

Cliff: [24:39] It’s not very scalable to ask every student to go to DHSI.

Michelle: [24:43] Right, so I think even if it’s just once a semester, bringing in someone local or someone from a couple hours away who’s really good at TEI to teach workshops, I think would be really helpful because the idea that you always have to go somewhere far away and immerse yourself in a five-day experience is just not feasible for a lot of people. And again, I think that we did a good job of that this year, but that’s not something that I saw happening a lot at the other universities that I’ve been a part of.

Dave: [25:12] I think I might highlight visualization tools. So you know, something maybe we should have done earlier in the class, we kind of waited until their projects, were nearly done before we showed them some of the tools that are out there to visualize their projects, such as TEI publisher. But that definitely was a sort of “aha, this is great” moment where the student realized, oh, everything I’ve been encoding can be viewed, without too much effort, as a beautiful web page. We probably could have even introduced that earlier, but I would also just add, I think that there’s, there’s more need in the TEI community for out of the box visualization tools that can take TEI documents and show what they are. So we do have TEI publisher. Unfortunately for us, a lot of the, the tools associated with the TEI website, so Ox Garage, et cetera, were down due to technical difficulties during the semester. There’s the Strophe app, which we both been involved in the development of, which also aims to be a sort of out-of-the-box solution. But I think we need, we need lots more of those. So ready to use style sheets where the student puts their time in learning TEI. And they don’t need to spend a lot of time learning web design to see their, their final product. So I think that would help and encourage students significantly.

Cliff: [26:45] So I can imagine, you know, Dave, you and I taught a version of this course a couple years back, in 2014. And we put kind of premium on learning to program alongside the TEI, which I don’t think that you did this time, which probably makes a lot of sense because we were really trying to do a lot in that particular class. But I mean you can go really deep with TEI. Obviously like a next step would be learning to do odd files and thinking about how to make your schemas. And then beyond that, thinking about XPath and then XSLT and XQuery. And by the time that you come out learning all of that, you know, that may be several years before you become a real master in all those skills. So did, did your students get a glimpse of like entering into that sort of long range set of tools that they might want to learn? How did you introduce like the, the learning trajectory to them?

Cliff: [27:41] We didn’t do a lot of those things. So they actually did have to learn Xpath. We had not particularly detailed week, but they all learned enough XPath that they could understand how to query their document and how they might then work to make more sophisticated queries, even if they didn’t learn it there, that the review projects that they did, I think we’re also helpful in that regard. So they had to look at, okay, what does a massive project? Massive. I don’t know if that’s the case, but anyway, a project that’s more than just one graduate student, let’s say it’s multiple faculty members and a software developer, et cetera. So I think they got some sense of that larger scope. I also think though you have to just gauge the level of the class. So I would say our level of the class was convinced the students of the value of markup, teach them how to do markup, and introduce them to that there’s a larger world of digital scholarship going on related to TEI, that then they could make their own choices about how much of that to take on, I think.

Michelle: [28:49] And certainly two of our students were very interested. They mentioned wanting to learn how to write on files. So I’m hoping there’ll be a, as you said before, a future for the projects they were working on in that direction.

Cliff: [29:02] Great. So as we come to a close here, what or where you both hope to go in your own digital humanities careers? Michelle, why don’t you start, because you mentioned you’re moving into a new position and you’ll be teaching English Literature?

Michelle: [29:16] Yes.

Cliff: [29:18] Ok.

Michelle: [29:19] So I definitely want to think more about using digital humanities in pedagogy for, for undergraduates who may or may not actually become digital humanists themselves. And so then, that is not exclusively TEI. I hope to think a little bit about how to use data visualization, network analysis, just some, you know, probably basic versions of those things to help students visualize and map the texts that they’re reading. So that’s my sort of my teaching goal. I do hope to develop my own digital projects. I’ve sort of been laying the groundwork for it. And so I do hope to increase my exposure and really dig into learning how to write audit files, preparing schemas. I’ve had some exposure to XSLT in the past, but I need to refresh my memory on that. I did take a formal course in that, but it’s been awhile. So just really getting the whole XML stack down. I recognize it’s probably going to be a little while before I, I get to that point but that’s definitely what I see as the next steps for me.

Cliff: [30:27] Great and Dave?

Dave: [30:29] I guess my energy right now is focused on creating digital editing standards for my sort of sub-discipline of Syriac studies. I think everyone would agree that scholars are going to continue to edit ancient and medieval texts. And I hope that everyone would agree that it’s good to have these texts be online. And what we now need to do is continue to form the standards, which I think include TEI, at least that’s the case I’m making. And then educate the scholars in the field, including graduate students, of how to use these best practices. So I think that that’s, that’s probably going to be a main focus area for me.

Cliff: [31:13] Okay, so we always ask our guests a question, it’s about their favorite analog technology. So not digital, but analog this time. Dave, what’s your favorite analog technology?

Dave: [31:26] Well, so I have to give credit to my dissertation supervisor, Peter Brown, who taught me this. And it is to use tiny post-it notes. They’re more like the post-it flags. So they’re almost, they’re really too small to write something on. And he always taught me, he taught me this is the way he reads a book. When you read a book, have a stack of those and anytime you find something you think you should take a note on, just put a post-it note next to it. Don’t waste your time actually taking a note then. And then once you finish the book or article or whatever, reread only those sections that you’ve marked with a Post-It note and at that point, decide what to take notes on. And I found that that really is effective because oftentimes you’ll flag where an author makes a point, but then the author makes the point better later, and you would have wasted your time taking a note the first time. And so it’s really efficient. It’s also a nice way to then read a book and then reread what you determine to be the main points that are relevant to your research question again, later. The only point I don’t like about that analog technology is there’s no sort of “clear” all of these post-it notes. So I do a lot of books in my office that then just have hundreds of these flags because I never went back through and pulled them all out. But I found that to be a really useful technique. And I guess it is in a way a kind of markup. So there you go.

Cliff: [32:58] Alright thanks, Dave. And Michelle?

Michelle: [33:01] I would not be able to live without my planner. I have a moleskin planner and I’ve been using the same kind since 2009, so ten years now. I say, if it’s in the book, it happens. And if it’s not in the book, it doesn’t happen. And that’s very, very true. I use it not only to mark out what my actual schedule is, but if you flip through any given week, you’ll have lots of ideas for an article I’m trying to write or names of people that I need to be in contact with. It just really contains sort of a snapshot of my life that I just have not transferred into a digital format and probably never will.

Cliff: [33:38] Alright, great. Well, thank you again, both for being on Leading Lines.

Dave and Michelle: [33:43] Thank you.

Cliff: [33:44] I wish you both the best. (music)

Derek: [33:45] That was David Michelson, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity at Vanderbilt University, and Michelle Taylor, who just finished a year as a postdoctoral fellow in Digital Cultural Heritage at Vanderbilt. Thanks to Leading Lines producer, Cliff Anderson, for the interview. As Michelle mentioned in the interview, she’s moving on from Vanderbilt and is now teaching Literature at the University of South Florida, where I’m sure she’ll make use of her extensive TEI experience, as well as what she learned while completing a certificate in College Teaching at the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. That certificate program is run through the teaching center I direct and I was happy to hear some positive feedback about the program from Michelle. Meanwhile, David Michelson continues his work as General Editor for Syriaca.org, a collection of digital projects on the study of the Syriac language and culture. It’s an impressive project and one of the highest profile digital humanities projects affiliated with Vanderbilt University. To learn more about the project, visit syriaca.org and check the show notes for a link to an interview with Dave about the Syriaca project.

[34:53] You’ll find those show notes, as well as transcripts for past episodes on our website, leadinglinespod.com You can also find us on Twitter where our handle is @leadinglinespod, and if you have questions about the podcast, feel free to reach out via email, leadinglinespod@vanderbilt.edu You can find Leading Lines episodes wherever you listen to podcasts, but we would appreciate it if you could rate and review us on iTunes, since that will help more listeners find our show. Leading Lines is produced by the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries, and the Associate Provost for Education Development and Technologies. This episode was edited by Rhett McDaniel. Look for new episodes the first and third Monday of each month, (music) I’m your host, Derek Bruff. Thanks for listening. (music)


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