Lab 1a: HTML Encoding

Thanks to Alan Liu for the original version of this lab.

The purpose of this encoding exercise is to engage in just enough elementary encoding of text or other media in HTML to allow you to think about the underlying premises, concepts, and structure of text encoding.

  1. Create a post on our course site that you will use for completing Lab 1a. Categorize the post under “Lab 1a.”

2. When your new post is open, select the “Text” tab at the top of the editing window. This will switch you from the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing view to the source code view that allows you to do plain text encoding. You can always toggle back to the WYSIWYG view for a quick check of your work or as a cheat-sheet for basic encoding of HTML features. Save your post as a Draft as you go by clicking on “Save Draft” in the upper-left portion of the screen (saving your post as a draft means that your post won’t be publicly visible). To start working on your post again and pick up where you left off, navigate to Posts > All Posts in the WordPress Dashboard. You will find your draft post there.

3. Using the plain text view as much as possible, create a simple post with any content, images, and links you wish (subject, of course, to good taste and copyright laws: use only public domain or CC images. You can find these images using Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, or using the advanced search filters on Google Images [search for “free to use or share”]). The page should include at least the following features:

  • Text formatted in basic ways (as headers, bold, italics, etc.)
  • Text in paragraph structures
  • Text in lists
  • Links
  • A table
  • An image

Try to create your page in the plain text tab as much as possible, using the WYSIWYG view to check your work. If you don’t know how to do something, refer to the HTML tutorial or Google it. This is something to know for the rest of this semester: when in doubt about a technical matter, Google it. You’d be surprised how many coding problems are solved by Googling.

See some examples of what students at UCSB in Alan Liu’s undergraduate digital methods class have done here.

  1. After completing step 3 and reading Liu’s “Transcendental Data,” reflect on text encoding more generally in your post. Some questions you might consider as you compose your report include:
  • How is writing a post using the plain text editor different from writing a post using the WYSIWYG editor? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?
  • What is encoded or structured discourse? How is HTML an example of encoded or structured discourse?
  • How does HTML encoding enact what Liu refers to as “the separation of content from material instantiation or formal presentation” (58)?
  • Other connections to Liu’s article you wish to write about?

You do not need to answer all of these questions in your post; focus on one or two. You do not need to have a central argument (although it’s fine if you have one). The goal here is to connect what you’ve done in Lab 1a to Liu’s article, and to think more generally about text encoding.

Shoot for 400-500 words.

  1. Make sure to publish your post when you’re done.