When the course started, I was interested in researching the digitization and preservation of Tibetan cultural heritage, but I seem to have found a paper that already covers the issues well. I’m looking for something else instead, but I think there’s two great issues this paper brings up: TEI and Access


Tibetan culture is on that has been in a state of crisis since 1949. Many westerners and Tibetans have worked to digitize texts as much as possible. Because the words themselves are considered more sacred than the teachers (which is saying a lot if you look at how the Dalai Lama is revered) there is no room for error. At the same time, OCR is difficult when you are working with 60-100 year old paper leaves with printing that bleeds through on both sides.

The two most interesting points for me are

1)TEI, while it is a wonderful standard, still does not cover everything that would be important for preserving Tibetan materials (the vast vast majority of which are religious and philosophical texts). Melodies, hand gestures, ritual objects, visualizations, etc. are an important part of many texts. Without those, the text is pretty much a script without stage directions.

2) There are issues of access when it comes to some materials. What if some parts of a culture’s literary heritage require permission from the holder to access?

A quote from that paper:

In this endeavor, it is important to respect the control that indigenous scholars have over their own textual heritage. A textual heritage is a cultural property that can speak to the world, but it should be maintained by the people whose ancestors created it. If there are traditional rules about access to certain texts, digital technologies should not bypass these rules. Digital technologies should not be used to appropriate the world’s textual riches or simply to add inventory to western digital archives. The model of broad “access” that often motivates western digitization efforts does not apply universally, and may in some cases go directly against the indigenous textual tradition. This issue comes up with regard to Tibetan texts, because some of these texts are esoteric texts, reserved for advanced meditators. It is generally presumed by western scholars that increased access to texts is better. But this presumption is not shared by Tibetan scholars, who deal with texts that require special permission and instruction from a qualified teacher before they can be read, studied, chanted or memorized.