XML Structured attributes, change tracking, and the metaphysics of documents
University of Bergen
UnderDok is an XML system for publishing, quality assurance, and change tracking of higher education course descriptions. The documents have a fixed structure, numerous cross-references, and prose interspersed with standard phrases. Each document exists in a native language form, in an English translation, and sometimes in additional languages. Changes must be tracked relative to the last authorized version. Up to now, documents have been produced in Microsoft Word and manually copied to a database, a process both labor-intensive and error-prone. UnderDok provides solutions to many of these technical challenges, but may also inspire reflections on the metaphysical status of documents. It is suggested that a course description, by which an institution and its students are legally bound, is neither the source XML nor the presentation XHTML, but a visual object containing linguistic information that occurs in certain situations and contexts. The legal stability for these documents, which was traditionally provided by printed pages, is now provided by the reproducibility (standardization) of document representation and presentation technology.