What is the Internet? Seems simple, but in truth that's an increasingly loaded question; one that we can answer only by bringing our own cultural values and historical background to the table.
In short, as long as we're working from the same baseline, we're good. Add an alternate set of norms into the experience and the definition grows messier. Add in a different language (with its linguistic consequences), platform, or even pay scheme and the idea of a singular Internet becomes unattainable. So where does that leave those of us hoping to understand the future of the Internet.
This is what Genevieve Bell is muddling over.
This afternoon, Bell, an anthropologist at Intel, outlined some of the challenges facing users and developers as the Internet grows in its reach, sophistication and speed without abandoning its most basic cultural markers.
Confused? Try this:
In July, Chinese mainland users overtook Americans for the first time. As Bell notes, "this is a trend unlikely to reverse." Most of those users are launching sites or posting content or sharing information in Mandarin—a language that, like any, has a set of signifiers unique to it. In this case, says Bell, "it's a language highly oriented to subtexts and interstices." The unsaid in an article speaks volumes about the topic.
As English speakers, how can hope we bridge this gap? Given how rarely a translation service works on a basic level (I'm looking at you, Babel Fish), making one that can understand the value of contextualization must be nearly impossible. When you unpack even the simplest and most ingrained of words (surfing the net, information superhighway) and discover that a whole slew of cultural history went into your being able to understand these metaphors, can Internet across the globe ever be a connector? That is our challenge.
Hmmm, I have an idea, maybe website developers would make the websites user-friendly by including foreign language translations to the content. This would hopefully help e-commerce for some countries whose medium of communication is not English. This is being done in some software applications wherein there is a button that is pressed to translate the contents into another language.
Or maybe there would be a software that would be used in conjunction with the browser that could translate foreign words, phrases and characters into another type depending on the user's choice.
Heck, even the browser that the person uses to surf these sites could be ugraded so that they could translate foreign content to be localized... Mozilla, IE, etc. upgrade packs anyone...
I think it's time for a UED heh.
Someone should invent Earth Speak.
I have to agree with Portillo on this one! We need a simplified language that is easy to learn, read, write, speak, and understand. Maybe we should start an international competition for a new global language that allows everyone to talk to everyone else.
Maybe something like the X prize, but for a basic language instead of a reusable spacecraft.
Didn't we try to do that already with Esperanto? I don't know about you, but I don't know many Esperanto speakers. I think a worldwide language is going to have to be one where many people speak that language already, and it's the de facto required language for all non-native speakers to learn in order to conduct international business. And at the risk of sounding ego-centric, that language is English. Citizens in non-English speaking countries are wanting to learn English, whereas here in America(I don't know how it is in Britain), while international business students are required to learn a foreign language, it's never specified what that language is.