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September 29, 2005



translation and minding the gaps

"...The most basic of which is this puzzlingly persistent notion that the net itself is a borderless state, a kind of endless public domain, open to intervention from anyone, anytime, any place. I think it's important to think through the ways in which this utopian ideal is in fact less than true: the net is amorphous but it's not limitless. Forgive me if all of this is extremely obvious.

First: how many web programming languages exist that are not based in the English language? Almost every web page out there, no matter what its surface linguistics (or how dynamic they may be in the service of hyperconsumerism), has an understructure with some percentage of English through which it must pass before entering machine translation and passing its packets to the network. Its programmer has had to learn some percentage of English in order to master the technical skills to communicate through the network.

It's no accident that in Lebanon, for example, a once rabidly Francophile and Francophone country has become almost totally Anglophone (and bi- instead of tri-lingual) in one generation - the IM generation.

Second, as we all probably know from our own experiences, as online communities grow and build up histories, they develop their own border policies and politics of exclusion. It's not just the governmental and corporate web that's under watch, but also each little group building fences and policing itself.

Third, cash limits access to domains, domain names, server space, and so on for web producers, just as it limits access to computers, training, high-speed service, good cable and phone lines, and so on for web consumers. People without economic resources can contribute to communities or collective projects like wikis or folksonomies, but may not be able to work as individuals.

I bring all this up not to be depressing and cynical, but to suggest that perhaps the most productive way to bring the idea of site-specific or community-based practice online is to engage with the places, communities and histories of the net itself - or to make a deliberate effort to discover the gaps in the network - the sites of absence, where voices are missing or elided, or the online border zones, places of transition, translation and in-between, parallel to sites like San Diego/Tijuana - and use those spaces to launch mediations between on and offline practice."--Mariam Ghani [read entire post >>; read entire September archive >>]

Posted by jo at September 29, 2005 11:41 AM