What are we are missing out on?

Tonight’s presentation on Ethiopic language and its inclusion in Unicode presented an important element about the global digital divide because it asks the question: how can, even with access to information communication technologies and internet access, someone utilize technology if it is not available in their native language? In short, they can’t. This is an important element to consider in regard to technology and the reality of, to borrow from Laura DeNardis’s description, its architecture. As the group described in their literature related to their case study, the architecture of something has the power to include and exclude. The analogy we have used in class in class is that of bridges that are built low enough to prevent busses driving under them. In the case of Ethiopia, technology was created in a way that excludes the nation’s 90 languages because American companies created the technology in English with a western cultural perspective. Further, their commercial interests drive their actions, and there is no financial incentive to include languages in which there is no commercial demand.

Therefore, not only are these groups of people excluded from the benefits of technology, we are also denied the benefit of their knowledge. As the group noted, we “feel” like we are so much more connected, but cannot assume that the majority of the information is in English and unless everyone is able to put information in the digital realm, we are missing out. After this presentation, I cannot help but to believe that we are indeed missing out. Tonight we discussed Ethiopic, but what other languages are we missing out on? I also liked the question at the end of the presentation asking the question- what would the computer look like if it was created in a different culture. I agree that it would be different. Since the U.S. is such an individualistic culture, I cannot help but to believe that technology might be more communal if it was created in a different culture, and perhaps this communal nature would have enabled technology to be created with other languages and cultures in mind.


One thought on “What are we are missing out on?

  1. I’m so glad you brought this up because I felt the same way. In my personal experience I have noticed that the infrastructure of the internet causes us to miss out on so many cultural and knowledgeable aspects of other societies. For example, when I was studying in Scotland, my Netflix automatically switched to the UK version and I saw some really great movies but when I came back home, it switched back the US version and I missed out on all the great British movies that I could be watching. Something similar happened when I was searching for data to use on my Statistics project this semester; as it turns out, there is an abundance of great, resourceful data sites out there but they are primarily European and many are not in English. In this way, I felt I was missing out because the sites weren’t in English and also because I took forever to find useful data. I had to work around the infrastructure of the internet to go beyond American “.com” sites into more “.eu” sites and even to get information from the vast number of research universities that are European.


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