I care deeply about journalist and whistleblower rights and the right to print leaked information without fear of reprisal I believe it is a fundamental necessity for a healthy democracy to have a robust investigative journalist tradition which doesn’t operate under fear of the government and of those in power. Barrett Brown helped investigate major leaks and expose corporations who were spying on us citizens and activists for the US Government illegally. He now is being threatened with 100 years in prison. Donate to Barrett Brown’s legal fees here, I did.
Given the last post and this new article, it seems that the Internet doesn’t translate itself very well and isn’t as global culturally as it is technically.
I am thinking about the idea of language as Walled Garden. I am not one for proposing everyone learn English or Mandarin, that seems like a colonialist mindset. Yet I was naively hopefully of the global nature of the internet. Of course, looking at my Twitter and Facebook friends, I’d say 90% are living in the US, and the majority of the last 10% are in Europe, and only rarely does any of them share in a language other than English.
Automated translation or machine translation is leaps and bounds better than what it was, but it still sucks. I was just playing with Google Translate and the only language it could do half decently for me was Spanish. Mandarin and Arabic - forget it. How can we connect to others outside our language online if we don’t have the tools?
I have asked around and it seems like quality translation in the US costs like ten cents a word, so a 500 word article would be $50. That’s an impossibility for my casual reading.
How are we to connect with each other? Capital now moves effortlessly across borders, but knowledge and culture does not (much less immigrants). If we as a people are to deal with neoliberalism, we must connect with one another, the internet in some ways has the architecture, but we are behind linguistically.
For this reason I am super impressed with Bird’s Nest by Jennifer Ng and An Xiao Mina. Seeing the importance of Ai Weiwei’s voice to the entire world, they set up a Tumblr and a group of volunteer translators to translate his Twitter account into english. (They used Tumblr because Twiiter only allows for 140 characters, but mandarin can fit multiple english words into a single character…) Read more about that here.
We often hear about activists and politicians of note, and can’t understand them unless they become famous and their works are translated. How long do you think we will wait for the English versions of important Sub Saharan activists speeches? Maybe forever… In the mean time, if you are searching for something that has a perfect result in another language, it won’t show up. This is almost as bad as severe censorship. It’s not that you see it and can’t understand it, or that you see the low quality machine translation, it simply does not appear. It’s a linguistic filter bubble that we aren’t even conscious of.
What are some ways we can blur these linguistic borders? Meedan is trying with Arabic, Bird’s Nest with Ai Weiwei, Translators Without Borders… but really very few. If anyone knows of more or has an idea, reach out! I am all ears.
Infographic of Facebook users showing their support for marriage equality, from here.
a congregation of file sharers who believe that copying information is a sacred virtue. The Church, based in Sweden, has been officially recognized by the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency as a religious community…
Not a bad religious virtue.
How did the SOPA/PIPA protest do on Tumblr?
Two days ago, you guys stepped up once again to show the world just how much we care about protecting the Internet. Together, we generated more than 140,000 calls to Senators, spent more than 4,200 hours on the phone with their staffers, and blacked out 650,000 of our blogs to make our point and inspire others to get involved. And what’s more, this was on top of the 90,000 calls we sent to members of the House of Representatives a month ago. Incredible.
It’s now becoming clear just how much impact our action is having. On January 18th, only 31 members of Congress opposed these bills. Just one day later, 101 members of Congress publicly stood with us in opposition. We are being heard.
And as of today, it looks like both the Senate PIPA and House SOPA bills have been shelved, for the moment. It seems pretty likely that the bills won’t pass as written—a big first win. We now hope that Internet companies, the creative community and the content industry join together to innovate and devise new partnerships to combat online piracy. We’re confident there are effective ways to do this without damaging the Internet or diminishing our freedoms.
You’ve made a big difference in keeping the Internet a safe and open place for creators. Thank you again.
Trevor Paglen, “They Watch the Moon” 2010
“This photograph depicts a classified “listening station”deep in the forests of West Virginia. The station is located at the center of the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” a region of approximately 34,000 square kilometres in West Virginia and parts of Maryland. Within the Quiet Zone, radio transmissions are severely restricted: omnidirectional and high-powered transmissions (such as wireless internet devices and FM radio stations) are not permitted. The listening station, which forms part of the global ECHELON system, was designed in part to take advantage of a phenomenon called “moonbounce.” Moonbounce involves capturing communications and telemetry signals from around the world as they escape into space, hit the moon, and are reflected back towards Earth. The photograph is a long exposure under the full moon light”