Language, disuniting domains

Divided by a common language

The internet is a global revolution in communication - as long as you use letters from the western alphabet. Kieren McCarthy on the growing pressure for a net that recognises Asian, Arabic and Hindi characters, too

* Kieren McCarthy

* The Guardian,

* Thursday July 27 2006

Web page:

"Why the urgency? (to harmonise the internet domain system) Because a number of companies - and even countries - that are frustrated by years of delays have started offering the internet in their own languages by working outside the existing domain name system (DNS).

......The problem is that, at the moment, the DNS works only with western languages."

My Comments

The big issue here is that countries, or rather governments, want to exert their influence on the internet. And a consequence of this, as the article points out, is that some countries such as China, but not exclusively, threaten a chaotic internet if they do not follow the domain name structure.

At face value it is quite legitimate to complain that there should be provisions to accommodate all languages and not only western based languages. But we must also ask ourselves some objective and philosophical questions.

- Are all languages efficient when using digital technology? For example, I am using a Spanish style keyboard and have at least 3 keys (accents and special letter) which I hardly ever use. The article refers to the difficulties Chinese have typing in Latin based characters.

- Maybe the world-wide idea is just a myth as the article seems to suggest. Maybe the idea of a united human civilization is also a myth. The evidence does seem to point that way. Even in the twentieth century we have people without anything to eat, no help after natural disasters and so on.

- What we have to ask ourselves about these language issues is how much of this is concern for people and how is it state manipulation of people. Let us face it, people who write in western languages also happen to be democracies with all their flaws and drawbacks, not to mention such things as freedom of speech and political freedoms. Sure no state, country or government is perfect, but perfection is not what most us want. Fairness and respect can take most people a long way.

- Could it be that governments who complain too much about western languages are more concerned in making it difficult for their people to access western information and opinions and nothing to do with their language heritage? After all, why not let people decide what they want.

In a way this article confirms my belief that: language unites us, but languages keep us divided.

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