Can the Commons be Universal? Embracing Linguistic Diversity at Sapporo

Author's name: 
Natalie Brown

iSummit 08iSummit 08This week, free thinkers and open culture activists from around the world will gather in Sapporo, Japan, for the fourth global ICommons ISummit. The Summit will cover many exciting aspects of the Commons and open content movements, including open education, DIY video, and academic research on free culture.

One of the Summit’s ‘Labs,’ or working groups, is called ‘Local Content Global Commons.’ Participants will discuss the challenge of rendering the Commons movement truly universal by transcending linguistic and cultural barriers to collaboration.

Although English is still the lingua franca of most content and programming on the Internet, Chris Salzburg of ICommons points out that “it is only a matter of time, with the rapidly growing influx of Chinese and Spanish, before English users are unseated as the Internet’s leading language demographic… A global commons grounded in assumptions of a single linguistic “default” is open only in a very narrow sense, one that is increasingly at odds with the demographics of its users.”

In other words, until we successfully challenge the ‘language imperialism’ of English, can the Commons truly be universal? In order to explore this topic, ISummit organizers have chosen the Global Voices project as a case study. The Lingua Project at Global Voices brings together a pool of volunteer translators to expand the audience for bloggers writing in dozens of different languages, from Albanian to Farsi. Using the experiences of the Global Voices team as a framework, participants will work on creating useful tools and strategies for organizations hoping to use translated content or undertake their own translation projects. As the Commons movement acknowledges the challenges of bridging linguistic and cultural differences and continues the hard work of finding solutions, it will be exciting to see how the movement expands and deepens to reflect free culture around the globe.

Image: By “dreamcat115”:
Creatice Commons license, “Certain Rights Reserved”:

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