Archive | Uncategorized

RSS feed for this section
The one thing technology doesn’t provide us with is a sense of how to make the best use of technology.
Pico Iyer
The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

If you haven’t read Zadie Smith’s recent essay for the New York Review of Books, ‘Find Your Beach’, I think you should give it a look:

In it, Smith captures the lonely, Janus-like nature of the American self-creation myth – and that it’s often both false and effective. She focuses in particular upon the hyper-distilled version found in daily Manhattan life:

Here the focus is narrow, almost obsessive. Everything that is not absolutely necessary to your happiness has been removed from the visual horizon. The dream is not only of happiness, but of happiness conceived in perfect isolation. Find your beach in the middle of the city. Find your beach no matter what else is happening. Do not be distracted from finding your beach. Find your beach even if—as in the case of this wall painting—it is not actually there. Create this beach inside yourself. Carry it with you wherever you go. The pursuit of happiness has always seemed to me a somewhat heavy American burden, but in Manhattan it is conceived as a peculiar form of duty.

As a former New Yorker, so much of this essay feels real and spot-on to me… and it has an additional virtue: It’s funny.

This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).

There is often a complicated interplay between human language and the global spread of technology.

If you live in a place where the dominant languages are globally popular (or where less common languages are spoken by affluent communities), there is probably a wealth of “cultural capital” laying around which can help encourage a rapid adoption of new technologies: Things like keyboards being available in your language, pre-existing words for technology concepts, and educational materials and tools which use those words to teach new learners the basics.

So how would you teach people to use a computer in a country that, for example, lacks a word to describe a crashed program? The Economist takes a look at the Mozilla Foundation’s challenges of creating a new technology vocabulary for minority languages which lack them. Quite often, a new language which serves as a path to modernity is crafted out of words used in traditional trades like livestock, farming, and fishing:

Ibrahima Sarr, a Senegalese coder, led the translation of Firefox into Fulah, which is spoken by 20m people from Senegal to Nigeria. “Crash” became hookii (a cow falling over but not dying); “timeout” became a honaama (your fish has got away). “Aspect ratio” became jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven. In Malawi’s Chichewa language, which has 10m speakers, “cached pages” became mfutso wa tsamba, or bits of leftover food. The windowless houses of the 440,000 speakers of Zapotec, a family of indigenous languages in Mexico, meant that computer “windows” became “eyes”.

I think this is a fascinating and underserved area of development and, if you’d like to support the Mozilla Foundation’s efforts, this page lays out dozens of ways that you can aid their work.

This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).