Translations, Culture and the Splinternet


This post is essential a meandering of ideas which will have some sort of point. It is about how things connect and taking a holistic approach to examining them. Elements and ideas never exist in isolation they always connect and impact each other. A hobby of mine is translating with French being the main language (mainly as a means to try and keep knowledge of it) and also attempting Japanese. In browsing the web outside your language you being to notice that for some things you often have to jump through a couple of extras hoops. Largely these can be overcome through automatic translations service (Google translate in chrome being straightforward to use) which does open up new sources of information media and entertainment to a lesser extent. 

So how does this connect to the splinternet? The majority of articles about the Splinternet view it as something imposed or created by a technological and regulatory barrier. While there is another splinternet which is defined by language, cultural and societal barriers. This doesn't make it a positive or negative state but the barrier that created it can be lowered or raised depending on we view it.

Defining the Language and Cultural Splinternet

The “splinternet,” can be defined as where cyberspace is controlled and regulated by different countries. This includes regulations and national firewalls. As well there are the barriers across cultures with media and language being two defining features. These naturally exist in the physical world (nation-state) because of how we naturally divide ourselves up and congregate in similar and like-minded groups. Internet reflects that and in some cases to a greater harmful degree. Also, with the English language having the largest representation on the internet creates a bias that masks the impact of this language and cultural splinternet. 

Breaking Down the Barriers

Tackling the language barrier is key. It is useful to the knowledge of multiple languages besides your mother tongue. While services such as Google translate are useful, they have their limitations. Misgenderisation and poor interpretation of contextual sayings being the biggest. Though these may become less of an issue as autotranslation services improve.

As well a partial solution resolves around ending geo/regional locking of digital media. It made sense with analogue media such as VHS due to how devices worked because of different frequencies of current from the electricity supply. But today it makes less sense in an always-connected digital world. Partly some of it is down to protectionism plus an unwillingness in my opinion to accept change. A new system is needed what shape and form it would take is something I don't know but something has to better than we have at the moment. 

Solving some of these problems have the potential to make the internet safer. This is linked to online piracy and access to regional locked media. These Sites can host various types of malware, adware and other malicious applications. But while you can never get rid of piracy complete (some people have an aversion to paying for stuff) it weakens the appeals if a legitimate source is available at a fair and affordable cost. 


This post is sort of the results of social isolation measures brought about by COVID-19 crisis. But I hope it offers a couple of interesting ideas and thoughts. The topic of the splinternet is one which if we are not careful is something which has the potential to limit the scope of sharing of information and culture which the open internet is all about will become the norm. Finally, knowing a problem is the first step towards tackling it.



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