Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The “human network” needs to overcome language barriers

“Welcome to the human network”, the Cisco corporation’s tagline, should not come as a surprise in these times where the Web continues expanding and finding more applications. From a technical point of view, it is a slogan that makes sense coming from a networking and communications technology company. But, what do they mean with human? Do they only mean “English speaking humans”? Why the language barriers are impediments for a real human network? Find out more below…

If at home or work you use a Linksys router to connect to internet you are using one of Cisco’s products to be part of a network, a communications network. But these are also the times of Web 2.0 and Cisco and others are also talking of how we use the technological products. As their ad says, these are times where “people subscribe to people, not magazines”. If you use internet for something more than checking your email perhaps you have had a taste of Web 2.0 (like the one I am having) and therefore an impression of what they mean with "the human network".

As a non-native English speaker, who has lived in English speaking countries, I know that watching their TV gives me an idea of what is their present culture and everyday life. Of course, I also know that this vision is biased by the filters that the broadcasters, the media and the governments apply to it. That's why the Web has come as a valuable space where individuals are writing, singing and speaking their thoughts. Their thoughts and lives are expressed in ways that we have the opportunity to see in sites as YouTube, Blogger, OpenDiary and Jamendo, to give a few examples.

I find the development of Web 2.0 fantastic but I also have noticed an important piece missing in the development of this human network: THE OVERCOMING OF THE LANGUAGE BARRIERS. My observation is based on my belief that you only can understand your neighbor if you understand their background. And it’s many times their language what shapes that complex thing which makes them be what they are and how they see you. For this network to be really human it needs to provide a way to overcome cultural and language limitations, of course, without annulling them.

More and more websites are taking one step to overcome the language barriers: the inclusion of their service in different languages. Take for example the popular social-networking site Facebook which now has been open to the Spanish language. Actions like this allow different groups of humans to have access to the same service. Nevertheless, the challenge of making these groups to interact and mix with each other remains.

Finally, let’s not forget that only a small percentage of the total population in the Earth has access to internet. The optimistic in me wants to believe that, as an inherent effect of the development of the human network, eventually more and more people could have access to it. We will see.

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