our words make worlds

A Web of Many Voices (English)

Guest blog by Gimena del Rio Riande

Gimena del Rio Riande

Gimena del Rio Riande

In this guest blog, Gimena del Rio Riande (one of our project partners) from CONICET in Argentina, explores the dynamics of language on the Web.

Original Text in Spanish

A Web of Many Voices 

Do the limits of my language represent the limits of my world? Following Lotman, we can say that culture is interwoven by the texts we produce, and that these texts generate a sensory system which can be considered on its own. But if we examine this system through ‘the digital’, what impact does the medium have on the co-existence of the languages it contains? What language does information circulate in on the Web? Taking a general approach, one well-known fact is the dominance of English in relation to the discriminatory indexing of search engines carried out by the familiar centres of power which control and structure the Web, and which consequently have an impact on what we find when we look for information there. Paradoxically, this dominant language is not the same one used by the vast majority of its users, and more tellingly, by those working in the digital medium who – often unregulated and from the periphery – are as much part of its connective structure as part of its production networks. Getting to specifics, and without getting too deeply into debates about the struggle for Open Access against publishing corporations, we could also ask what happens when we call on the ‘global’ language of the Web in a research context, when we wish to disseminate our academic knowledge. A question appropriate to the text you are reading now, for example ... On the one hand, as is known, the translation which lies behind this choice becomes part of a totalizing strategy which normalises meaning, invalidates semantic possibilities and generates a network of production which sweeps away peculiarities which are not only linguistic, but also social and geopolitical. One approach which overcomes the issues raised here might be that of Peeter Torop, who upon studying the processes of totalizing translation suggests extending the cultural system of the Web to one where, taking into account the simultaneous co-existence of multiple forms of the same text, the Web becomes a process of intersemiotic translation. Digital culture as a non-pacific intersemiosis.

Far from democratic co-existence, in a digital space languages share territory in dispute, which from a Global South perspective, for example, responds to limitations in access to technology and the channels of visibility. If we truly hope to understand the possible modes by which digital culture might be capable of transforming Modern Languages research or how this might improve our understanding of digital culture, we should start by addressing the silences, that which is suppressed, the obvious fact of false homogeneity on the Web. We should search beyond the Web for answers within it and work on a digital geography of minority languages and their struggle for a voice.

Translation by Paul Spence

Gimena del Rio Riande

Investigadora CONICET (Argentina)



You can find me here: http://www.caicyt-conicet.gov.ar/micrositios/hd/

Some of my work in a great OA platform: https://www.aacademica.org/gimena.delrio.riande



Lotman, Iuri. La semiosfera. semiótica  de  la  cultura  y  del  texto.  Edición de Desiderio Navarro. Madrid. 1998.Tomo I y II.

Torop Peeter. “Translation as translating as culture”. Sign Systems Studies 30 (2):593-604 (2002).