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Séminaire doctoral - Pratiques langagières - terrains, méthodes, théories
Ana Deumert (University of Cape Town)
In February 2012, Mozilla announced its plans to translate the web browser Firefox into Quechua, a South American language. The initiative was linked to the runasimipi.org initiative which proclaimed in its manifesto: ‘The very act of using Quechua software is a political statement … Our dream is that any Andean child who goes to a cyber-café in the future will have the option to see everything in [their] native language. Together we can create a freer future’. Can digital technology – its historical English bias notwithstanding – become a tool for political empowerment of hitherto marginalized languages and their speakers/writers? The American linguist David Harrison called this the ‘flipside of globalization’: rather than assimilation to a dominant – mostly English-speaking global culture – we see a myriad of activities for which marginalized communities use digital media. This includes everyday linguistic practices (as discussed in Deumert and Lexander 2013), as well as various types of language activism which helps speakers/writers to gain visibility for their languages and ways of speaking in the global arena.
In this talk I argue that digital language activism can both reproduce and challenge existing political, social and linguistic hegemonies: on the one hand, persistent digital social inequalities mean that some people in the world have more opportunities for digital expression than others; on the other hand, digital media have created new opportunities for speakers/writers to make their voices heard. In my reflections on questions of digital equality, authority, visibility and voice, I draw on examples from across the world, and focus on three media platforms: texting, Twitter and Wikipedia.