Nations of Bloggers

Ross Mayfield, a major blogosphere commentator, recently reported on Les Blogs, an event held in Paris to scan and reflect on blogging habits in Europe. He noted that the French are great bloggers, while the Germans appear to be wiki freaks. Seems to me that cutting up the blogosphere into nations or geographies and their habits is counter to the whole purpose of blogs, which is to create ever-evolving communities of intellectual and interactive practice around ideas, news threads, writers and topics. Hence the translation problem much mooted by Tim Oren and others: how can we ensure that relevant blogs partake of the same mindspace despite their varieties of linguistic expression?

What seems to be happening is that linguistic rather than exclusively ideological communities are (hardly surprisingly) becoming the natural nexus for blogs, with a small group of blessed souls acting as dragomans to mediate between a local linguistic community and English, which is today’s alpha blogging language. What is galling for many monolingual English bloggers is the inevitable asymmetry of the blog stream. They can’t read blogs in other languages, though French, Arabic, Spanish, and Russian etc. bloggers can usually read, link to and even translate blogs written in English.

At the web’s bright dawn, ardent voices spoke of cyberspace as an independent territory beyond nationhood and ownership. Same sort of dreams attended the dawn of blogging. But each time, the ineluctable modality of the linguistic (as James Joyce nearly put it) brings us down to a more prosaic earth of communities of identity, not of knowledge.

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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