Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Building for Cultural Fluids

A few days ago, Google Spreadsheets did not have the ability to do charts, which greatly limited its usefulness. Now it does, and once I'm comfortable with it (and have checked to see if it supports the range of spreadsheet functions some of them use), I'll see if I can interest any of my coworkers. This is really exciting - right now, being the CS geek, I'm the only one in my research group that uses a webpage to organise/present my data for the group. I've been interested in moving people away from the "mail files back and forth" mentality - having prepackaged easy tools like this to manage collaboration will help a lot. I've whipped up several databases/CGI apps for custom tasks, which has also helped.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation on KOL with someone whose main language was Portugese (Brasilian) who was asking if the game had been translated. KOL, both by nature of it having a lot of text and a lot of the game being based on humour and wordplay, would be really difficult and time-consuming to translate to another language (although someone might be able to cobble something together with Greasemonkey). As I thought about it, I began to wonder if it's a good idea anyhow - one of the current things about the KOL community is that it can largely assume universal communicability - everyone playing the game presumably already speaks English, and there's a fairly large community based around the game. I worry that if it were translated into a dozen languages, that might hamper the feeling of community, and that if it were to be translated officially, it would probably be best to have completely separate communities and servers with their own malls and the like. It might be a good idea to write an opensource version of the KOL server software and let the content be wildly different, although this might also harm the community by some sense as people leave in droves to several smaller communities. This might be a bit like how it would probably be harmful if people had a way to leave with small groups of friends to their own planet - below a certain population density, culture, technology, and science kind of fall apart, and I think often being around other people helps people who don't really know what's good for them (which is probably all of us to some extent).

I don't know if comparisons to how I think of language and society in politics should mix with this. Is monolingualism something to strive for? In the United States, the issue seems to align fairly squarely along party lines (for English speakers, anyhow), although when I talk with people from other parts of the world on politics, I find a lot more variety in who thinks what (along with actual positions). In practice, I find myself strongly opposed to Ebonics (at least partly because it's not in my view properly a language, and is often used as an excuse not to learn *a* language with defined syntax and spelling) but open to teaching/use as a main tongue of Spanish and French in parts of the United States where they have heavy usage. Does it hurt the United States to lose presumed communicability? Quite possibly, especially as regions come about where English is not learned to reasonable fluency. I don't know if I've thought about this enough - it may be that my not minding is partly because I like languages rather than out of some argument for the good of society or for human happiness. If I did decide that universal English fluency in the United States should be mandatory, I certainly wouldn't like the company that'd put me in as an American with that position. I do like English as a language (despite its difficulty) - it's like a lovable mutt (Yiddish is one of the few languages I like more than English on this front), but I really wouldn't mind if in the end some other language became the lingua franca of the United States in the next 50 years..

I've been keeping my eye on CMU job openings in Qatar again.. amusingly, if I wait long enough here in Pgh, I'm sure something will come up again. Maybe I should wait on that - I'm not exactly looking forward to losing my current (cool) job, and if I did end up doing CMU-Q for awhile, there'd be a lot of other stuff that comes with being a CMUPerson that'd continue. I've also heard rumours of CMU opening a campus in Saudi Arabia and later some in other places, which might be interesting... I also have a friend who's spent the last few years doing PeaceCorps in Azerbaijan coming back to Pittsburgh (to do grad studies at CMU!) at the end of the summer - it'd suck to miss out completely on hanging out with her. That said, I kind of wonder how much longer I really want to stick around here. Oh well, this kind of thinking will probably be with me for quite some time. Where to live, what kind of career to have, these are questions that I never really seem to have answered (maybe they never will be).


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