Posted to the Ethnos Project by on April 19th, 2013

This conversation, hosted by New Tactics in Human Rights, took place between November 16-22, 2011.

Conversation Summary

logo-new-tacticsFrom the New Tactics website: Thank you for joining New Tactics, Rising Voices, Indigenous Tweets, and other practitioners for an online dialogue on Using Citizen Media Tools to Promote Under-Represented Languages*. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) regularly publishes an Atlas documenting and mapping more than 2,500 global languages that are classified as vulnerable, endangered, or extinct. UNESCO also estimates that of the 6,000 current languages spoken today, more than half will be extinct by the start of the next century, adding that “with the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity will lose not only a cultural wealth, but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.”

These languages require urgent intervention. In many remote locations, only a handful of speakers remain. Many languages remain vulnerable due to the pressures of globalization. At the same time, there is also a growing movement emerging where members of these communities are increasingly recognizing the great value in maintaining their native language despite internal and external pressures. Through the use of participatory citizen media and web 2.0 tools, these individuals are building communities around the common use of these under-represented languages.

Projects like Indigenous Tweets and Blogs have been mapping users of an active indigenous language, making it easier to find one another and encouraging the work that they are doing. But there are challenges – the digital divide impacts many of these communities and keyboards in minority languages are often unavailable. In some cases, there are also cultural barriers in the use of indigenous languages in a public setting. Despite these challenges, there are many examples of innovative approaches to preserving and promoting these languages through citizen media and web 2.0 tools. Young leaders and “bridge” figures (often referred to individuals that can bridge two different cultures) are building a movement around the use, preservation and promotion of these languages in an online context.

*Under-represented languages include all those that are used infrequently in the context of computing and new media. Many of these have small speaker populations and are endangered to one degree or another; others have strong speaking communities but face digital divide issues in trying to use their language online.


The conversation summary available at the link below, focused on these questions:

  • Why is a language underrepresented online?
  • What steps need to be taken before an underrepresented language is used online?
  • How do you build an online community committed to building this language online?
  • What steps are needed for outreach and encouragement of the next generation?

Read the whole conversation summary here

Conversation Leaders

The conversation leaders included some of my favorite “Twitter people” (virtual acquaintances? people I’d like to know IRL? There really isn’t a good term for it…): Eddie Avila (Rising Voices), Kevin Scannell (Saint Louis University / Indigenous Tweets), Oliver Stegen (SIL International), JohnPaul Montano ( Online Nishnaabe-language immersion video) – as well as a host of other folks…

Ian Custalow (Wingapo Foundation), Tevita Ka’ili (Brigham Young University Hawai’i, International Cultural Studies & Jonathan Nāpela Center for Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Studies), Adrian Cain (Manx Heritage Foundation), Boukary Konaté, Karaitiana Taiuru, Martin Benjamin (Kamusi Project International / Kamusi Project USA), Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui, Niamh Ní Bhroin (University of Oslo, Peter Rohloff (Wuqu’ Kawoq), Adrian Trost (Lajamanu School, DET, Northern Territory), Mohomodou Houssouba (Center for African Studies, University of Basel), Ruben Hilare, Ben Frey, Keola Donaghy (Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language), Roy Boney, José Navarro, and Edmond Kachale.

Be sure to look around the New Tactics website. There are many other wonderful conversations there. Visit this page to search their conversations:

Search New Tactics Past Conversations

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