Updated 5 months ago

Digital communication in indigenous languages: Inclusion or tradition jeopardy

Ten people have designed a digital typographic font with the usual Bold, Italic and Regular options so that the 7,000 people in the Wounaan community of Colombia can digitally write in their language and try to produce literature for a population at risk of disappearance.

"People" project was one of the eleven chosen by the III Ibero-American Laboratory of Citizen Innovation, organized by the Ibero-American General Secretariat with the support of the Ministry of Culture, which closes on Saturday after two weeks of work in Cartagena de Indias.

The Wounaan, present in northern Colombia and southern Panama, are affected by violence and forced displacement caused by clashes between the different actors in the armed conflict and were elected by "Gente" because their language has A "very unified" alphabet.

"In addition, they have their own symbols that make reading easier," explained Sergio Aristizábal, promoter of the project in which also participates Vladimir Moya, professor of the own community and who liaises between the Wounaan and the rest of the team.

Moya declared himself "astonished" by the interest that some people that are not part of their community have towards their language: "it is an opportunity that we have the power to carry the typography", said with respect to the laboratory.

Meanwhile, his colleagues are convinced that a digital typography will help the language not to be extinguished and will provoke an incentive for them to begin to have a literature and a story of their own, thus protecting the community's existence from the dangers that lurk.
And although the typography is being designed for the Wounaan, the intention of the group is that it can be extended to any other indigenous language to respond to the "spirit" of the project, Colombian Sandra García and Mexican Manuel López, .

The experts said that at the end of the lab anyone can get a website with a file with their instructions to install the typography and the digital keyboard.

"For now we will get it for Windows and Macintosh, but the idea is that from now on little we expand it to free operating systems like Ubuntu," said Lopez.

After installing the file, a keyboard will appear on the screen with letters that do not exist in Western languages, such as a U with a crossbar in the middle of the letter, or with the Ñ virgulilla, and even an option that some Words to become symbols.

The members of the team, from Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Panama, Brazil and Spain, refer to the "dignity" that could give a digital typography to an indigenous language and help the community to "understand what they are losing or what Can recover, "said Sandra Garcia.

"The basis of current communication is the text, not the oral tradition and if you isolate these dynamics, speakers of a language will not have the incentive to use it," said López, who, despite this, is sure that this Project will contribute "to preserve the culture and the very existence" of the Wounaan.

This was mainly describe as a positive measure to keep and preserve indigenous culture. But let’s think twice, it is kind of ironic how technology is pointed as the savior and the enemy of culture at the same time.