Language is one of the most commonly used means of expression. A language speaks volumes about the culture that developed it. Despite the value society places on language, there are a number of Aboriginal languages in Canada which are in risk of dying off within a generation. The impact of the residential school system and the Canadian government’s policy of assimilation played a major role in the loss Aboriginal language. By removing children from their communities and forcing them to speak English multiple generations of Indigenous people have lost their traditional language.
A recent segment on Spark discussed the use of digital translators in Inuit communities as a means of teaching dying languages to youth. The digital translator discussed was Phraselator. Phraselator allows language speakers to record as many phrases and words as possible and then their students can listen access these recordings as necessary. At five thousand dollars each and given the fact that the Phraselator cannot compare to being exposed to an actual native speaker, the device seems like a poor solution.
Despite the drawbacks of this particular digital translator’s implementation, it is crucial that we begin some form of language preservation. This may include educational incentives for those wishing to learn a language or preserving both written and recorded language alongside accurate translations. The use of digital recordings, transcription, and OCR software all have potential to be adapted to help preserve Indigenous language and teach a new generation the language.
Ages ago I wrote a post on Virtual Dark Tourism which examined the idea of virtual graveyards and the rise of on-line memorials. A Spark podcast recently brought the issue of ‘virtual mourning’ back to my mind. I recommend listening to the brief portion of the podcast which discusses virtual mourning and the impact which technology has had upon the way in which we express empathy.
The idea of technology changing the mourning experience, got me thinking about the way in which technology has impacted commemoration and historical memorials. It is now easier than ever to view historical monuments and memorials on-line. For example, you can take a virtual tour of the Juno Beach Center. This tour is fairly similar to most on-line virtual tours of museums and cultural centers, with the added layer of emphasis on remembering the contributions of Canadian soldiers during WWII. Is the on-line tour as striking as the physical memorial/center? Of course not. But, it does provide a glimpse into the ongoing commemoration of Juno Beach and allows people who will not have opportunity to visit Normandy a glimpse into the center.
How does an on-line presence fit into commemoration? Given the ability to enhance accessibility and to raise awareness through the use of digital mediums, historical commemoration projects can be greatly enhanced through the use of technology. The War of 1812 digitization and commemoration project is a great example of how commemoration can be enhanced through technology. Using the hosting, resource, and interface services provided by OurOntario a number of organizations from the Niagara region banded together to digitize their collection of artifacts relating to the War of 1812. The result of this endeavor can be searched here. This project increases access to a number of great museum collections and also increases awareness about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the War of 1812.
I don’t think online commemoration or virtual mourning can replace some aspects of the grieving and commemorative process. However, I do think that on-line memorials, collections, and virtual tourism can play a very important role in enhancing the commemorative experience.