Geek Session 4 in review

Preserving, discovering and exploring the immaterial cultural heritage in the digital era, with Vera Ferreira

Society lives at a frenetic pace and most of us don’t have time to take care of ourselves as we should, let alone think about topics like the one presented in this Geek Session, whose importance is greater than we can imagine…

Linguistic Diversity – 23 languages dominate the world’s linguistic reality.

That is why MD3 invited Vera Ferreira to discuss languages ​​in danger of extinction, how to reverse this rampant trend and preserve a cultural heritage that is the identity of so many communities. After all, in times of globalization:

How are minorities who don’t speak Mandarin, Arabic or English included in technology?

In a passionate and, at the same time, apprehensive way, Vera explained to us that there are 7000 languages ​​spoken all over the world, 23 are dominant and 3000 are on the verge of extinction. There are 90% of the 7 thousand who are conditioned in this digital era because they simply don’t speak a dominant language. Impressive, isn’t it?

There is much more at stake than ecological balance. The relevance of languages ​​in the economy, livelihood and people’s lives is unavoidable.

An excellent job has been done at the level of the digital linguistic archive.

There is an increasing contribution with videos, documents and other records that are meticulously handled by ELAR (Endangered Languages ​​Archive) and made available online, for free access, through the creation of a user account.

The entire database behind this platform has priceless heritage and cultural value, which extends to the most remote generations. A source of precious information for education and training, intellectuals, film producers, poets, researchers from different areas, among others.

One of the most important details to facilitate access and search for information is metadata. And these can be an uphill climb. If, on the one hand, the quantity and quality of metadata used to browse digital linguistic archives is done in English and allows (almost) all users to be able to do research, on the other, natives of minority languages, are automatically excluded unless they speak English. This is a key point to take into account when configuring the files.

The battle to preserve cultural and linguistic heritage in the digital world doesn’t stop there. There are major challenges to face: the costs of storing information (increasingly audiovisual, occupying more space), the costs of hiring programmers who propose to work on this subject for much less than what they could earn in private for-profit companies and, finally, the costs of disseminating knowledge (portals, accesses, apps, data usage security, and so on).

It’s not just language that unites us!

Two final notes: “It’s not just language that unites us!” – Vera said when faced with a pertinent question on the topic. “In Portugal, the financial support for this type of project came only from the European Union!” – replied our guest when we asked her if she feels that the Government should support this cause, which concerns us all.

An unknown subject that MD3 brings up. A process of awareness that needs to take place in society – once more – so that no one is left behind in this unbridled race for the future.

Watch the full Geek Session

This article was written by Paula Félix, sales assistant at @md3.

Paula was a Microsoft Office trainer for 10 years and Commercial Representative in several multinationals, in sectors such as IT and HR. She is passionate about people, for communicating and breaking ground in the search of successful partnerships, where both parties win.