Default Power - the English Language in Computer Programming

Authors: Dray Agha*, Royal Holloway, University of London, Joe Rowell, Royal Holloway University of London, Jodie Knapp, Royal Holloway University of London
Topics: Cyberinfrastructure, Political Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Cyberspace, Computer-Programming, Neoimperialism, Digital Power
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Council Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This discussion aims to bring two things to the fore: First, we problematise English as the global lingua franca for computer sciences and programming language. We contextualise and historicise language for its (neo)imperial qualities in power structures. Language comes with particular values, cultural context, and framing of debates; it creates a mental disposition. English as a Global lingua franca is not only neo-imperial, but also disqualifies bringing new problem-solving skills to the table; Hence if the computer sciences are approached mono-lingually, then the route is closed off for other cultures' potential solutions for current problems;

Second, we provide a technical translation tool to enhance the readability behind computer programming for non-native English speakers. This tool is able to map English keywords and function names into a user-specified foreign language equivalent. It is well suited for live demonstration (German, Chinese, and Klingon ready for use in our tool), and offers a somewhat artistic lens to the inner mechanisms of a black box' of digital power. Further application of this tool will see it given over to non-English speaking communities, who can contribute knowledge to a science they would otherwise be shut out from if they did not immersively deploy the English language

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