Why So Many Common Languages Are Second-Class Citizens on the Web

Illustration for article titled Why So Many Common Languages Are Second-Class Citizens on the Web

Welcome to Reading List, a weekly collection of great tech reads from around the web. This week's crop shines a light on the (white, male) bias of language on the internet and the prosthetics industry, and explores the desolate reality of Burma's urban experiment. Enjoy!


  • Unicode, the "universal" encoding that enables computers to understanding text and language, has an inherent ethnic bias: It was written largely by white men in the US. It means scores of ethic groups and common native languages are underrepresented on the web. Author Aditya Mukerjee explains why he can message a brown-colored emoji face, but can't write his common Indian name online. [Model View Culture]
  • On a similar note, Rose Eveleth explores for Motherboard why there's a sorry lack of prothetic limbs fit for women. The male-dominated industry is pumping out artificial limbs made by men with a male-centric design that can't fit into a slim pair of jeans or match a petite hand. [Motherboard]
  • DARPA is experimenting with a revolutionary method of preventing pandemics like Ebola, by encoding antibodies in DNA and injecting it into people's bodies, which then have the genetic material to produce the antibodies on their own. Experimental DNA vaccines are more effective than traditional vaccines and could theoretically work to prevent any type of disease, Fusion's Alexis Madrigal writes. [Fusion]
  • US tech giants are getting tangled up in the clash between free speech advocates and Chinese internet censors. Activists trying to get around China's Great Firewall are routing censored content through encrypted cloud services owned by giants like Amazon or Microsoft where it's untouchable by censors. The tech firms, meanwhile, aren't exactly trying to evade the law or piss off the Chinese market. [Wall Street Journal]
  • The Guardian profiles the strange urban experiment of Naypyidaw, the grandiose capital city of Burma built from scratch in the middle of an impoverished country. It's six times the size of New York with massive 20 lane highways, high-speed wifi, grandiose buildings, but no residents. Billions of dollars later it looks desolate, quiet, and empty. [Guardian]

Image: Sven/Flickr via Model View Culture



Wow, it really makes some immature idiots uncomfortable when people point out that they have tailor-made the world only for them and that's not acceptable.