Biculturalism and IT
column on new technologies for Library and Information work.
Technophile appears in print form in the LIANZA newsletter Library Life.
This month's column co-authored by
|What does Technology have to do with biculturalism?
Surely technology is independent of "culture", bi, multi, or otherwise?
However information technology determines the ways in which cultural information
is created, accessed, and used, and so the interaction of technology with
Mäori knowledge is of vital concern to librarians in Aotearoa/New
Zealand. This month's Technophile explores some of the implications
of technology for biculturalism, looking at the problems with using Te
Reo correctly in a digital environment; with some of the cultural issues
in making Mäori information available digitally; and with the way
in which IT is being used positively to make Mäori information available.
Technology IssuesThe Maori Language Commission promotes the use of the macron, a line over a letter, to show the long vowel sound in Mäori. Unfortunately when the ASCII code was developed, enabling characters (which human beings understand) to be translated into ones and zeros (which computers understand); the possible 256 characters did not include macronised vowels. This means that most computers will not normally display the macrons used in Mäori, making it difficult to create word processed documents or web pages that show Te Reo correctly. What solutions do we have?
Cultural issues:Inevitably, conflicts will arise when a culture that places a high premium on its knowledge, and those who have access to its knowledge – that is, accords them the status of "taonga" and its guardians "kaitiaki". One example is the Maori Land Court Minute Books. The Land Court is currently completing a consultation round in regard to its creation of an image database of the complete minute books. These books contain a large amount of family material, and a lot of that information needs verification – whether it is genealogical or historical. A main concern that is emerging is that the information may be altered, or will be used without recourse to the people who are the descendants of the subjects in the books. Needless to say, the information may be used to gain title to land on the basis of a genealogical link, which may be incorrect. The Land Court has listened to these concerns and will not provide Internet access to this database.
Even books in the traditional format have been a matter of concern. For instance the Maori language Papatupu minute books, written by court assessors, were the subject of a court injunction preventing their use.
This is an area that requires great sensitivity, trust and humility. Partnerships need to be developed between Maori Library staff and their institutions first. Then tangible partnerships with iwi/hapu/whanau will emerge.
Nga Matatiki Rorohiko is a collection of Maori internet sites that is intended to be comprehensive. It incorporates Maori clipart and has an up-to-date Maori language version. Resources range from listservs, databases, full-text collections, software, forthcoming events, commercial, arts and research sites. The sites it collects were all intended for the internet.