• Thinking in ⅃TЯ: Reorienting the Directional Assumptions of Global Digital Scholarship

    Nathan Gibson (see profile)
    Digital Humanists
    Language and languages--Writing, Barrier-free design, XML (Document markup language)
    Item Type:
    Meeting Title:
    Right2Left Workshop
    Meeting Org.:
    DHSI 2019
    Meeting Loc.:
    Victoria, BC
    Meeting Date:
    June 8, 2019
    Writing systems, Accessibility, XML
    Permanent URL:
    Almost nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to the direction of a text—not over the course of the previous five millennia and not in today’s digital world. Texts may mix languages. Languages may mix or change writing systems. Writing systems themselves may use idiosyncratic directional practices, and writers may be rule breakers. Thus, writing direction is not inextricably bound to a text, a language, or a writing system. Ironically, in an era when technology has freed writing from many of its physical constraints, many of the digital tools for encoding and displaying text nevertheless carry a number of problematic assumptions. For example, they sometimes assume • that each input system has an inherent direction, • that right-to-left or multi-directional text is an edge case, • that code should always be written from left to right, and • that arrow keys or buttons mean “forward” and “back” rather than “left” and “right.” These assumptions about text direction ripple across entire systems, influencing infrastructure, abstract conceptions, interfaces, typography, animation, and image production. In this presentation, I will discuss some examples of technical standards for right-to-left and multi-directional texts—standards, which, to a large extent allow developers and scholars to represent such texts in suitable formats. However, when it comes to the relevant tools for inputting and presenting these texts, implementation has lagged behind these standards. In light of this mismatch between standards and implementation, I will address the question of how humanists can work with developers to achieve directionally resilient systems.
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago


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