Throughout the years while being the editor of netzwertig.com, one reader question arose frequently: Why would we not publish in English in addition to German? Personally I did not feel this would have made sense, but for a very long time I was playing with the thought of launching a dedicated tech blog in English. A site where I could publish analysis of and comments on events taking place in the global and European technology and Internet industry. Now, finally, I am doing it!
The main problem with writing about the events, trends and companies that shape our digital present and future in a language other than English is that your reach is pretty limited. That does not matter if a text concerns a local or national issue, which we have enough of in Germany when it comes to the (comparatively neglected) digital society. But as soon as one covers a major news or service from the U.S. – where most of the latest tech still comes from – the possible impact one might have is radically diminished by sticking to German or any other tiny language present in Europe. It feels a bit like looking through a one-way mirror from the operator side: You see what goes on and you can comment on it, but the crowd on the other side does not notice it: They do not see nor hear you.
I would put it like this: Everything that is not being expressed in English does not matter on a global scale, is not being seen by others, is not being shared, questioned and re-thought by enough people with different views and experiences. Or, if it matters, it happens with a delay (until the translation and distribution in foreign circles).
When you look at the major sites and blogs covering the latest news from the San Francisco Bay Area (which includes the Silicon Valley), from New York (an increasingly important tech hub) or elsewhere, most of the voices are American, or at least from the English-speaking countries. There is certainly no lack of European journalists and bloggers who follow and write about the evolution and revolution of the technology world. But most do it in the many different languages of Europe. I find that to be an unfortunate situation, and it means that voices from the “old continent” are hardly being heard on the other side of the pond. Except those from questionable politicians and media tycoons that, out of desperation about Europe’s failure to create its own giants, are on a crusade against Google.
Obviously I will not be able to change the fragmentation with this modest little site. But my hope is that other fellow European writers who are passionate and opinionated about tech will eventually make the switch as well, or at least try to publish in English occasionally. Europe notoriously has failed to produce the kind of far-reaching Internet giants that the U.S. west coast has given birth to. One of the many reasons for this is the massive language fragmentation and micro-competition between dozens of small ecosystems, which kills a lot of potential strength and network effects.
That is nothing that can be changed within a day. In many countries of Europe the majority of people still lack a common language to communicate with across borders. On the other hand, especially within the Internet industry, it is happening, and language barriers as well as cultural barriers are being dismantled. It takes a while, and it won’t lead to big results immediately. But if everybody contributes, over time improvements will be seen. I simply want to contribute with what I can do.
My plan is not to position meshedsociety.com as a site focusing on Europe though. The only reason why I keep mentioning that word is because this is where I grew up, where I live when I am not traveling somewhere else, and where most likely major parts of my values and view of life were initially shaped. As everybody who has spent enough time in the Bay Area knows: Mentality and culture there can be quite different.
I see this site as an experiment. My goal is to write stuff that people who are interested in the digitization of our lives enjoy reading. If it works out and if I at one point in the future can find an exclusive sponsor or another type of readership-respecting business model to finance my work, great. If not, I will run the site as a side-project or stop eventually, knowing that I never need to regret not having tried it.
If you like to join in on this journey, here (and in the right sidebar) are some easy ways to subscribe or follow. Thanks for reading and good to have you here!
Illustration by jakubmarian.com