Let’s change the default language of the Internet

Eemeli Aro

Playlists: '37c3-meta' videos starting here / audio

These days, English is the _lingua franca_, the language that “everyone” speaks and understands. But which English? Our common choice is between two different waning empires that have been imposing their culture and voice on the world for the past few centuries. For most audiences, this is a choice between two foreign locales. We need to do better. We can choose another English: an International English.

Our choice of language defines the framework for our communication. It defines what’s expressible, and what the defaults are. It limits our expressibility in ways seen and unseen, and subtly hints where our allegiances lie.

In this post-Brexit Europe, English is a more neutral choice than it’s ever been. We need to recognise this, and to capitalize on this opportunity to appropriate the language wholesale. In the software we write and the sites we maintain, we can: European English and International English are already supported by the underlying standards and libraries, and it’s up to us to use them, and to own our voice.

The English we speak in international contexts does not need to change; we only need to explicitly realise that it is _our_ language, and that it does not need to bow to imperial authorities. Beyond that, I want to change default language of the Internet. Let me tell you how we can do that.