Research Director at Aqute Research
04 April 2005 11:45am
President Chirac of France has asked the country's national library to come up with its own version of Google's digitization project. The justification is that if this type of thing is left to Google, the focus will be just on Anglo-Saxon literature. This is not particularly surprising on behalf of France, considering their antipathy to Google, but it is saddening. First of all, there is no evidence that Google would focus on Anglo-Saxon literature; Google has rolled out across many countries and there is not reason why the digitization project would not do something similar. Yes, they start with English books, but give them time. In fact, if Chirac's minions had done ten minutes of research, they would have found job listings for Google Print in Spain and Germany.Secondly, Chirac makes out that he speaks for the rest of Europe against the Anglo-Saxon domination. Half the countries in Europe speak languages as unrelated to Anglo-Saxon as to French (leaving aside that Saxony is in Germany). Thirdly, the picture that Chirac paints is of the French creating their own virtual library, separate from the library created by Google. Which must mean that France has no interest in non-French people reading its books; if it did, France would work out some deal with the world's most popular web company. How much of the fame of Zola, Proust and Hugo is due to their translation into English? A lot, I am sure. Incidentally, Google is digitizing the library collections, not just their English collections, which surely must include the English translations of many non-English classics.Tangentially, although Chirac has no obligation to stand up for anyone other than the French, he does describe himself as standing up for "Europe" - so it would be interesting whether within that he includes Ukrainian and Turkish literature (would he, if these join the EU?); and if so does he then include Arabic and central Asian literature in general? Where does it end? In fact, Chirac is just protecting French interests, not the un-Anglo-Saxon world. Fine, that is his job, but then his accusation against Google is a little ironic. Unlike Chirac, Google has never talked about preferring any particular country's literature.On a separate note, this issue is another example of a traditional divide between the French/socialist way of doing things and the American/capitalist. In the US, this project is being done voluntarily by a business. In France, it is ordained by the government. It needn't be that one is better than the other, they are just different.
Freelance Web Consultant at architxt.net
04 April 2005 12:24pm
The way I see it the more digitization projects the better. The French will have more options and that's a good thing (and a more capitalist than socialist approach, in fact).
The French have always been very defensive about their language and culture. Unless there have been changes, radio stations are obliged to play a certain % of French music and imported words are translated - they say 'ordinateur' rather than 'computer'.
I actually agree with this. In Italy I have seen English words being adopted more and more by the media, to be able to express ideas in a quicker way and for show. It makes laugh to read and hear about fooball player 'turnover' when journalists describe teams that rotate their players during throughout the season. The end result is loss of elegance and often misunderstanding, as the older generation tend not to speak English.
Chirac is typically aggressive in accusing Google. But I see nothing wrong in him trying to promote and safeguard his country's culture.
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