I have been thinking through some of the presentation issues for presenting SIL International’s work on the web. As part of this I have also been looking at other organizations which are part of the language documentation and minority language revitalization movement. I recently ran across several nicely done web sites.
The Endangered Language Fund
These websites, often present a clear picture1 to the visitor of what their organization or project is about. Some times these websites are the gateway to services that these various other organizations offer. Be those services, language revitalization, assisting in the development of language instructional materials for first language speakers or heritage speakers, or just language documentation services. (It should be noted here that I have intentionally left out Language Archive Websites. Though these institutions often play a vital role in the language development ecosystems and the total marketplace, archives are not the centers for active language documentation and language development. However, sometimes thee archives are run by institutions which also engage in the activities of language documentation and language development.
It makes me think about SIL International’s vision statement:
SIL Serves language communities worldwide, building capacity for language development, by means of research, translation, training and materials development.
The question I walk away with, after seeing this statement every day and visiting SIL International’s website is, Is that what SIL is really doing? Does SIL’s website communicate that they are doing that? I guess that one major difference between SIL International’s website and these other websites is that these other websites attempt to bring the viewer to some point of action, be that local, physical or financial involvement in their activities. But this is Engagement, not information dissemination, and for engagement one needs an engagement strategy (who are we going to ask to do what, and how are we going to guide them…).
The interesting thing about serving people is that the people you want to serve have to want to be served by you. In today’s world this starts when people look at your website. This is in sharp contrast to yesterday’s world where many of the minority language speakers were in developing countries and did not have access to the web. This was before the world was flat.[ref 1]
If you were a minority language speaker who would you invite to work with you on your language development goals? Where would you want to go for training?
- ↑1 A clean clear picture of an organization via the web does not necessarily tell you everything about that organization. But it does tell you a lot about how they want to interact with you. Because the web is graphical it communicates through emotion. Websites by their design give their viewers an emotional charge that goes with the message they are trying to communicate.
- Thomas L. Friedman. 2005. The world is flat: a brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ↩