The Design for Endangered Languages project intends to explore ways to maintain, preserve, and revitalize endangered cultures by combining lexicographic and pedagogical methods from the humanities with communication design.
This project parallels Dr. Sarah Ogilvie’s Endangered Language Digital Humanities Project, which focuses on endangered languages around the world and efforts to preserve and revitalize them. Based on a survey of over two hundred indigenous communities around the world, this project responds to the urgent call to document and describe endangered languages before they disappear. It is estimated that one language currently dies every two weeks – at this rate, half of the word’s 6800 languages will disappear by the end of this century. Language is the key to culture, so when a language disappears so does a unique way of the viewing the world.
Research teams at Pratt Institute and Stanford worked together in an iterative exchange to develop models and explore visual arguments that capture critical aspects of the loss and preservation of endangered languages. The goal of this collaboration with the Communication Design department at Pratt Institute is to explore how Communication Design can support efforts to document, preserve and revitalize endangered languages and cultures by sharing methods, models, and software; to raise the profile of existing work on endangered languages and to encourage further field work on them; to explore and critique innovative methods for language documentation, to raise awareness of the threats facing linguistic diversity and of efforts to document and revitalize endangered languages
From an Information Design perspective, the endangered language project offers an opportunity to understand the relationship between quantitative and qualitative features in Data Visualization. To address the above listed linguistic aims, the students in Dr. Scagnetti's class were asked to select an aim and provide a visual response.
Proposed modes of interaction:
Horizontally(using one row of the database): Working with one language specifically and design an artifact for it [e.g. an artifacts informed or inspired from the identity map]
Vertically(using one column of the database): Working on a specific characteristic of all the languages [Visualization of qualities - e.g. Endangered-ness, Population, Typologies of dictionaries etc]
Surface(column and rows): Working on the visualization of the database [e.g. Mapping out the database]
Transversally(tools): Working on building tools that can be used for any row or column [e.g. Methods for language documentation]
There were 12 students enrolled in the class. Some of the students were given the precious opportunity to work with the Mutsun language, receiving information and advice from Quirina Geary. Below is a selection of the final projects by the students.