Ethics and Information Technology 23 (3):399-417 (2021)

It is important to design digital infrastructure that can better accommodate multicultural and pluralistic views from its foundations. It is insufficient to look at only the responses and influences of culture on technology without considering how the technology can be adapted in anticipation of, and to support, pluralistic multicultural perspectives in its original design. This goes beyond the simple act of supporting multiple languages and interfaces, but should include the ability of digital and data infrastructure to capture and accommodate pluralistic views, supporting multiple perspectives in the representation and processing of the data itself. In this work, we look at how rethinking the representation of data can allow us to more directly tackle domains that are typically hampered due to intercultural differences, and their inevitable losses in translation, particularly losses of valuable information like context and intention. When we refer to a loss of context and intention, we are referring to the loss of semantic information when practices such as referencing and citation are hard-coded to a particular set of cultural norms. We show that it is possible to expand the way in which we track referential data to capture richer semantic information regarding the contexts and intentions of the creators of this data, and thereby better serve the varied needs of those who consume, study, and refer to such data. We demonstrate this concept through a prototype system for a multicultural digital infrastructure, which we have named MultiVerse, and discuss its ethical implications from the perspectives of ‘multistability’, Intercultural Information Ethics framework, and poststructuralism.
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DOI 10.1007/s10676-021-09582-2
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