Friday, March 26th, 2010

Seriously Ubiquitous

This blog has featured a few posts and reports about “ubiquitous”, the way this word is used in Japanese and Korean information technology. Submitting these ideas to a reality test was tempting, so I decided to write up a paper for a Korean IT conference. The paper was accepted even though the conference is mainly technical.

The title of the paper is, Linguistic Aspects of Ubiquitous Computing: On “ubiquitous” in Japanese and Korean Information Technology. To be published in the proceedings of the International Conference on Information Science and Applications (ICISA 2010), available after the conference at IEEE Xplore. The paper is written on an academic level, in contrast to the more light-hearted reports available at this web site. An abstract follows below.

The term ubiquitous computing has been reshaped by a world-wide journey. It originated in the West, but began to subside from use. The u-word traveled East and was picked up by national information technology programs in Japan and Korea. These countries re-created the word ubiquitous as a loanword in Japanese and Korean, adding new energy. This paper tracks ubiquitous computing first from academia to Japanese and Korean government policy documents and then to the general public in these countries. When the loanwords are reflected back into English they are sometimes used in ways that baffle Westerners. The word computing has been dropped, but is understood in the remaining adjective ubiquitous. Practical advice is offered for effective international communication about ubiquitous computing. The future of ubiquitous terminology is sketched. Opportunities for Korean-Japanese linguistic cooperation are suggested.

Side note: Authoring the paper coincided with a period serving as IT manager at a medium-sized telecom company. The resulting workload explains the long pause in blog posts.

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