A state of the question - the Catalan language project - Àlex Hinojo, Executive Director, Amical Wikimedia
From Ewan McAndrew on July 8th, 2017
Did you know that Catalan Wikipedia was just the second version of this encyclopedia to have articles, right after the English-language version and weeks before versions began to appear in other languages that are much more widely spoken throughout the world? It is just one example of Catalans on the internet and of their civic activism in favor of their language. With more than 500,000 articles, it’s the 18th biggest Wikipedia in a ranking by number of articles. If you take into account the number of Catalan speakers—about 11.5 million—it should be in 80th or 90th place. Those who write in Catalan on the internet still have a decidedly activist character borne of the prevailing diglossia. Even still, the position of the Catalan language is not fully normalized, despite its advances. On the internet, net neutrality and the existence of open platforms that are easily adaptable to different languages have been key factors in the success of networked Catalan successes. The net favors activism and facilitates getting people with similar interests together: it is a tool that connects. In a society with a tradition of community involvement like Catalonia, the net has been ideal for making our language and culture visible. Without political borders or obstacles, we are able to grow more than we can in the real world, which is significant given the numerous roadblocks that we suffer there. Our only weapon to gain the world’s confidence has always been our work ethic.
Even though it is horizontal and neutral, the internet tends to reproduce the models we have in the physical world. When local associations, chapters, or divisions are organized from whatever international group or project, it’s often by country. Since Catalans always want to be there with our own voice, we defend groups that are defined by interest instead of by political borders. Our particular situation as a nation without a state has often been the catalyst that has generated changes in a variety of international organizations. One example of this is the .cat domain, which was the very first top-level domain to be awarded to a linguistic and cultural community—and not to a state— and which opened the door to the creation of other types of domains. In the case of Wikipedia, the Amical Wikimedia group of friends of the Catalan Wikipedia lobbied the Wikimedia Foundation to create the Thematic Organizations concept, which were local chapters of Wikimedia based on common interests and not borders.