Re: Need for Localized Look of Shared Japanese/Chinese Gliphs??

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Wed Jul 15 1998 - 13:13:46 EDT

Adrian Havill, in a long, thoughtful piece about the impact
of Unicode FUD in Japan, noted:

> ... the misinformation regarding Unicode DOES
> still affect it's acceptability (at least in Japan).

I agree that there clearly is an acceptability problem in
Japan, particularly in the public press (where the Unicode
myths have the effective status of urban legends) and in
the laymen-oriented explanations that impact the decisions
of IT professionals.

It seems to me, however, that what we have here is essentially
a political and social problem. The fact that the core
myths coalesce around the idea that Unicode is dangerous
to Japan and represents a conspiracy of corruption guided
by America, undermining and bastardizing the Japanese
language, indicates to me that the symbolism of Unicode
has touched on deep-seated fears and insecurities in Japan.
Such symbolism tends to develop a life of its own and sticks
around in the face of any amount of reasoned technical

I am reminded of the symbolic status of bilingual education in
American politics and social opinion. It doesn't matter how
many reasoned papers are written or how many professional
educators argue its merits and flaws--the real dynamic has
to do with deep-seated fear of the other and with the loss
of control that encouragement of anything but English represents
to much of the American public.

I suspect that the Unicode phobia in Japan is heightened in
part because of the prolonged, difficult economic crisis
in Japan, coupled with political instability and lack of
direction. It recalls the "Japan-bashing" that gained
currency in the United States during the 80's, when the U.S.
was undergoing painful economic restructuring, recurrent
recessions, a major market crash, out-of-control deficits,
and a major financial problem with the savings and loans,
while Japan was flying high.

The Unicode Consortium can do some things to help with the
misinformation problem--at least by posting a few prominent
papers on the web that address the typical mistatements and
misapprehensions about Unicode, so that well-meaning inquirers
have a standard place to go to. But, as I see it, the real
need is for some "Huxley" to arise in Japan to champion the
cause from a Japanese point of view and to tackle the
naysayers. And the secondary need is for Japan to deal with
and come out of its current economic and political crisis,
so that people there just generally feel better and more
confident about Japan and its future.


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