Having written a few posts for the (German language) project I started a few weeks ago, I want to share a little bit about my experience so far.
The concept Gegenüber.NET is based on has a lot to do with concepts which in English are addressed with words like “community” or “collaboration” … although my own approach is actually much broader than to focus specifically on only human interactions (yet whether seen more narrowly or more widely, is not such an important or central issue).
Today (here and now) I would like to meditate a little bit (more) on the aspect of collaboration.
Collaboration is not exactly “unamerican”, but in my opinion, it also isn’t something Americans take great pride in — I expect quite a few Americans have actually never even heard of the concept. It seems like the word “social” is heralded across all corners of the Internet, but virtually no one is aware of what being social might have to do with collaboration.
In Europe (and specifically in Germany) it’s a whole different ball game. For example: In Germany this long weekend (with the national holiday falling on Monday this year), the media are buzzing with “Zusammen wachsen” (“growing together”). Hence: Collaboration is at the very least an implicit ideal.
But at the same time, the word is also somewhat verboten. All Germans know why. Many other Europeans also know why. It’s because of the history of collaborators — and this is not an abstract concept. Whenever this term is used (usually in the French articulation — i.e. “collaborateur”, in German it’s spelled “Kollaborateur”), it very concretely refers to people who are considered despicable because they collaborated with the occupying forces (namely Nazis during the Third Reich).
Oddly this rather negative interpretation of collaboration seems eerily familiar these days, as do such phrases as “either you’re with us or you’re against us” (which some Americans might be able to remember from a just a couple decades ago).
Very few people (I think) are familiar with an association which is very much front and center for me. For me, “collaborateur” conjures up images of companies or individuals who are willing to sell user information to data brokers such as Google or Amazon. Users who lack the literacy skills required to prevent such spyware companies from acquiring PII (personally identifiable information) user data … I would refer to as illiterate, but I also recognize that over time, I am also led to consider them ignorant … and in case this ignorance is willful, I could see how this could even be interpreted as this sort of “collaborateur”. Normally, everyone is mainly responsible for their own actions, but if websites include spyware code from Google, Amazon or other spyware companies on their own websites, I do indeed consider such websites to be “Google collaborateurs” or “Amazon collaborateurs” or “whatever collaborateurs”. In America, such flak is normally reserved for Facebook — and in my opinion this is primarily because devotion to Google and Amazon is far more widespread.
Google and Amazon are undoubtedly the Führer. 😉