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ASB 2017-2018 - Rewiring the “Electric Brain”: Exploring the Role of Tech in Language Revitalization

Basic Information
Application Process: 
Trip Name: 
Rewiring the “Electric Brain”: Exploring the Role of Tech in Language Revitalization
Trip Location: 
North Carolina
Air Travel Trip: 
This trip will travel by air.
Number of Participants: 
Trip Description: 

In the Cherokee language, computers are sometimes called “anagalisgi unvtsida meaning electric brain. As time and technologies quickly progress, Cherokee people have developed ways to bring their language into the modern era. However, only 400 (approx.)  fluent speakers are left in the Eastern Band alone, which has made saving the language a key priority. Through our course and trip, we will explore how technology can assist second language Cherokee learners in their race to learn the language. Our guiding question throughout the course will center on how we can move the role of tech in language revitalization beyond recording words and phrases into databases, to a more central and interactive place within community language learning.


Along with basic Cherokee language instruction, the course will explore topics ranging from Cherokee culture to user-centered design processes. The course will also feature guest lectures from Google’s Internationalization Team, tribal elders, Linguistics and Computer Science professors. In spring, the group will travel to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reservation located in Cherokee, North Carolina. Participants will engage intimately with Cherokee culture and language while working closely with community members to identify tech needs and possible solutions. While in Cherokee, students will have the opportunity to visit the New Kituwah Immersion School and participate in the second annual Cherokee Language Symposium, as well as visit several community-initiated language classes. Students will also visit several sacred cultural sites as well as work with tribal members to build trails to remote sites.


We hope students walk away from this experience understanding the sacredness of indigenous languages and the importance of maintaining them for future generations, while acknowledging the active role tech can play in that effort.   

Custom Question: 
Tell us about any personal experience you have had with indigenous communities, indigenous languages, and/or community focused tech projects. If you have no personal experience please explain what you hope most to learn from this experience about indigenous communities, language, and their relationships with tech.
Application Form Questions: 
Trip Leaders
Hi! My name is Constance Owl, I’m a senior studying Native American Studies with a minor in History. I’m an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and grew up in a small community adjacent to the main reservation boundary. Carrying the strong cultural lessons taught to me as a child, I have spent my time at Stanford devoted to expanding my knowledge of indigeneity and all that the identity carries with it. I am passionate about saving our language and preserving it for future generations in accessible ways. I was once told that if you cannot speak the Cherokee language, you cannot see the world with Cherokee eyes. I hope that the work we do can ensure that the Cherokee philosophy continues on for generations to come. I am very excited to co-lead with ASB trip with Gracie to further explore the intersections of tech and cultural preservation, and hope that this course inspires people of all backgrounds and knowledge bases to become involved in language revitalization efforts.
Hi! My name is Gracie Young, I'm a senior majoring in Computer Science. Within computer science, I study human computer interaction. I am particularly interested in merging my love of technology and Cherokee heritage through exploring ways to indigenize tech. I had the amazing opportunity to take the first Cherokee language class at Stanford my sophomore year, and I traveled to the Cherokee Language Symposium last spring with Constance. This past year, I've worked on and reccently launched "Diné Adóone’é", an Android app that helps people practice expressing Diné kinship toward another person by inputting each person's four clans and surfacing a relation -- sister, uncle, cousin, etc. I cannot wait to co-lead this ASB trip and examine how tech can help preserve culture and language when developed with and created alongside indigenous people.