What would it look like to have an abundance of diversity of human languages brought to life in an interactive virtual environment?

The Rhizome of Babel is an interactive digital project that re-examines the biblical tale of the Tower of Babel from an anti-imperialist and ecological perspective. To reconceptualize how we conceive of and understand language, we will be engaging in biomimicry. Instead of a tower as mentioned in the biblical account, what is aspired to here is a rhizomatic network (similar to a root system, but further decentralized) that stretches and expands sideways, as we develop new ways of understanding one another.

Created by Kosisochukwu Nnebe, in collaboration with Lucas LaRochelle, the MozFest community collaborated together during a session in March and is now preparing for the next stage of the project in Mozilla Hubs.

On June 23rd, the The Rhizome of Babel will be transformed into an interactive world that envisions the abundance and diversity of human languages – an ecosystem in its own right – as an alternative vision of prosperity that privileges biodiversity over monoculture, opacity over transparency, relationality over hierarchy.

All are welcome to explore this digital space and contribute their voices to the collective audio environment, contributing to language as a living organism.

How To Contribute to the Launch

Kosi and Lucas are developing a first prototype of the digital environment launching on June 23rd 2022 and are in need of voice notes responding to the following prompt:

“Tell us a story about the first time you realized that your mother tongue could communicate something that other languages could not.”

The prompt is meant to be simple enough to be easily understood but complex and nuanced enough to elicit multiple kinds of responses. Through it, participants are invited to create an evolving story with many parts that branch off and connect through a rhizomatic network that has no clear beginning or end.

Participants will be invited to respond to the prompt in their mother tongue, even if their attempt to do so results in broken language. If this feels uncomfortable for them, they are invited to respond in the language they feel most comfortable in but invited to share in their email whether this language is different from their mother tongue.

If you are interested in contributing your voice to the Rhizome of Babel launch event, please send a voice note file of your response to the prompt question to: [email protected] and read more about the voice contribution guidelines here.

Want to contribute to the project? Secure your free ticket to attend the launch event and chat with the artists about the project. The Rhizome of Babel project kicks off this June and will run through MozFest 2023.

About the author:

Temi Popo

Temi Popo is an open innovation practitioner leading Mozilla's developer-focused strategy around Trustworthy AI and MozFest. She is also a co-chair of the MozFest Trustworthy AI working groups.

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