Title: Building the Caribbean Information Society:
The CARDICIS Experience
CARDICIS, Caraibes, Diversidad Cultural and Information Society, is an example of ongoing
action research "to consider the importance of the factor of "cultural and linguistic diversity" to
the planning of regional solutions for an integrated Caribbean vision." In the Caribbean, building
the information society is a particularly complex task because of the diversity of languages and
cultures both producing the information and defining the users
of that information.
The two Cardicis workshops were a bold attempt to confront the issue of cultural and linguistic
diversity head-on from the inception of the idea, and to experiment to discover a means by which
a true egality of access could be achieved for all the different voices. Two key issues were
interpretation, and the moderation of the discussion as it occurred in
the meetings and as it continued in virtual space. A guiding principle was that each participant
should feel free to use whichever language was easiest and most comfortable for him or her,
while at the same time being intelligible to everyone.
This paper will describe the Cardicis process and comment on its relevance to the management
and dissemination of information in the Caribbean.
SALCC, Saint Lucia
Titulo: Constuyendo la Sociedad de la Informacion del Caribe:
LA Experiencia CARDICIS.
RESUMEN: CARDICIS, CaraYbes, Diversidad Cultural & Information Society, es un ejemplo de una
investigaci6n en curso "para estudiar la importancia de "la diversidad cultural y linguistica" al
planificar soluciones para una vision Caribense total." La construcci6n de I sociedad de la
informaci6n en el Caribe es una tarea bastante compleja por la diversidad de idiomas y cultures
tanto para producer la informaci6n como para definir los usuarios de esa informaci6n.
Los dos talleres sobre Cardicis fueron un intent audaz de atacar frontalmente la cuesti6n de la
diversidad cultural y linguistica desde un principio y de experimentar para descubrir un modo de
Ilegar a una igualdad de acceso para las diferentes voces. Dos cuestiones clave eran la
interpretaci6n y la moderaci6n de la discusi6n, tanto en las reuniones como mas adelante
Un principio rector era que cada participate se sintiera libre para usar cualquier idioma, pues el
que le fuera mas f6cil y con el cual se sintiera mas a gusto, procurando a la vez de ser ineligible
para todos los demos.
Esta disertaci6n describiri el process de Cardicis y comentara su relevancia para el manejo y la
diseminaci6n de informaci6n en el Caribe.
TITRE : Construire la Soci6t6 de 1'Information des Caraibes L'experience CARDICIS
CARDICIS, Caraibes, Soci6t6 de l'information et diversity culturelle est un example de
recherche d'action continue < visant A consid6rer l'importance de facteurs de diversity
linguistique et culturelle > dans la planification de solutions r6gionales pour une vision
carib6enne int6gr6e. > Aux Caraibes, la construction d'une soci6et de l'information est une tache
particulibrement complex de par la complexity des langues et des cultures qui produisent les
informations et qui d6finissent les utilisateurs de ces informations.
Les deux ateliers CARDICIS 6taient une tentative hardie der confronter la probl6matique de
diversity linguistique et culturelle, d6s le lancement de l'id6e, et d'exp6rimenter pour d6couvrir un
moyen pouvant garantir une veritable 6galit6 d'acces A toutes les voix differentes. Deux questions
essentielles 6taient l'interpr6tation et la moderation de la discussion telles qu'elles ont eu lieu
pendant les reunions et telle qu'elles se poursuivent dans l'espace virtual. Un principle directeur
6tait que chaque participant devrait se sentir libre d'utiliser la langue dans laquelle il/elle se sent
le plus A l'aise tout en 6tant intelligible A tous.
Cet article d6crira le processus CARDICIS et commentera sa pertinence en ce qui concern la
gestion et la dissemination de I'information aux Caraibes.
Building the Caribbean Information Society: The CARDICIS Experience
Abstract: CARDICIS, Caraibes, Diversidad Cultural and Infbrmation Society, is an
example of ongoing action research "to consider the importance of the factor of
"cultural and linguistic diversity" to the planning of regional solutions for an
integrated Caribbean vision. In the Caribbean, building the information society is a
particularly complex task because of the diversity of languages and cultures both
producing the information and defining the users of that information.
The two Cardicis workshops were a bold attempt to confront the issue of cultural and
linguistic diversity head-on from the inception of the idea, and to experiment to
discover a means by which a true egality of access could be achieved for all the
different voices. Two key issues were interpretation, and the moderation of the
discussion as it occurred in the meetings and as it continued in virtual space. A
guiding principle was that each participant should feel free to use whichever
language was easiest and most comfortable for him or her, while at the same time
being intelligible to everyone.
This paper will describe the Cardicis process and comment on its relevance to the
management and dissemination of information in the Caribbean.
-What is CARDICIS and why should it be relevant to a meeting of Caribbean librarians?
CARDICIS is first of all a love-child. Cardicis is what happens when two sets of passionate
enthusiasm collide at the right time, in the right place, and in the presence of a benevolent fairy
godmother of a funding agency, in this case Agence Intergouvernemental de la Francophonie
Cardicis is a workshop/meeting, and a second workshop/meeting. The first was held in St Lucia,
August 30th and 31st and September 1st 2004, the second in the Dominican Republic, December
5h, 6th and 7', 2005. On each occasion people were brought together from throughout the
Caribbean, from the wider Americas, Europe and Africa, to confront the issue of cultural
diversity in the particular information society which is the Caribbean. The two
workshop/meetings provided face to face contact for some of the persons involved, but there is
also a continuous and continuing process of electronic discussion. The electronic discussion is
provided with automatic translation to assist understanding.
Cardicis is a process. This process is designed to "bring together the key actors in civil society in
the Caribbean who specialise in ICT4D, as well as relevant international organizations, to
consider the importance of the factor of "cultural and linguistic diversity" to the planning of
regional solutions for an integrated Caribbean vision. Together, to establish strategies for the
approach to this question, and to document the common positions."'
The process is also "research in progress", action research into a crucial issue for the Caribbean.
To allow a proper consideration of the "cultural and linguistic diversity" factor at the workshops,
it was necessary to make that factor as transparent and non-obstructive as possible during the
workshop itself. This involved creating a careful balance of participants so that no one language
group should dominate. Each participant was invited to speak in his or her own language.
At the first Cardicis workshop interpretation was provided by a team of students from Haiti, the-
Dominican Republic and St Lucia who facilitated discussion among and between English,
French and Spanish. A training workshop was arranged for them on the two days before the
actual Cardicis meeting to give them a basic familiarity with the topic and its vocabulary, and
with the process of interpretation. Unusually the interpreters were also invited to be part of the
process in the main workshop, with time allotted in the programme for them to join the
Sadly it proved to be too difficult to arrange for the inclusion of St Lucia's "own" language, St
Lucian Kwey6l, although translations of documents were made. However when a Kw6y6l
speaking Lawoz folk group brought the celebration of their festival to the workshop on the
evening of 31st August, suddenly we were all singing together. The minority local languages of
the Caribbean must not be forgotten in the consideration of the four main European languages -
Spanish, French, English and Dutch particularly as more and more frequently these languages
are acquiring orthographies and formal publication.
At the second Cardicis workshop there was a team of professional interpreters, but they were
also encouraged, during the group sessions, to join the discussion if they wished. Several of the
interpreters from the St. Lucia meeting were invited to the second workshop as participants.
What does Cardicis do? The original documentation of Cardicis points out that "the Caribbean
has a particular difficulty in speaking with one voice ..." Cardicis reminds people that a
common voice is there if one just makes the effort to find it. Cardicis attempts "to draw the
attention of the parties concerned (particularly the co-operation agencies) to this aspect of the
problem [lack of a common voice], and to sensitise the players in ICT4D (in particular those
from civil society), and to encourage them to discover, together, solutions which will allow for a
more co-ordinated presence for the region ... after WSIS in Tunis, with positive results in
national and regional agendas for the information society.""
Cardicis has built a network within which one can, with some confidence, rely on the will;ri-n',,,
of others to make an effort to understand no matter which language (of English French and
Spanish) one uses."'
In these endeavours Cardicis has been greatly supported by Agence Intergouverementale de la
Francophonie (AIF) who have seen the importance of the inclusion of civil society in decision
making processes, particularly at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). This
type of inclusion makes the maintenance of cultural and linguistic diversity a key issue.
That one should speak about societies, about human beings, in the context of the application of
information and communication technology would seem to be self-evident, and yet the norm has
been to speak of "the information society" in the singular (including in the naming of the World
Summit on the Information Society the second phase of which was held in Tunis in November
2005) and largely to ignore or dismiss the diversity that makes humanity." The following
quotation, calling for change in this situation, is taken from an essay "Vers des soci6tes de
Notre vie est plurielle : nous parlons, nous dchangeons, nous crdons, nous tissons
des liens dans la diversity. Pour autant, depuis une d6cennie, c'est au singulier que
l'on fait entrer dans nos vies, l'expression "socidtd de information" ...
II n' y a pas << une > socidtd de l'information mais des socidt6s, plurielles,
mouvantes, dmergentes, changeantes. Ces socidtes, comme les mots qui les
portent, ne nous sont pas donndes A digdrer, A assimiler mais A construire,
collectivement et de mani&re ascendante. ... Autant de leviers qui sont A notre
disposition pour mettre l'information au service d'une dynamique de paix, de
respect et de solidarity. Au services de soci6tds des savoirs partagds.
(We lead plural lives: we talk, we exchange, we create, we weave links through
diversity. Yet, for all that, the term "information society", over the last decade,
has made its appearance in our lives in the singular. ... There is no "one"
information society: there are many forms of information society, all moving,
emerging, changing. These societies, together with the words that describe them,
are not there for us to digest and assimilate but to build, collectively, and
cumulatively. ... So many tools are available to us, so that we can place
information at the service of a movement for peace, for respect and solidarity, at
the service of societies where knowledge is shared.)
The change came on 20h October 2005 when "The General Conference of UNESCO, meeting in
Paris from October 3 to October 21, today approved (148 votes for, two against, four
abstentions) the Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural
expressions""' The voting pattern suggests that this issue is now recognized as being universally
In his presentation you may have noticed that Dr Pimienta spoke of information societies. He has
also added an "H" to the "old" acronym "ICT4D" so that it comes to stand for "Information and
Communication Technology for Human Development" (ICT4HD). And on the track, in the
graphical part of the presentation, each of the hurdles which represents a barrier to accessibility
to ICT and to HD which must be overcome is in some way to do with language. "Savoirs
partagds" seems to me to represent the common ground between librarians and "ICT people".
Here our concerns are very much the same. And in the Caribbean particularly those concerns are
heavily bound up with language.
My alternative title for this paper was: "Ortega revisited again: how a virtual community model
might empower Caribbean librarians to become masters of the raging internet." Jose Ortega y
Gasset, the Spanish philosopher, was invited to give an address to the International Congress of
Bibliographers and Librarians, in Paris in 1934."V His words need to be considered in context. He
was a voice from "outside", an academic, invited to give librarians a sense of what the
"outsiders" wanted from them. In the following paragraph I am relying heavily on the words of
a medical librarian, Richard A. Lyders'"' who in turn is relying heavily on Ortega. Lyders says:
[Ortega] said that "to determine the mission of the librarian we must begin, not
with the [person] who practices the profession ... but with the social necessity
which [the] profession serves. ... Ortega points out that things we invent to make
life easy have a tendency to turn against us. ... And this is the situation with
books also or, we should say, with information. ... There is too much of it;
controls are demanded ... From now on [the librarian] must give ... attention to
the book as a living function. [The librarian] must become a policeman, [and thus,
his famous phrase, the librarian must become] master of the raging book ... His
final proposal, the librarian as the "filter interposed between [the reader] and the
torrent of books," we are still working on. We have not quite yet figured out how
to do this.
In the Caribbean the internet rages in several different languages. Of course it does this all over
the world, but our current concern is local/regional. In the age of the intemet librarians have
necessarily moved to embrace not only the "tame" information in books and periodicals, in print,
but also the "wild" information. The "wild" information (not cultivated or grown to order) is
what exists on the internet. It is often informal in a library it might be put in a vertical file, with
the ephemera and the small and fragile. There is a great deal of it, and the possibility of the
relevant piece of information and the relevant person connecting is more and more a matter of
chance" Virtual community nets routinely strain the internet ocean, and through the mechanism
of the network and the external links with that network, the relevant information can be directed
Shamin Renwick in 2002X documented some of the difficulties faced by Caribbean librarians.
The Caribbean can be defined in various ways. The one used in this article is that
of the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries
(ACURIL), which includes those countries in the Caribbean basin, mainland
countries including the Guianas, and the States of United States of America,
which border on the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. In ACURIL, the
countries number over forty. ...
Libraries in this area represent a population of over 40 million people. Unique to
the area are the multi-lingual (Dutch, English, French, and Spanish) and multi-
cultural aspects of a people who have a rich and diverse history and development.
The Cardicis experience agrees wholeheartedly with the multi-lingual, multi-cultural definition,
but would suggest that this is an issue which must be tackled head-on from the beginning.
Mechanisms must be put in place to facilitate inter-lingual communication so the benefits of a
"rich and diverse history and development" can be received unimpeded. Left to itself the
Caribbean inheritance of European languages creates not hurdles to be vaulted over easily but
great high walls of mutual exclusion.
Also, it is no longer realistic to depend upon English as a lingua franca. In the Caribbean region
many more people speak Spanish than English, although there are many more English speaking
countries. And English is steadily losing its dominant position among world languages."'
The Caribbean suffers from an unusual, possibly unique angst, generated out of its fractured and
hybrid identity. Renwick identifies this as contributing to the problems faced by librarians:
There are insufficient materials on the Caribbean by Caribbean people. This may
be to a large extent because of a lack of self-appreciation among Caribbean
people as a result of their Colonial past-a feeling that what they have to say is
not worth documenting. ... more books are needed that build self-esteem: more
biographies, more books that put achievements by the Caribbean people on the
world stage and show that they are comparable if not better in some areas. The
mix of cultures and genes are the basis for their "Caribbeanness" and their
achievements should be celebrated by being recorded.
An interesting commentary on this issue is to be found in a discussion of the work of Edouard
Glissant from Martinique by Kathleen Gyssels'": Glissant is ambivalent about the internet and
about globalization and "warns that the Internet represents a great risk when it comes to
comprehension and acceptance of the Other (here, the non-European) and the Diverse." Gyssels
goes on to point out that Glissant also distrusts the nature of content on the internet.
If Glissant warns against the Internet as a tool that makes this "total world"
possible, without any guarantee of genuine recognition and acceptance of the
Other, it is also because of his doubts about the "reading method" of this
communication machine. While surfing on the Net, Glissant feels ill at ease
because of the slippery and transient aspect of this medium. Instead of being
fixed, signs and significations seem to vanish, and are impossible to fix on the
She summarises his general concerns as follows, and suggests that they should be our concerns
An important tool in the inevitable, ongoing process of creolization of cultures,
the Internet promotes a new world, one in which the old hegemonies collapse and
where young civilizations (such as those of the Caribbean) are made equal with
the Old World. However, the dialectic of globalization and creolization is double-
edged. On the one hand, it permits the discovery and acceptance of the Other; that
is to say, it nourishes rhizomatic identity, aiding the coming-into-being of a cross-
cultural, multiracial world. ... [Glissant's] fear that the "total world", shaped in
the third millennium, will leave out small cultures, dominated communities, and
minority discourses, is well-founded and legitimate. It is shared by other
intellectuals and thinkers who are convinced that the Net will not lead to the
realization of a unique global world, a locus of proximity and extensive co-
operation between people everywhere.
An optimistic voice to balance Glissant's pessimism is to be heard from another writer from the
French Caribbean, Maryse Conde.x'" She insists that globalisation does not frighten her but rather
"it means reaching out beyond national and linguistic borders". She speaks to the change in the
essential nature of identity and the links that exist between language and identity, the confusions,
the "newnesses" of hybridity:
Maybe to be a Caribbean or an African is no longer a matter of the place where
one is born, the color of one's skin, and the language that one speaks. The major
contribution of this new generation of writers living in exile is to eliminate the
opposition between "colonial lanLciage" and "mother tongue." Up to recent years,
the essentialism of language, like the essentialism of Race, was a widely held
belief. Everybody had in mind the celebrated advice given by the Bishop of Avila
to Queen Isabella of Castile in 1492: "Language is a perfect instrument of
empire." ... any language is double-voiced. Edwige Danticat, Cristina Garcia by
deliberately choosing to write in Erinliih. instead of French, Creole, or Spanish,
illustrate this hybridity of language, this power of any language to model itself
according to gender, ethnicity, and personal history
If you visit the Cardicis website you will find a map of the Caribbean, overlaid with a fishing
net. Caught in the web of the net are pictures of nine writers. At the top of the page are the drums
that can "talk". From these images it should be possible to understand the philosophy of
Cardicis. As fellow members of information society in all of its many guises, we are happy to be
here with you to share our perceptions of this world. I would like to close with a final quotation
from Sharmin Renwick. When she wrote the words they were addressed to Caribbean publishers.
It is my hope that she would allow me to edit what she wrote to include a different group.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that, first and foremost, librarians and
[ICT4HD people] should have a symbiotic relationship. This mutually beneficent
relationship would be rewarding for all concerned as both can help each other
achieve their objectives and should see each other as natural allies.
C AR .Dl. ISwebsite h 'r- .' .a;J::.i --,
Ambiosi Alain, Peugeot, Valerie, Pimienta, Daniel (2005) Vers des soci6tes de savoirs partag6 In
EnjeLu de Mots: Regards multiculturels sur les societds de I'information. Caen :C&F editions
Sections of the book are available online at: http://www.vecam.org/article.php3?id jr"i:le=, '-.r :mn'=e.jm
Cond6, Maryse (1998) 0 Brave New World Research in African Literatures Volume 29, Number 3
LILL' J. p Jjr,.'l r.:_ _
Graddol, David (2006) Eng,', h Next n.p.: British Council
Available online at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/files/documents/1eaming-research-english-next.pdf
Gyssels, Kathleen ( 2001) "The world wide web and rhizomatic :idcnt?, Trait6 du Monde by Edouard GClih ,ant"
Mots Pluriels No 18 August http://vwww.arts.uwa.edu.au/MotsPluriels/MP 180lke.html
Lyders, Richard A. "The Role and Value of the Librarian: What We Must Do to 'Establish' It". Bull Med Libr
Assoc 81(1) January 1993 95 Ninety-second Annual Meeting
Available online at: http://vwwv.pubmedcentral.cov/paaerender.fcgi?artid=225750&Dpaeindex=1
Ortegay Gasset, Jose. The mission of the librarian. Antioch Rev 1961:21(2):133-54.
Renwick, Shamin (2002) "'.A .t Caribbean Librarians Want From Caribbean Publishers" World Libraries
VOL. 12, NO. 2 FALL bL--.r .. ..'Il-h.l.r -'..lln..: i-c2 n .k '.l2n: 'htr.l
Deirdre Williams, May 2006.
'" This message, from the CIVIC regional discussion list, expresses the situation very clearly:
"I can understand French and Spanish, but cannot write correctly in either. I prefer to read in people's mother
tongue and answer in mine...I believe that TRUE bilingualism is that we can each speak and write in our own
language, as long as we can understand what someone else is saying in his/her n ljan;u.ge "
iv While at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1993 1 was introduced to the terms
"hardware" and "software" and also to the term "wetware" how machines think about human beings?
SAmbrosi Alain, Peugeot, Valerie, Pimienta, Daniel (2005) Vers des soci6tes de savoirs partag6 In
Enjeux de Mots: Regards multiculturels sur les societes de 1. '. .'.:' Caen :C&F editions
URL lD="'"'"i.i 'Il, DO=DO TOPIC&URL SECTION=201.html
SIt was published in translation in the Antioch Review under the title "The Mission of the Librarian"
ORTEGA Y GASSET J. The mission of the :ibrri ran Antioch Rev 1961;21(2):133-54.
vi" Richard A. Lyders, "The Role and Value of the Librarian: What We Must Do to 'Establish' It". Bull
Med Libr Assoc 81(1) January 1993 95 Ninety-second Annual Meeting
tr '.', .pubmedcentral.2ov/pagerender.fcgi?artid=225750&pageindex=I
What happens if your link is on page 4 of C..'- I;'' Recent research indicates that most researchers
stop at page 3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technoloag/4900742.stm
x Shamin Renwick 2002 "What Caribbean Librarians Want From Caribbean Publishers" World Libraries VOL. 12,
NO. 2 FALL -i.r "'' worlib.ore/voll2no2/renwick v 2n2.shtml
x' See Graddol, David i,' ,. English Next n.p.: British Council
http://ww\ .britishcouncil.ora/files/doc uments/learning-research-english-next.pdf
" Kathleen Gyssels 2001 "The world wide web and rhizomatic identity: Trait6 du Monde by Edouard
Cl i:;art"Mots PlurielsNo 18 August-W- ...arn .udu a:a .l.. Irpur'lc \ 1Hf'il' hii
x'" Maryse Cond6 1998 "O Brave New World" from Research in African Literatures Volume 29,
Number 3 http://www.iupioumals.ora/ral/ral29-3.html