Information Access Seminar

How to Type Garbage: A History of Text Standards for the “Rest of World”

2024-04-05T15:10:00 - 2024-04-05T17:00:00
Friday, April 5, 2024
3:10 pm - 5:00 pm PDT

Anushah Hossain

Today we can send and receive messages in most of the world’s major writing systems, but this was not always the case. This talk walks through the development of core standards in our modern day text stack that enable multilingual digital communication: the Unicode Standard, OpenType font format, and different rendering and layout software. Together we’ll consider what values and scripts were privileged, and for whom writing online became an arduous task.

This seminar will be held both online & in person. You are welcome to join us either in South Hall or via Zoom.

For online participants

Online participants must have a Zoom account and be logged in. Sign up for your free account here. If this is your first time using Zoom, please allow a few extra minutes to download and install the browser plugin or mobile app.

Join the seminar online


Anushah Hossain is a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab. Her research examines the histories and values embedded in the multilingual internet. She does so by studying language technologies – the digital standards and code – that make it possible to send and receive non-Latin text online, and the communities that design them. Her work brings internet studies into conversation with sociolinguistics and histories of decolonization, contending with such issues as the evolving language politics of the digital age and the impact of postcolonial aspirations on internet infrastructure.

During her fellowship year, she will be working with Stanford Libraries’ Silicon Valley archives to trace the development of multilingual computing in the Cold War era. 

Anushah completed her Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary energy and resources program at UC Berkeley, where she trained in the history of science and technology. She holds BAs in history and economics from the same institution.

Last updated: March 22, 2024