Intercultural Web Design
COLIBRI here, still reporting from France, this time the wilds of Auvergne. Auvergne is one of the, if not the, most undeveloped areas of France. It is an agricultural area with volcanic mountains and birds of prey wheeling in the sky. As Spring has just sprung and Auvergne, unlike San Francisco, actually has seasons, there are bare trees in which you can see plenty of bird’s nests as well as trees just starting to flower. When I arrived, it was cold and rainy, but now it’s wonderfully sunny. I just wrapped up my meeting with ANIS étoilé. I am very excited about their project studying how to implement sustainable foodways in local areas of France.
I will admit, it was my first formal business meeting in French, and some of it was hard to follow. When I made a comment, I had to hope that someone else hadn’t just said the same thing! Fortunately, I like the challenge of communicating my ideas across language and culture.
Staff at ANIS étoilé are conducting a study, which so far consists of creating a list of major players related to food in four small areas of France. The question is: who creates food and who eats it? That may seem obvious, but compiling a list and making contact, even in a rural area, is a pretty daunting task. When creating a methodological guide, it’s also important to consider the factor of culture, even within a country as relatively small as France, so the second question is: what is the culture of each region? Finally, who is interested in creating local, sustainable foodways and how can ANIS étoilé as an organization both describe the process on a technical level as well as tell the very human story of French food production and consumption (also known as eating!)?
The French are, of course, known for taking food seriously and, despite the mass takeover of industrial agriculture, there are still plenty of small producers and local businesses. How can this be protected and encouraged in a world of big business? I am already very encouraged by the existence of the study. After all, we have to start asking the questions!
The internet, and a web site for the project, is a wonderful way to tell this story and ask these questions. Web sites are a great way to add dimension and draw the senses into a project, as well as involve people through the process. Now, if I were a project funder, I don’t just receive a paper document at the end of the project, I can also get to know the people involved as the project evolves. I can meet them through video, and see their faces and hear their voices. Questions addressing cultural differences become far more real. I don’t have to tell you when I can show you.
At the meeting, I posed questions about how ANIS étoilé wants to present their study and their story. Now it’s up to them to reflect a little and ponder the possibilities. We talked about photos, video, maps showing study sites. There are so many possibilities!
I am sure that you, someone who uses the web regularly, have plenty ideas about how to bring their site alive and help make local, sustainable agriculture a daily reality in France and elsewhere. Please let me know what your ideas are. I’m excited to hear them!
Next week, COLIBRI reports from Washington, D.C.

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