Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Here is another case in which a well-meaning corporation has stumbled into a "can't win" situation. Google is placing tens of thousands of books and maps online as a reference source for users, a highly laudable action. Unfortunately, it also placed online old Japanese maps that showed the location of outcast villages from the time when Japan was a rigid caste society. This raised the hackles of Japanese who apparently still discriminate against "burakumin" but don't want to be known for doing so. Google tried to respond by removing the names of outcast villages but that too generated criticism. So, it is stuck by having stumbled into a cultural quagmire. It is hard to believe that even with a strong level of cultural sensitivity, Google would have known the level of animosity surrounding older Japanese maps.