SuperPower Nation

If you’re familiar with WHYS you’ll know we are always willing to try something new. Maybe that’s one reason WHYS producer Krupa was chosen to create the BBC’s SuperPower Nation. She’s been working away for weeks and now the day is almost here (it’s on Thursday 18th March), we want you to be involved as much as possible.

What is SuperPower Nation? It is a big BBC experiment to hold conversations with people from all walks of life, all over the world. You are probably wondering why that’s any different to a normal WHYS show. Well there’s at least 2 things we have never tried before

1) We’re handing the editorial agenda over to you. Instead of deciding the question for discussion at our editorial meeting, we’ll hear all the big issues and hot topics that people are talking about in their home countries.

2) Although WHYS will be broadcast in English, the conversations taking place during SuperPower Nation will be in many different languages and between them. So for example, we could find a Mandarin speaker chatting about Iranian politics to somebody who speaks Hausa. We’ll be testing online translation tools and using translators to help keep the discussions going.

Over 20 BBC language services from Somali to Macedonian are involved; as well as BBC World, Arabic and Persian TV. Not forgetting Africa Have Your Say, and WHYS of course. We’ll all be in a town hall in London along with our invited guests.

Here’s a photo of the venue as we begin to set up.  There’ll also be multi-lingual performances of Romeo and Juliet, multi-national music jamming sessions and bloggers from all over the world will be chatting in a video conference.

Follow this link to find out more about SuperPower Nation day and watch the event in London streamed live on Thursday. Bloggers should check out blogworld. The event’s part of a whole BBC series called SuperPower.

Tell us us what you think about the idea and what the big stories and topics are where you live.

39 Responses to “SuperPower Nation”

  1. 1 Linda from Italy
    March 16, 2010 at 23:55

    Best of luck if you’re going to use “online” = machine translation – could well start WW3. When will the geeks realise it still takes a human to do some jobs, esp. translating/interpreting real language?
    Can’t wait to hear some of the ghastly results, or maybe you won’t let those on air!

    • 2 Linda from Italy
      March 17, 2010 at 12:00

      A brief example, see below 1) = Microsoft Translator’s “English” version of a snippet on the ANSA (Italian national press agency) website on last night’s Champions League Chelsea vs Inter Milan game. 2) = a job done by a professional human (me). Doesn’t bode well for Thursday.

      1) Ancelotti: inter can win Champions’
      Has the quality to get to the bottom ‘
      ‘ inter and ‘ candidate to victory in the champions, has the quality to get to the bottom ‘: that of Carlo Ancelotti. technician Chelsea doesn’t hide regret: ‘ your whole could and had to do better ‘. The key to success nerazzurro and was-according to Vermaelen-‘ the great work in midfield that made Pandev and Eto’o, the pressure that gave us the chance to play our game and prevented us to create employment opportunities.

      2) Ancelotti: Inter can win Champions League
      They have the quality to go all the way
      “Inter have what it takes to win the Champions League, they have the quality to go all the way”. A prediction from Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti, barely concealing his regret. “We could have and should have played better.” The key to Inter’s success was, according to Ancelotti, “the great job done in midfield by Pandev and Eto’o, putting us under pressure, preventing us from playing our game and creating chances.”

      PS don’t know quite how the name change – Vermaelen for Ancelotti crept in.

  2. 3 Tom D Ford
    March 17, 2010 at 00:56

    “Tell us us what you think about the idea and what the big sotires and topics are where you live.”

    Spell check “sotires” into “stories”, please, for tomorrow.

  3. 5 Guillermo
    March 17, 2010 at 01:01

    Your idea is not new. If you can recall the Babel Tower, then we can imagine a recreation in this days. The difference is big. In that time it was in one place.
    Now it is around the world. It seems a big idea and the purpose is fine.
    So you are making WHYS a real honor to the title. Congratulations and I know that it will be a success and the begining of world friendship between citizens of all nations.

  4. 6 Tom D Ford
    March 17, 2010 at 01:14

    “1) We’re handing the editorial agenda over to you. Instead of deciding the question for discussion at our editorial meeting, we’ll hear all the big issues and hot topics that people are talking about in their home countries.”

    “2) Although WHYS will be broadcast in English, the conversations taking place during SuperPower Nation will be in many different languages and between them.”

    Those are both great ideas. I’m interested in how #1 works out in discussion and length of time to narrow down to a manageable number of topics along with what other people want to talk about..

    I’m thrilled about #2 and would like to hear snippets of the different languages that participate, along with their translations. The human voice, to me, is the original and most basic instrument and just imitated in symphonies, rock bands, etc. And the idea of expanding any discussion beyond English speakers to as many other peoples as possible is, well, just wonderful, even if I do or don’t agree with them.

    I wish I had a T1 line to stream, because facial expressions are so much of communication, they are like the movie to the sounds, they are the emotional expression accompanying the words, and they bring so much more to the conversation.

    So, best of luck to you, Krupa, and all who take part.

  5. 7 Subhash C Mehta
    March 17, 2010 at 07:16

    Digitally speaking, ‘SuperPower Nation’ is a great idea and a hopeful experiment by the BBC. However, I wish it to be a precursor to establishment and execution of suchlike ‘power-house’ at the global level, under the auspices of the UN – making it the futuristic ‘Super Nation’ of the world, with powers to order and/or implement measures/actions to solve the most urgent global problems, as and when they arise.

  6. March 17, 2010 at 12:20

    Salaam gang,
    An absolutely awesome project !!! Please make sure to put MY IRAQ on the agenda OK ? :)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  7. March 17, 2010 at 12:24

    Salaam again gang,
    The biggest issue in my Iraq nowadays is the parliamentary elections and the results of those elections that’ll decide the shape of the new government for 4 years ahead… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

    • March 17, 2010 at 12:54

      Some Iraqi people living in London have been invited to the town hall and I’m sure they’ll want to talk about the elections. I remember one of them telling me that when I phoned them. Hopefully they’ll still be discussing it during WHYS and we might hear them on air.

  8. 12 @guykaks
    March 17, 2010 at 12:57

    Brilliant idea!will you incorparate zulu language to this machine?I welcome the new ‘SuperPower Nation’

  9. 13 patti in cape coral
    March 17, 2010 at 13:05

    Good luck Krupa. I will be listening and waiting. I have often wondered if it would be able to hold a conversation with people who don’t speak English. I really hope it works out.

  10. 14 HH
    March 17, 2010 at 13:19

    An interesting topic, but only if approached from anything other than the already well-worn angle. It would be more interesting to understand the problems that result when individuals are translated by either a person or a machine. Quite apart from the obvious traps machines fall into (beautifully elucidated by Linda from Italy), language is loaded with cultural meaning, which not even every competent human translator can always succeed in grasping/conveying. I shall listen with interest and hope that the programme will make a fresh contribution to a debate that has otherwise already been exhausted.

  11. 15 Drake Weideman
    March 17, 2010 at 14:23

    It sounds like an excellent idea.

    As Linda from Italy pointed out, the translations may prove…interesting (if not out and out hilarious), at least for a while, and it will be similarly interesting to see if the translation programs can learn quickly enough to actually become functional.

    The participants naming their own agenda may be problematic…a thought may be that certain topics may require long-running conversations that are always available for comment (one of the good/bad aspects of WHYS is that the rules disallow commenting/responding to other posters, which prevents the name-calling attacks prevalent on other blogs, but also prevents a true interchange of ideas).

    I look forward to seeing how Superpower Nation works, and I will try to assist by participating if the idea does come to fruition…good luck!

  12. 16 doma
    March 17, 2010 at 14:28

    I’ll be interested in the results. I’m a professional translator, but occasionally use machine translation products just to get a jist of something in a different language to my professional languages, and the results are way past hilarious.

  13. 17 Ibrahim in UK
    March 17, 2010 at 15:32

    I think it is an excellent idea! As Linda so excellently pointed out, there’s bound to be fun and games with the translations (“prevented us to create employment opportunities”). Still, is definately a step in the right direction to bringing people together and sharing ideas and experiences.
    Would be interesting to hear Chinese opinions on the future of the world and the various conflicts.

  14. 18 Tom D Ford
    March 17, 2010 at 17:28


    That photo of the venue is interesting. I’d like to be on the balcony watching.

    Hmm, it would be like watching media as a sport. And just imagine a sports type commentator describing the action, what fun!

  15. 19 rob z.
    March 17, 2010 at 17:52

    Great! Finding new ways to bring people together to share points of view on anything and everything is the best way find what we all have in common.
    Happy St. Patty’s Day,or Excuse to Have a Pint Day!
    Robz in Florida.

  16. 20 Ronald Almeida
    March 17, 2010 at 21:28

    Super power nation.

    Even if it turns out to be a cacophony of tongues it will definitely be worth a try.
    One gets tired of the majority of monolingual voices and their set experiences even if the accents differ. Since language is the basic vehicle of all cultures and ideas, it tends to spread not only the good but more often the mediocre ones, which the majority is automatically synonymous with.

  17. 21 Ekerette-Alvin Ikpe
    March 17, 2010 at 21:29

    Eagerly waiting to see how this works out…Goodluck!!! (Not the Nigerian Leader)

    March 18, 2010 at 00:54

    what a world,may the lord have mercy on ghana because chiftancy in ghana is getting out of hand,the so called king of the GAS people and the arrogance of the Ashanti Hene, one day if the goverment does not act and stop this two kings men Ghana as we know will turn up side down.

  19. March 18, 2010 at 08:09

    This is brand new to me; so I will be looking at my kids and their kids for guidance and help:?

    With a lot to do and little time left to do it in, I feel like I am on an express (Steam) train, no big deal there because I always have been on one; anyway.

    The main point being, will this site do the job or me now, old and a bit tired may be? but as one of the most successful, “Tilter’s of Windmills” since the original Don Quixote, perhaps there is still time for another Tilt, or may be even two?

    Good luck to everyone, which ever way the cat jumps.

    Cheers H.

  20. 24 T
    March 18, 2010 at 12:28

    Sounds great. But a suggestion.

    Please be careful with the online translation tools. Most that I’ve used are way below what they should be. They can’t handle complex conversations and will only complicate what you’re trying for. Better to go with actual interpreters.

    Other than that, a very cool idea!

    • 25 Linda from Italy
      March 18, 2010 at 14:18

      Yes T, exactly the point I am making in my posts.
      Machine translation can’t even handle something as simple as a comment on a football match without producing utter gobbledygook, and misleading gobbledygook at that, also given that my example involves two Indo-European languages that share many structural similarities. So you can just imagine what this will do with more complex texts, in more distantly related languages, with all their individual cultural baggage.
      While I have to declare an interest as a professional translator, I do want to make a wider point about this whole “super power” theme, it has been driving me nuts on the WS for the last two weeks, as if technology is the answer to absolutely everything and the geeks and nerds are today’s prophets, medicine men and, heaven help us, philosophers, but who are in some ways also today’s snake-oil salesmen.
      I hope this whole theme will be taken up at some point by WHYS as a general discussion point.
      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to denigrate any attempt to bring people together and promote real communication, but unfortunately it’s not always that simple.

      • 26 Ronald Almeida
        March 18, 2010 at 15:16

        You are so right! It has taken humans ages to develop their languages and cultures. Todays technologists believe they can change or improve it all with one wave of their digital wand. Not that they have not done some remarkble work, but to go at it as if its the only solution to all the worlds problems is I think infantile.

  21. March 18, 2010 at 16:15

    A lot has been happening at our end lately. I wish you guys the very best.

  22. 28 Linda from Italy
    March 18, 2010 at 16:36

    My head is now well and truly in my hands, lovely idea, pity about the result my fears about MT have of course come true:

    From that burnin global issue the World Cup, apparently in Spanish “Vivo! Para exaltarte Jesús, Vivo! Para exaltarte Jesús. Cristo tú, Diste lo que nadie pudo dar, No importa más lo que dirán. Libre soy! FUERZA CHILE. = in English “Live! For Jesus to elevation, Live! For Jesus to elevation. Christ you, You gave him that no one could give more No matter what they say. Free me! FORCE CHILE”

    But apart from that, the content is just plain pathetic, meaningless, a gimmick, how could the Beeb make such idiots of themselves, led by the nose by the techno-conmen.

  23. 29 mers in oregon
    March 18, 2010 at 18:11

    Hello World! Wish I was with you there in London!!

  24. 30 Phyllis
    March 18, 2010 at 18:28

    Listening to WHYS. Ros id describing Romeo and Juliet and I am also watching it online.
    Isn’t this AWSOME

  25. 31 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    March 18, 2010 at 18:44

    While this is certainly an interesting idea I’m getting VERY confused with all the different people and all the different topics. I’d suggest you pick a couple topics and stick to them.

  26. 32 Tom D Ford
    March 18, 2010 at 18:57

    It seems like the music and the play are a distraction, they just make things chaotic.

    And I am not hearing any different languages speaking and being translated.

    I think I misunderstood what this was going to be.

    I thought that I would hear a speaker say something, hear it translated, and then hear someone respond in English or another language and hear it translated back into the original speakers language.

  27. 33 garth
    March 18, 2010 at 19:03

    greetings from trinidad and tobago,

    the big topic here is corruption, both in public and private sectors. specifically corruption in construction industry.

    ps.. LOVING the super power video stream!!

  28. 34 Parag
    March 18, 2010 at 19:51

    In India, Indian premier league is dominating the internet here. For the first time, in Youtube a sporting action (IPL) is shown live to millions of passengers. Whenever there is a IPL match, the IPL becomes the most search word in Twitter. In just three years, IPL has become one of the biggest league in the world in terms of money, popularity and being universal. After few years it would surpass other leagues like NFL, EPL, UEFA, NBA and make cricket a global game.

  29. 35 mountain adam portland oregon usa
    March 18, 2010 at 20:46

    If my rusty Deutche is correct Spuerpoewrnation ist der spitzenklasse!

  30. 36 Bert
    March 18, 2010 at 20:50

    This is so difficult to get right.

    First off, everyone has to have a tight focus one a fairly narrow topic. Otherwise, cacophony.

    Secondly, it will be hard to get people from different cultures to speak on any given topic from the same frame of reference. It’s a great experiment to try, but my sense is that the going-in assumptions and the perspectives, as seen from different cultures, could be way different.

    The other point is the one that Linda has been making, sort of. Which is, people express themselves in very different ways, in different languages and cultures. To get the translation intelligible, you really have to screw your head on differently. So for example, if an Italian wants to communicate a concept to an Englishman, even if doing so in Italian, he would not use the same words as he would when speaking to another Italian.

    It helps tremendously when one of the two parties is fluent in the other’s tongue, mainly because “being fluent” means understanding nuances, idioms, subtle references, acceptable use of expletives, acceptable levels of hyperbole, and on and on and on.

  31. March 19, 2010 at 12:06

    Super power may lead a nation towards the peak of rudeness.

  32. 38 Linda from Italy
    March 19, 2010 at 13:59

    Well, it came and it went and good riddance. A shameless hour-long advert for Google (mis)Translate, without proving the product is in any way functional, as everyone was speaking English on air and even the most hesitant speakers did a more effective job at communicating.
    Nice food (apparently), good music, a form of communication that really can cross boundaries and cultures, R & J in a mix of languages, fine as everyone knows the story, all in all a great party for all those in London able to attend – as a broadcast event, a big fat nothing.
    Re the content: a few potentially interesting conversations cut off before they could even get going notably: “Does nationality matter?” a genuinely contentious issue. Then there was the Greek Cypriot representing his people as suffering the same plight as the Palestinians – oh really?
    Vastly thrilling interview, “Who are you phoning?” pause, giggle, “My fiancé”, “Are you going to be good Muslim wife?” pause, giggle, pause, giggle “Yes”. Now we are all so much wiser!
    I quite agree that WHYS should have its lighter moments (the Tiger Woods debacle for example) but this was a complete waste of airspace and valuable BBC resources.

  33. 39 nora
    March 19, 2010 at 17:42

    Enjoyed the hubub noises, but mainly it points out that real life food, music and eye contact beat the hell out of the internet. Enjoyed the random passions of the randomly interviewed, and I enjoyed the idea of sharing the experience with lots of people around the globe.

    The technical side…as an Apple user, Firefox inadequacies forced me to spend a lot of time with ‘the spinning beach ball of death’ as script crashed and reloaded or was unavailable or unreadable. The networking that it took to pull it off will bear future fruits.

    Linda’s frustration with the shallow nature of discourse could inform future events.

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