This topical reference page on "Technology and Society" has been inspired by the W3C's Technology and Society Domain, which seeks to develop "technical building blocks that help address critical public policy issues on the Web." For the moment I have no articulate statement to describe my conscious motives, so I quote as germane the mission statement from W3C's domain:
"Technical building blocks available across the Web are a necessary, though not by themselves sufficient to ensure that the Web is able to respond to fundamental public policy challenges such as privacy, security, and intellectual property questions. Policy-aware Web technology is essential in order to help users preserve control over complex policy choices in the global, trans-jurisdictional legal environment of the Web. At the same time, technology design alone cannot and should not be offered as substitutes for basic public policy decisions that must be made in the relevant political fora around the world."
SGML/XML Markup and Multilingualism
Unicode, high-quality fonts, standard markup conventions for declaring a natural-language property on text elements, inheritance on instance hierarchies, and other facilities provide better opportunities for language-specific processing. Obstacles still remain in the path to a multilingual Web. Computing systems are becoming more culture- and language-aware, but are still astonishingly parochial. Multilingual computing begins with the recognition that almost every piece of text (human language as written) is in fact "in" some language, and usually in a natural language. Getting sensible results from a computer requires that the computer know what language every piece of text is "in". We have a long way to go...
See: "Markup and Multilingualism."
Patents, Royalties, and Monopolies in the Realm of Web Standards
Should the Internet's technology infrastructure remain free of royalty-bearing patents? How do patent claims upon core technologies influence (enhance, subvert) the development and adoption of standards for the Web?
See: "Patents and Open Standards."
Digital Rights Management Languages
Who should be in control of policies for rights and permissions in the vicinity of your personal computer? Whose power is protected by DRM systems? Who is rewarded? Whose creative opportunities and fair-use rights are restricted by DRM systems? What about DRM built into OSs and hardware chips so that no matter what applications level software you run (or create), you are told at critical junctures: "I'm sorry, I can't do that: I do not recognize your software application nor the hardware device as trusted. You see: even though you think you own the computer hardware (because you acquired it by purchase), you don't; I cannot allow you control at root level." That's Palladium.
Conformance to standards helps ensure interoperable computing solutions -- but all parties need to participate in meeting the goal. What should be subject to conformance testing?
Making information accessible on small devices, multi-modal devices, and to users with natural/locale limitations...
The people of Florida were asked: "Would you trust a computerized voting system that works like the touch-screen information kiosk found in major airports (i.e., more than you trust the mechnical punch-card voting machines)." Hmmm... Arguably, it's not that difficult...
See: XML and Voting (Ballots, Elections, Polls)
Vocabularies for Tax Information
Could there be substantial savings to municipal, state, federal, and international governments from automated talk-to-each-other accounting and tax systems? Wonder if some of the savings could be passed along to taxpayers? Intuit (on a small scale) is trying to make this work for the individual; so is the UK government...
See: "XML and Taxes."