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Type Research Diary, part I

I've been spending a lot of time in language classes recently.

Asking myself whether eight or eight thirty in the morning is the best time to inflict the linguistic convolution that is Arabic on the willing, yet sleepy brain, I am late. I also have ample opportunity to refresh my memory of the Freie Universities corridors. They remain badly lit and carpeted with red. Which, in the green light, looks like it might just about come alive and swallow an unsuspecting student at any given moment.

I am currently squating on one of those carniverous carpets, preparing questions that will be asked of students learning Arabic at a slighlty later date. These questions pertain to culture, cultural expectations, cultural paralells and differences. These very cultural questions are being prepared in hope of obtaining answers that will illuminate the Franks view on a people that have been an integral part of European history for more than a housand years: the Arabs.

It has, unfortunately, become very easy, even fashionable to obtain views on Arabs. A news cyle of sheiks, angry beturbaned people, suspiciously bearded speakers and the ever- present disgruntled palestinian provide the most casual viewer with enough connections and associations to discuss for hours on end.

With this in mind, the decision to interview pursuants of Islamic studies came quickly, the hope being that they may, over time have aquired a more informed view of what has been termed "the Arab world". Their bias as Europeans, studying a completly foreign culture and language may prove to be different from the opinion on the street (which, in Kreuzberg is more likely to be expressed in Arabic than German).

My inner typographer likes this assignment as well. The second goal, as yet slighlty nebulous, is an exploration of bilingual typography in Arabic and Latin letters in print and pixel form. Being familiar with their coursebooks, valiantly designed in MS Word, I intend to begin asking the question of how to improve on their current state, moving on to a broader exploration of Arabic- Latin type from there.

But back to that creepy carpet. It is a quarter past eight in the morning, coffee has not yet been invented in this venerable institution and I am late for class.


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