Variability in naming
Database challenges in multicultural and multilingual settings
Personal names are variable. Individuals may refer to themselves and be referred to in different ways depending on the social situation. In multilingual and multicultural settings, potential variation in personal names is even more challenging. It arises from cultural contrasts in naming conventions and from structural contrasts between languages. The range of name variations poses real challenges for the information systems that are central to social life, because identifying individuals uniquely is essential to their functioning. Consistent and appropriate representation of a particular name in a data store improves the likelihood that that person’s medical records or banking records or job application can be found at a later date. However, ensuring the consistent representation of a name is not entirely under an individual’s control because he or she may not be the one to enter the name into the database and the database may not be designed in a way that permits the name to be represented appropriately. Database management is especially challenging in settings that are culturally diverse. The consistent handling of names requires their appropriate cultural interpretation.