There is a radical disjuncture between the western, Roman, alphabetic system of inscription and the Chinese, character-based system.
The atomic structure of written language and, I would argue, language-as-such differs in the two centers of 'language and civilization.' (I lean heavily and happily on Derrida in taking this view.) These differences are translated to digital media because linguistic structure itself -- not simply linguistic 'data' -- is transcribed by the entire historical process of digitization, taken to include the design of computing systems and data structures, not merely the actual transcription of cultural objects into bits and bytes. Basically, our programmatological systems reflect their derivation from an alphabetic system of linguistic inscription. Thus, I can easily use existing programming systems to manipulate western language in ways which correspond to encoded structures which are approximately 'faithful' to the language. It is easy to refer to letters as constituent of words, for instance. By contrast, it would be difficult, using existing systems in a straightforward way, to refer to the constituents of Chinese characters. Inevitably, in the first instance, while developing ideas and programs for text manipulation, I have taken advantage of the encoded structures of western language. I remain sharply aware that I am complicit with a privileged symbolic structure in doing so, recognizing that digitization could have been very different, commensurate with characters rather than letters. A recognition of this problematic underlies my most recent finished piece, 'riverIsland,' which might otherwise be read as some sort of transcultural pastoral/lyric poetic exercise.
- from an interview with Brian Kim Stefans
see also: Cayley, John. "Digital Wen: On the Digitization of Letter- and Character-Based Systems of Inscription." In Reading East Asian Writing: The Limits of Literary Theory, edited by Michel Hockx and Ivo Smits, 277-94. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.