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Translation may be one of the oldest professions in the world, but... it is also very much a product of its times. This course, in English, considers the practices that have been emerging from the convergence of contemporary technologies, the multilingual Web, the digital world, and translation. Students examine the cultural, social, linguistic, technical, institutional, political, and ideological aspects and issues that contribute to the transformation of the current digital world, and by extension, the professional and non-professional translation landscape. On one hand, the practices and flows of information and communication move across borders through technologies in a globalizing, digital world, giving way to a ‘digital transnationalism.' On the other hand, these digital flows of communication and information collide with geographical and political boundaries, forcing diverse stakeholders (governments, institutions, organizations, companies, civil society) to deal with physical borders and concepts in a digital space and ecosystem. These general trends, heightened by increasingly automated processes, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, have had a significant impact on translation as well — particularly through machine translation. In this course, we consider these trends from general digital world and translation studies perspectives.
Specific course description and objectives
The translation studies discipline is interdisciplinary by default. The contributing multiple disciplinary approaches continually provide new insights into translation as an object of inquiry. This is no less the case for the critical contextualization that is input from digital studies research. Current technologies and the ways we use them continue to transform how we communicate on a daily basis - including for translation-mediated communication. No technology or platform is ever ‘neutral'. Nor can computers, information and communication technologies (ICTs), mobile devices, the internet and Web still be defined as ‘new technologies’. Together, they are an integral, ubiquitous, pervasive, and guiding force in today's cultures and societies. As our societies are increasingly transformed into multi-level digital societies, the implications for our personal and professional lives are huge. They challenge us to think beyond easily constructed homogeneous categories or simplified concepts, and raise important questions about our forward trajectories.
How do the notions of ‘source' and ‘target' texts familiar to our translation discourse become problematic when the texts are ‘written' by automated agents and translated by machine translation (MT) apps? ‘Who' is responsible for ‘what' in a translation process that includes many diverse, networked social actors in the digital ecosystems - clients, programmers, language service providers, project managers, localizers, translators, revisers, quality control reviewers, among others? Indeed, how are automation and artificial intelligence (AI) changing their practices? What is the role of translation in a multilingual, globalized digital world where internet users perceive it as a simple, instant operation generated by a mere mouse-click or voice command? How do the trends that increasingly digitalize our markets and economies, labour skills and notions of work affect social integration, government policies and politics, and governance from a plurilingual, multicultural perspective in representative democracies? What is the role of ethics in digital societies, particularly with regard to AI and increasing robotization?
Although there may be more questions than answers at this point in time, it is critically important to begin our reflections and discussions on the relationships and dynamics underpinning our contemporary human lives mediated by technologies and the Web. In particular, the EU context serves as excellent ground on which to explore and discuss these questions, issues, and actions and what they ultimately mean for us, as students, practitioners, scholars, and human beings.
More specifically, in this course you will learn to:
Identify the characteristic features of translation communication in a digital context, both in terms of the technologies used and the diverse roles it plays;
Identify the various concepts and practices involved in the automation of translation processes, and the emerging roles of the ‘human in the loop';
Relate the information and communication practices and needs of the digital world to the domains of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and to the changing work place and environment, including post-COVID 19 challenges;
Historicize and contextualize the contemporary digital world in terms of internet governance, ‘digitality', and citizenship;
Assess the role and impact of artificial intelligence (AI) from the perspectives of ethics and building trust in human-AI relationships;
Evaluate the impact of ‘datafication' on society, and the means by which personal and professional (including language and translation) data can be protected;
Analyze the new and emerging roles of information and communication production and transmission (including those mediated through translation) in terms of digital world societies, economies, and governance, with a focus on EU dynamics.
Pedagogical assessment and evaluation
Pre-recorded segments will be posted a week in advance, before the next class. The recorded segments will be approximately 20 minutes and will highlight the main points to take into consideration for your weekly readings. They will be posted on our Moodle class site. Ensure you watch or listen to them before you begin your readings!
Readings comprise selected articles and book chapters. They are posted and accessible through links in our class Moodle site from the outset of the course. You will find details in the weekly portions of the site and in this syllabus. Please note that this course assumes a significant amount of reading. Make sure you have a look at the content in advance, so that you can plan ahead for the amount of time you will need during the week to read through the materials.
Comments on the weekly Moodle discussion forum should be posted at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled class time. Each week you are responsible for posting at least one substantive, informed comment for discussion on the readings. There are many angles from which to consider the reading content. We will bring your comments into the class discussion.
Class discussions at our scheduled class time will be synchronous and not recorded. They constitute an important space for articulating, clarifying, and critiquing ideas. This activity is also most helpful for working through the ideas you may want to use for your final research papers. The discussion period will likely run about 45 minutes on the scheduled class days.
Combined pre-recorded segment listening + class comments and discussions (40%)
Constitutes 40/100 points of final grade
Based on a total of 10 out of 13 weeks
Weekly calculation based on 4 points
Breakdown of 4 points:
Final research paper (60%)
Constitutes 60/100 points of final grade
Based on quality and respect of protocol (see below)
Breakdown of assessment categories:
"Excellent": originality; information highly relevant to the questions posed; highly critical and analytical; superior and judicious use of citations and supporting evidence
"Very Good/Good": clear argument and presentation; information generally relevant to the questions posed; good level of critical and analytical engagement with texts; very good use of citations and supporting evidence
"Satisfactory": spotty argument and presentation; information tends to be irrelevant to the questions posed; critical analysis is generally missing or faulty in logic; citations not always properly done and sources ambiguous
"Unsatisfactory": lack of coherent argument and presentation; information tends to be illogical and/or irrelevant; no or little critical analysis; improper use of citations
Final grade calculation (100%)
Calculated on the basis of 100 points = 100%
Breakdown of grading categories:
Excellent = A+ = 100-95 // A = 94-90
Very Good = A- = 89-85 // B+ = 84-80
Good = B = 79-75 // B- = 74-71
Satisfactory = C+ = 70-67 // C = 66-64
Unsatisfactory = C- = 63-60 // D+ = 59-57
Protocol for final research papers
You will need to reserve a 15-minute one-on-one individual meeting with me *by the end of March* to discuss your final research paper topic and method before you begin writing.
Papers may be submitted in English, or in French.
Please follow the Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition (EN) or TTR style guide (FR).
Papers should be a minimum of 20 pages in length, with an additional number of pages appropriate for your bibliography.
Use the standard default Calibri font set at 11. Include a cover page that states your name, student ID number, and title.
Critical tip! Good, clear, precise writing is a skill that is valued highly for professional work of all types in today's job market. Writing a paper requires adequate time for conceptualization and preparation. Think about the research topic you want to explore or the research question you want to address. It is helpful to map out in advance the points you wish to make. State at the outset how you will proceed, and define important terms and concepts. Synthesize and reference others to support or critique your statements.
Take care to reference and cite properly. Any and all passages that are plagiarized will be reported to the Department Chair, and the paper will receive an automatic failure. There is no need to resort to plagiarism. Our objective is to enhance the analytical, critical and writing skills you will need for future professional or academic work, so that you will feel confident in your own work. That purpose is defeated if you simply copy-paste someone else's words. See me in advance if you need assistance or guidance.
You do not have to translate any English or French quotes you include in the paper.
Papers are graded according to quality of argument, clarity of expression, proper use of terminology and concepts, and adequate, acceptable citation.
Detailed course content
Admin procedures, syllabus review, intro; bibliographic and reference sources
Preliminary discussion: Transformations in the contemporary world and translation landscape. What are the critical discourses of translation studies and digital studies? Conceptualizing the digital world in relation to translation. Envisioning the future.
Readings to prepare for next week's session 2:
Michael Cronin, “Globalization”, 213-218, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Third Edition, edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (Routledge, 2020)
Jaap van der Meer, “Translation technology-past, present and future”, 285-309, The Bloomsbury Companion to Language Industry Studies, edited by Erik Angelone, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow and Gary Massey (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)
Miguel A. Jimenez-Crespo, “Localization”, 299-304, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Third Edition, edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (Routledge, 2020)
Luis Perez-Gonzalez, “Fan audiovisual translation”, 172-177, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Third Edition, edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (Routledge, 2020)
Erik Angelone, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow and Gary Massey, “A-Z key terms and concepts”, 387-406, The Bloomsbury Companion to Language Industry Studies, edited by Erik Angelone, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow and Gary Massey (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)
Discussions on weekly readings: Translation practices and technologies in digital context. How have contemporary globalization and digital technologies changed the global information and communication environments? How do we use technologies for translation, and why do we use technologies specifically designed for translation?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 3:
Debbie Folaron, “Technology, technical translation and localization”, 203-219, The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Technology, edited by Minako O'Hagan (Routledge 2020)
Renee Desjardins, “Online and digital contexts”, 386-390, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Third Edition, edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (Routledge, 2020)
Julie McDonough Dolmaya, “Crowdsourced translation”, 124-129, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Third Edition, edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (Routledge, 2020)
Aline Remael and Nina Reviers, “Media accessibility and accessible design”, 482-497, The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Technology, edited by Minako O'Hagan (Routledge 2020)
Discussions on weekly readings: Translation practices and technologies in digital context. What new types of translation have emerged out of and because of digital and online environments? In what ways have the digital context caused translation priorities to shift?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 4:
Ethem Alpaydin, “Pattern Recognition”, 55-84, Machine Learning (The MIT Press, 2016)
Salvatore Giammarresi and Guy Lapalme, “Computer science and translation: Natural languages and machine translation”, 205-224, Border Crossings-Translation Studies and other disciplines, edited by Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer (John Benjamins, 2016)
Anthony Pym, “What are the best ways of working with machine translation?”, 160161, The MIME VADEMECUM-Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe, edited by Franpois Grin et al. (MIME Project 2018)
Anthony Pym, “Should machine translation be used when providing public services?”, 152-153, The MIME VADEMECUM-Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe, edited by Franpois Grin et al. (MIME Project 2018)
Dorothy Kenny, “Machine translation”, 305-310, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, Third Edition, edited by Mona Baker and Gabriela Saldanha (Routledge, 2020)
Ana Guerberof Arenas, “Pre-editing and post-editing”, 333-360, The Bloomsbury Companion to Language Industry Studies, edited by Erik Angelone, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow and Gary Massey (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)
Discussions on weekly readings: Machine translation is a ‘disruptor' within our world of traditional human translation. As a part of our translation communication expertise, we should try to understand some of its basic concepts and functionalities. Automation, human communication patterns, natural language processing in computing terms, and the types of errors generated by MT systems help contextualize. These same processes reflect dynamics specific to the ‘digital world'.
Readings to prepare for next week's session 5:
John Jordan, “How Do Humans and Robots Get Along?”, 181-217, Robots (The MIT Press, 2016)
John Jordan, “Future Directions”, 219-231, Robots (The MIT Press, 2016)
Finn Arne J0rgensen, “The Internet of Things”, 42-53, A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth (Wiley Blackwell, 2016)
Klaus Schwab, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, The Britannica Encyclopaedia (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2018)
MIT Technology Review Insights, “The promise of the fourth industrial revolution” (MIT Technology Review, 19 November 2020)
Johnson, Nicholas and Brendan Markey-Towler, “Introduction—How and why to understand the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Internet, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain (Innovation and Technology Horizons) (Routledge 2020)
Discussions on weekly readings: Sharing our personal and professional lives with automated devices communicating and interacting with one another in the digital ecosystem implies envisioning relationships with different benefits, drawbacks, rights, and responsibilities. How do we define, evaluate, and critique the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”? How can we articulate our own human agency in this complex context? What are the repercussions in global terms? And in terms of translation practice?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 6:
Jovan Kurbalija, “Introduction”, 5-32, An Introduction to Internet Governance, 7th Edition (Diplo Foundation, 2016)
Jovan Kurbalija, “The Legal Basket”, 123-146, An Introduction to Internet Governance, 7th Edition (Diplo Foundation, 2016)
Halavais, Alexander, “How Search Shaped and Was Shaped by the Web”, 242-255, The SAGE Handbook of Web History, edited by Niels Brugger and Ian Milligan (SAGE, 2019)
Discussions on weekly readings: Discussions on ‘who'/ ‘what' governs the internet have been ongoing for years. As internet and Web technologies become more profoundly embedded in our social, political, linguistic, and cultural realms, guiding the nature of our intertwined relationships, we can empower ourselves by understanding some of their mechanisms, biases, and power in order to better engage with them.
Readings to prepare for next week's session 7:
Jovan Kurbalija, “The Economic Basket”, 149-169, An Introduction to Internet Governance, 7th Edition (Diplo Foundation, 2016)
Adrian Athique and Vibodh Parthasarathi, “Platform Economy and Platformization”, 1-19, Platform Capitalism in India, edited by Adrian Athique and Vibodh Parthasarathi (Palgrave Macmillan 2020)
Discussions on weekly readings: Digital commercial transactions have become an integral part of economies, albeit in different forms, all around the world. Policy and legal jurisdictions are not always straightforward in the online world. What constitutes a digital economy, and which criteria and methods can be used to analyze it? Which features are ‘global' and which are ‘local'?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 8:
Sachin Waikar, “Preparing for the Future of Work”, blog entry 11 November 2020 (HAI Stanford University Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence)
World Economic Forum, “Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 World Insight Report” (May 2020)
World Economic Forum, “COVID-19 Social Enterprise Action Agenda” (September 2020)
MID-TERM BREAK (Mar 1–7)
Discussions on weekly readings: Conversations around the transformation of ‘the workplace' abound, especially as the world transitions through COVID times. In certain ways, the pandemic has accelerated changes already underway through technologies and globalization. How can human beings envision and aspire to meaningful work activity in a sustainable way? For millions of gig economy workers and outsourced professionals (including the translation industry), what options does the digital world give us?
Reading to prepare for next week's session 9:
Arne Hintz, Lina Dencik and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, “Citizenship in a Digital Age”, 20-41, Digital Citizenship in a Datified Society (Polity Press, 2019)
Nicholas Agar, “A Tempered Optimism about the Digital Age”, 155-173, How to Be Human in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press, 2019)
Luciano Floridi, “Introduction”, 1-3, The Onlife Manifesto-Being Human in a Hyperconnected Era (Open Access 2015)
Vincent Mosco, “Citizenship in a Post-Internet World”, 175-212, Becoming Digital- Toward a Post-Internet Society (Emerald Publishing, 2017)
Discussions on weekly readings: Our notions of citizenship, associated with the rights and responsibilities it entails, are also being revisited in light of the digital world. As various scholars have noted, our digital selves are data, gravitating within a digital universe of algorithms. How can our human selves prioritize aspects important for maintaining humanity in the face of automation, robotization, and datafication?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 10:
Plato: “The Allegory of the Cave”, Republic (VII)
Paul Marshall and Eva Hornecker, “Theories of Embodiment in HCI”, 144-158, The SAGE Handbook of Digital Technology Research, edited by Sara Price, Carey Jewitt and Barry Brown (SAGE, 2013)
Jeffrey Bardzell, “Critical and Cultural Approaches to HCI”, 130-143, The SAGE Handbook of Digital Technology Research, edited by Sara Price, Carey Jewitt and Barry Brown (SAGE, 2013)
Sara M. Grimes and Andrew Feenberg, “Critical Theory of Technology”, 121-129, The SAGE Handbook of Digital Technology Research, edited by Sara Price, Carey Jewitt and Barry Brown (SAGE, 2013)
Sydney J. Shep, “Digital Materiality”, 322-329, A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth (Wiley Blackwell, 2016)
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Peer Review”, 439-448, A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth (Wiley Blackwell, 2016)
Nicola Damassino and Nicholas Novelli, “Rethinking, Reworking and Revolutionising the Turing Test”, Minds and Machines, 30, 463-468 (2020)
Discussions on weekly readings: Evaluation of our digital selves warrants an analysis of human-computer and human-machine relationships. It also involves understanding our own ‘digital condition' - indeed, in order to better understand ourselves as individuals and as a society. As translators and translation scholars, we have experience navigating and mediating ‘difference(s)' in order to achieve understanding and communication. What insights can we bring to the discussions on human-machine relationships in the digital world?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 11:
European Commission High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (2020), “Assessment List for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (ALTAI) for self-assessment”
Zhenzhen Qi and Yang Wang, “The Future of AI: Is There a Place for Ambiguity?” (13 November 2020)
Abhishek Gupta, “Disability, Bias, and AI (Research Summary) (Montreal Artificial Intelligence Ethics Institute / MAIEI, 6 January 2021)
Abhishek Gupta, “Why civic competence in AI ethics is needed in 2021” (Montreal Artificial Intelligence Ethics Institute / MAIEI, 6 January 2021)
Luciano Floridi, “The Fight for Digital Sovereignty: What It Is, and Why It Matters, Especially for the EU”, Editor Letter, Philosophy & Technology journal, Vol 33, issue 3, September 2020
European Commission High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (2020), “Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI”
European Commission High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (2020), “Shaping Europe's Digital Future - Artificial Intelligence”
UNIVERSITY CLOSED (Apr 2–5)
Discussions on weekly readings: Artificial intelligence is occupying an important space in the discussions on civil society, and on its role in the translation industry too. How can ‘trust' be designed and built into human-machine relations in an ethical way? If algorithms pave the road to leanings of bias in automated processes, what effects can this have on automated translation - in particular MT freely available for us on the Web?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 12:
GDPR.EU (project co-funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union), “What is the GDPR, the EU's new data protection law?”
European Commission, “Protection of Your Personal Data”, Directorate General for Translation
Wouter Seinen and Jaap van der Meer, “Who Owns My Language Data? - Realities, Rules and Recommendations. A White Paper” (TAUS, February 2020)
Andrew Joscelyne, Jaap van der Meer, and §olen Aslan, “Language Data for AI” (TAUS, November 2020)
Joss Moorkens and Dave Lewis, “Research Questions and a Proposal for the Future Governance of Translation Data”, The Journal of Specialised Translation, Issue 32 - July 2019
Discussions on weekly readings: Personal and professional data, metadata, and the human and machine language data generated in translation. What protective measures can be implemented to safeguard privacy and confidentiality? In terms of the large corpora and big data being created on the basis of a language's use online, what are the implications both for major world languages and for minority, low-resource languages?
Readings to prepare for next week's session 13:
Francois Grin, “The MIME Vademecum: an Introduction”, 14-27, The MIME VADEMECUM-Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe, edited by Francois Grin et al. (MIME Project 2018)
Herman Wasserman, “African histories of the Internet”, 129-137, Internet Histories, edited by Niels Brugger, Gerard Goggin, Ian Milligan and Valerie Schafer (Routledge, 2018)
Mark McLelland, “Early Challenges to multilingualism on the Internet: the case of Han character-based scripts”, 119-128, Internet Histories, edited by Niels Brugger, Gerard Goggin, Ian Milligan and Valerie Schafer (Routledge, 2018)
Nicholas Ostler, “Introduction: Endangered languages in the New Multilingual Order per genus et differentiam”, 1-13, Endangered Languages and New Technologies, edited by Mari C. Jones (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
Mark O'Thomas, “Humanum ex machina-Translation in the post-global, posthuman world”, 284-300, Target 29:2 (2017)
Giuseppe Palumbo, “The Future of Translation and Translators in a Fast-Changing Economic and Technological Landscape”, 220-241, Translation and Localization-A Guide for Technical and Professional Communicators, edited by Bruce Maylath and Kirk St. Amant (Routledge, 2019)
Class submission: Final research paper due today through April 26
Discussions on weekly readings: Multilingual diversity in context of the digital world and technologies. How do we socially and politically organize? - Public values, equitable representation and participation, and social solidarity on digital platforms. Challenges, benefits, gaps in the EU context. Defining “translation” and redefining an ethics of translation for plurilingual, multicultural representation in the contemporary digital societies of the world.
Wrap-up: concluding thoughts
The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.