Digital Translations and the Production of Knowledge about China: Ethnography and Action Research

DigiTrans Project

The digitisation of culture and the production of knowledge through online media are transforming social and cultural realities. Activities and sectors such as the publishing industry, education resources and any kind of access to learning have experienced radical transformations. Translation plays an essential—albeit often invisible—role in this new production of knowledge. DIGITRANS studies how the combination of digital materiality and translation (new processes, new agencies and roles of translators and other actors, their interactions and negotiations) are changing the landscape of the production of knowledge. This strand of research opens up new possibilities for social impact in areas such as formal and informal education, and cultural literacy. To contribute to this pioneering field, DIGITRANS will study a particular area of knowledge: digital resources about China. In particular, the team will study and develop digital materials and initiatives on contemporary Chinese literature, as literature is a powerful tool to learn about other cultures.

DIGITRANS brings innovation by adopting an ethnographic interventional approach, through an action research methodology. The project lies in the intersection of separate disciplines such as Translation Studies, Ethnography, Action Research and Area Studies. In addition to conducting ethnographic research both online and offline (participant observation, fieldnotes, interviews, focus groups) on three case studies, the research team will liaise with stakeholders and the general public, such as publishers, educators, intercultural mediators, and lifelong learners to promote intercultural understanding and diversity.

The three connected case studies, which have been selected for their hybrid nature and profound social impact, will provide evidence from various types of knowledge production and dissemination: 1) Wikipedia (examining and creating entries on contemporary Chinese authors), 2) a cultural initiative that promotes Chinese literature in translation (examining their activities, translations, interactions) and 3) the online platform of an imprint participating in the translation of an ebook to document the process in vivo. The research team will examine the collaborative practices, translation processes, interactions, agencies and roles of translators and other actors. The three case studies will lead to an impact and outreach stage. In the outreach stage, the research team will design workshops and a competition at secondary schools and Cultural Centres located in districts with a high Chinese migrant presence in Barcelona (Fondo, Fort Pienc). The target audience will include citizens from those districts, including second-generation Chinese immigrants. In collaboration with an intercultural mediator, DIGITRANS will conduct a questionnaire and assess the effectiveness in connecting the Chinese community with Spanish readers (by assessing the knowledge acquired by the participants and their perceptions about Chinese culture and digital tools before and after the activities).

The DigiTrans project is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (PID2020-119957RJ-I00/AEI/10.13039/501100011033)

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