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Potvin, S., Ortega, É., Galina, I., Gil, A., O'Donnell, D., Williams, P., Borovsky, Z., Shirazi, R., Coble, Z., Worthey, G. (2016). Translation Hack-a-thon!: Applying the Translation Toolkit to a Global dh+lib. In Digital Humanities 2016: Conference Abstracts. Jagiellonian University & Pedagogical University, Kraków, pp. 941-943.
Translation Hack-a-thon!: Applying the Translation Toolkit to a Global dh+lib

Translation Hack-a-thon!: Applying the Translation Toolkit to a Global dh+lib

Efforts to forge a global digital humanities community are continually hampered by linguistic divides. Fiormonte argues that non-Anglo American DH is largely ignored by the dominant Anglo-American hegemony in the field: “But from the point of view of the scientific results, research projects, and institutional presence, Informatica Umanistica, like most of the “other” DH practiced in the world, practically doesn’t exist“ (Fiormonte, 2012). Rockwell asserts that lack of access to this “other” DH diminishes DH as a whole: “...it is precisely when thinkers make strange what you thought you knew that you can think about it afresh. This would be thinking-through translation. This is the message Domenico Fiormonte returns us to when arguing for multiculturalism in the digital humanities” (Rockwell, 2016).

Even when many aspects of global DH practices are not dependent on language, especially within a scholarly community that has adopted a lingua franca, multilingual translation is a productive avenue to explore the situatedness and locality of global DH work. It is also an indispensable basis to interlink peripheral, border, global south DH practice with mainstream and canonical DH work (Ortega, 2016). Galina poses language as a potential mode of inclusiveness, given the dominance of a few countries/institutions and English language in DH, a dominance that is reflected from academia writ large. She suggests: “… there are some indicators that there is an interest by the main DH organizations of proposing alternative models that can, if not solve, at least alleviate this phenomenon. There are two approaches: the first is making more information available in other languages and the second is making English, used as the lingua franca, more accessible to non-native speakers“ (Galina, 2014).

How can we move beyond a monolingual DH, and promote exchange of works among linguistic communities? And how can we ensure this exchange is ongoing and sustainable? This hack-a-thon brings together practitioners from two ADHO SIGs-- Global Outlook::Digital Humanities and the Libraries and DH SIGs--and a primarily monolingual dh community project-- dh+lib -- in an attempt to hack a solution. The half-day hack-a-thon will work on a pilot that models a translation process for a particular publication, dh+lib, that could be applicable to other scholarly communication vehicles and venues. The group will think through existing infrastructure, address questions around translation, labor, and design, and perform hands-on translation of works nominated by the DH and libraries community. Translation is, of course, more art than science, and any attempt to build a multilingual dh/libraries exchange must acknowledge the complexity of the undertaking. Thus the hack-a-thon builds upon previous translation exercises put into practice by both SIGs and dh+lib, like DH Whisperers (Ortega et al., 2015) and simultaneous bilingual publication of blog posts (Galina et al., 2015).

Despite the clear need for and benefit of broader translation in the DH community, translation is shied away from, perhaps due to a perceived inability to deal with the associated costs or develop the necessary skills. By applying the Translation Toolkit developed by GO::DH, the hack-a-thon will position translation as achievable. The Translation Toolkit gathers a catalogue of readily available tools and suggested practices to approach the sometimes daunting task of translating and preparing multilingual resources, whether at conferences, in editorial and authorial journal work, and website and resource developments. During the hack-a-thon, participants will be able to explore and put into practice the materials available in the toolkit in order to launch the translation exercises and the design of sustainable multilingual workflows at the center of the session. Further, the Translation Toolkit proposes translation and multilingual exchanges based on distributed community efforts like those put into practice by dh+lib.

The focus on dh+lib as a pilot project is notable. A community publication project, dh+lib was launched in 2012 by a group of librarians to enable exchange at the intersection of digital humanities and librarianship. dh+lib has enjoyed support from the Association of College & Research Libraries and the ADHO Libraries and DH SIG. The project includes an active site, featuring original posts, a weekly Review round up (using the PressForward curation tool and a multi-tiered process of editorial review), and resource pages. More than 200 volunteers and 50 authors have contributed to the site; according to GoogleAnalytics, more than 38,000 users have accessed the site. Modeled on DHNow, the Review engages volunteer editors-at-large, who develop conversance with current scholarship in digital humanities while using their Library and Information Studies expertise to bring important work by libraries to a broader audience. Editors come from a variety of professions, disciplines, and institutions (both within and outside the United States), and form a distributed community of practice connected through the collaborative hub of this participatory project. This, then, provides an ideal use case to test out the mechanisms of collaborative translation: how would a multilingual dh+lib function? Could this editorial system of nomination and curatorial intervention be extended to operate as a translation hub?

Building in translation as a feature of aggregation and community-based distribution will benefit the global DH community by facilitating timely cross-linguistic exposure and dialogue. Since its approval as an ADHO SIG, GO::DH has sought to “leverage the complementary strengths, interests, abilities and experiences of participants through special projects and events, profile and publicity activity, and by encouraging collaboration among individual projects, institutions, and researchers” (Global Outlook::Digital Humanities, n.d.). The collaborative hack-a-thon seeks to take full advantage of both SIGs’ pre-existing communities, the multilingual and translations initiatives previously put into practice, and the content nomination practices of dh+lib. The convergence of expertise will allow us to investigate approaches for sharing the labor of translation and making use of existing channels.

This hack-a-thon will prepare attendees to engage in translation work and will continue conversations around translation practices and existing workflows. It will offer participants practical and adaptable approaches to developing comfort with and practices around translation in their own institutions and endeavors. Additionally, it will provide the workshop presenters with feedback from potential users, which will help guide development of both the Translation Toolkit and a more international dh+lib.

We anticipate that this event, situated as it is at the beginning of DH2016, will stimulate conversations on translation and linguistic diversity that will permeate other conference events. We further expect that it will connect participants in both SIGs and serve as the basis for an ongoing collaboration throughout the year on translation workflows. We envision hosting follow-up sessions in Montreal in 2017 and Mexico City in 2018 to regroup, report progress, and continue to articulate strategies for increasing translated material among our communities, publications, and projects.

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