Fansubbing in China: Technology-facilitated activism in translation

Dingkun Wang and Xiaochun Zhang

This paper seeks to explore the socio-political tensions between freedom and constraints in the Chinese fansubbing networks. It approaches the development of fansubbing in China as a process of technology democratisation with the potential to liberate ordinary citizens from authoritarian and commercial imperatives, enabling them to contest official state domination. The paper draws on the strategies adopted by fansubbing groups to organise their working practices and interactive social activities with a view to engaging target audiences. Both facets complement each other and bring to the fore the ‘gamified’ system of fansubbing networks. Gamification enables ordinary citizens to translate, distribute and consume foreign audiovisual products in a strategic move that pits collective activism against government dominance.

Table of contents

Translation technology has broadened the spectrum of translation scholarship and blurred the boundaries between professional and non-professional fields (Pérez-González and Susam-Saraeva 2012). As a response, research in translation studies has begun to analyse the interplay between human and non-human agents in the process of translation as well as the influence of such interplay on the outcome of translation (Bowker 2006; Moorkens et al. 2014; Olohan 2011). Given the increasing importance of translation technologies, the acquisition of technological skills is deemed key to the development of translation competence (Quah 2006). Even so, despite the ever greater automation envisaged by machine translation technology (Kenny 2011), new technologies and tools such as translation memories are unlikely to replace human translators. Computer-aided translation practice has, rather, increasingly become “a decentered process conducted by teams of people linked electronically through technological systems” (Tymoczko 2005, 1089), where the shift from the individual to the group is a consequence of the “increased networking and interdependence of the world” (Tymoczko 2009, 401). Fansubbing exemplifies this shift, and it pushes (traditional) ethical and (commercial) copyright boundaries (Dwyer 2012).

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