An Xiao Mina: Translating People: Crossing the Language Barrier in Social Media #STU08

This presentation was given on Thursday, 15th of December 2011, 11 pm GMT, by An Xiao Mina (aka “An Xiao”, her artist name), @anxiaostudio, an American design thinker and new media artist. She uses technology to build and empower communities through creative expression. She co-founded and directs the digital efforts of Bird’s Nest: Ai Weiwei in English, a translation site for Ai Weiwei’s Twitter account. Her work has been featured in venues internationally, from the Brooklyn Museum to Shanghai’s Xindanwei, and in publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, Art in America and CNNGo. Learn more at www.anxiaostudio.com or on Twitter at @anxiaostudio.

Links to further reading below.

Tweeter

An Xiao Mina

Room

#STU08

Welcome to yet another Twitter lecture! This is @ozonist, head and founder of The Swedish Twitter University, tweeting.
I’m going to let An Xiao Mina, @anxiaostudio, tweet for you in just a few minutes, but I have a simple reminder before she enters the stage.
Please add the #STU08 hashtag to any questions or comments you may have. That way all of us are able to see it.
That’s all I wanted to say! Now I hand over the account all the way to Manila and An Xiao Mina. Take it away!
Thanks Marcus! @anxiaostudio here, finishing up some work in Manila on my way back to Los Angeles. Hope everyone’s doing well. #STU08
I’ll start w an example. How many of you have heard of Tencent QQ? One of the world’s largest social networks: http://t.co/oj7EZ87U #STU08
@jacobchr
RT @anxiaostudio: Trying out a “Twitter lecture” with @SvTwuni in 10 mins. Topic: “Translating People: Crossing the Language Barrier in Social Media”. #STU08.
@ozonist
@svtwuni Heard of, but know of next to nothing. #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni #STU08 heard of it, but no account. Accounts on renren (china) and mixi (japan), however :-)
.@computermacgyve and @svtwuni say they’ve heard of it but know very little. Why is this? It’s had an English interface for a while. #STU08
@ozonist When did you hear about it? #STU08
@computermacgyve Interesting! How did you join Renren but not QQ? Curious what brought you to the service. #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni Yes, but not a lot of people I know use it. Same functionality elsewhere with more ppl in my soc net to contact. #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni renren through Chinese friends who were on the service (also study Chinese). Mixi from living in Japan; speaking Japanese. #STU08
@ozonist
@svtwuni Couple of years ago, while looking for alternatives to Facebook. They weren’t similar so I never looked deeper into it. #STU08
@computermacgyve Same for me. Despite interface, QQ was not so helpful until I met people who use it (mainly Chinese speakers). #STU08
@computermacgyve Interesting. Same for me: I only join social networks when I know people from the user base and their language. #STU08
@ozonist Yeah they’re vastly different networks, though they do serve a similar purpose: connecting people. #STU08
@ozonist
@svtwuni Certainly! #STU08
Consider other services like Mixi (which @computermacgyve uses), Cyworld, Orkut. English speakers *could* use them but don’t. #STU08
The same is true of Twitter. A lot of people *could* use Twitter, but they opt for other services. #STU08
It’s a basic reality: we by and large live in language ghettoes online. We only interact with those who speak a common language. #STU08
@computermacgyve
RT @SvTwuni: It’s a basic reality: we by and large live in language ghettoes online. We only interact with those who speak a common language. #STU08
@ozonist
RT @SvTwuni: It’s a basic reality: we by and large live in language ghettoes online. We only interact with those who speak a common language. #STU08
Well, duh, right? How can we talk to people if we don’t know what they’re saying? …but then again, what can we done? #STU08
Machine translation is not too effective yet. Try Google Translate with this simple phrase: 和谐社会吃河蟹 #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni #STU08 Yes. +Even when on same platform, users still isolate by lang: ie links b/w es, en, ja blogs bout Haiti http://t.co/4JWQNpUd
@jacobchr
RT @SvTwuni: It’s a basic reality: we by and large live in language ghettoes online. We only interact with those who speak a common language. #STU08
RT @computermacgyve: @SvTwuni #STU08 Yes. +Even when on same platform, users still isolate by lang: ie links b/w es, en, ja blogs bout Haiti http://t.co/4JWQNpUd
@computermacgyve Yeah! Twitter has multiple language worlds within, and people are often discussing similar topics. #STU08
@computermacgyve I once looked at parallel trending topics btw Spanish & English. Same content, diff languages. http://t.co/2BlSwnZx #STU08
@computermacgyve
RT @SvTwuni: @computermacgyve I once looked at parallel trending topics btw Spanish & English. Same content, diff languages. http://t.co/2BlSwnZx #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni #STU08 Very cool. Will read. Same topics, but fractured conversation with not everyone getting all/same info
Does 和谐社会吃河蟹 make any sense after machine translation? It’s missing something machines can’t do (yet): context and nuance. #STU08
@ozonist
@SvTwuni @computermacgyve Yes! I learned just a few weeks ago that Twitter lecturing is huge in Indonesia since many years. #STU08
@ozonist Love it! SE Asia has a huge social media user base, but few outside the region notice due to language barrier (+ time zones) #STU08
@computermacgyve Yes, and it happens all the time. #STU08
和谐社会吃河蟹 is a pun. Read more on that here http://t.co/T1SHeobI We still need humans to translate language for us. #STU08
With @aiwwenglish (the Twitter/Tumblr interface I co-founded), we focus on human translation, which includes contextualization. #STU08
@ozonist
@SvTwuni Huge user base alright: I was pointed to Indonesian Twitter users that regularly did twitlectures that had 100k followers! #STU08
@tsuei
RT @SvTwuni: Does 和谐社会吃河蟹 make any sense after machine translation? It’s missing something machines can’t do (yet): context and nuance. #STU08
We chose a basic design for http://t.co/wpIDtDhv and simplified the translation process for contributors. #STU08
@ozonist That’s fantastic! And yet how often have English speakers heard of this? I love it! #STU08
The simple design and functionality allow us to show context and meaning, on top of the basic challenge of translation. #STU08
We did only minor promo, but our rapid growth in followers (@aiwwenglish has 7k+) shows a need and interest in translated tweets. #STU08
There are other examples. @meedan has a sophisticated translation system combining machines and people: http://t.co/ivGEB751 #STU08
Yeeyan has a rich community interface for bringing English-language news into Chinese: http://t.co/CjunRZam #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni #STU08 What I like about @meedan and @aiwwenglish is that user can see both langs at once. esp. in @meedan when using machine trans
Xiha Life uses real-time translation. And it’s surprisingly effective for basic conversations: http://t.co/lCWpu2rn #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni #STU08 Also @duolingo very cool. learn a language and help translate web content. http://t.co/ysEOMAeN
@edbice
RT @computermacgyve: @SvTwuni #STU08 What I like about @meedan and @aiwwenglish is that user can see both langs at once. esp. in @meedan when using machine trans
Translation is often hard. But we can design social media interfaces that make it easy for translators to contribute and share. #STU08
@computermacgyve Yes we felt that was a critical design feature for full transparency. Translation is always up for interpretation. #STU08
RT @computermacgyve: @SvTwuni #STU08 Also @duolingo very cool. learn a language and help translate web content. http://t.co/ysEOMAeN
@ozonist
RT @SvTwuni: Translation is often hard. But we can design social media interfaces that make it easy for translators to contribute and share. #STU08
@computermacgyve Nice – that does look very cool. A great way to tap into language learners too! #STU08
Facebook has a new translation featured embedded in the site. @meedan wrote up why this could be so important: http://t.co/so0B56ns #STU08
This is the difference btw translating interfaces and translating people. The former is largely complete but the latter is lagging. #STU08
@ozonist
RT @computermacgyve: @SvTwuni #STU08 Also @duolingo very cool. learn a language and help translate web content. http://t.co/ysEOMAeN
It should be as easy to translate messages on social media as it is to share a link or post a comment. #STU08
Thank you, 谢谢,gracias and tack så mycket for tuning in! Follow me on @anxiaostudio to continue the discussion. #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni & posting a translation should keep the conversation thread intact. users in both langs should know of it + where from #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni @anxiaostudio ありがとう, 谢谢 #STU08 Great lecture.
@ozonist
@anxiaostudio Thank you very much! #STU08
RT @computermacgyve: @SvTwuni & posting a translation should keep the conversation thread intact. users in both langs should know of it + where from #STU08
@computermacgyve Yes, I agree. Full transparency is key for successful translation online, esp with social media and real-time #STU08
@computermacgyve Thank you so much for tuning in! #STU08
@ozonist Thank you for having me! #STU08
@Digitalmannen
@SvTwuni isn’t a near real time imperfect machine translation better than a late (but better) human translation? #STU08
@ozonist
@SvTwuni @anxiaostudio @computermacgyve Is this leading towards an augmented social media reality where everyone speaks same lang? #stu08
@ozonist
@SvTwuni @anxiaostudio @computermacgyve I can think of quite a few problems with such a development… #stu08
@computermacgyve
@Digitalmannen @SvTwuni Human trans / machine trans not mutually exclusive. MT first + human trans later if warranted is one approach #STU08
@ozonist @anxiaostudio @computermacgyve That’s one possibility, but I find myself agreeing with Clive Thompson, who argued it will… #STU08
@ozonist @anxiaostudio @computermacgyve …actually preserve language. The translations will be a tool only. http://t.co/Wfl3P9TT #STU08
@computermacgyve
@ozonist @SvTwuni @anxiaostudio don’t think should force this direction but design can allow 4 easier crossing of lang where usr want #STU08
@ozonist
@SvTwuni @anxiaostudio @computermacgyve Yes, let’s aim for that! :) #STU08
@ozonist
@computermacgyve @SvTwuni @anxiaostudio It’s been quite interesting! Thank you (both) for discussion. #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni @ozonist @anxiaostudio Yes. trans/design can preserve, enrich languages I hope while giving access to more/broader content #STU08
@computermacgyve @Digitalmannen Yes I think that’s often the best solution – “augmented translation” as @ozonist said. #STU08
@computermacgyve @ozonist Yes, translation is often not needed but there are times when user need is great, esp. during crises. #STU08
@ozonist @computermacgyve @anxiaostudio Agreed! #STU08
@computermacgyve @ozonist I agree that would be the ideal aim of translating people – building bridges and preserving culture. #STU08
@Digitalmannen One big problem with machine translation is inaccuracy. This can be particularly problematic in crisis situations. #STU08
@Digitalmannen But as @computermacgyve said, they’re not mutually exclusive. Machine translation can be followed up by humans. #STU08
@computermacgyve
@SvTwuni @ozonist esp. during crises: great example in trans of txt messages following Haiti earthquake from Creole to Eng #STU08
@ozonist
RT @SvTwuni: @Digitalmannen One big problem with machine translation is inaccuracy. This can be particularly problematic in crisis situations. #STU08
@computermacgyve @ozonist Yes that was a powerful and critical moment that showed critical need for translation. #STU08
.@anxiaostudio signing out. Thanks everyone for tuning in! #STU08

Further readinG

http://meedan.org/2011/10/why-facebooks-latest-feature-release-could-be-the-most-important-yet/ 

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ethan_zuckerman.html

 

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