In Other Words: Crowdsourcing Translation for a Video-Driven Web

Jonathan Munar, USA , Susan Chun, USA

Published paper: In Other Words: Crowdsourcing Translation for a Video Driven Web

Public-serving organizations such as museums, educational institutions, and other arts producers have in recent years embraced video as a critical medium for communication. Video provides an opportunity to serve not only our local communities, but also national and international audiences. Nonetheless, the majority of arts-related video content is distributed with only English-language audio. When this happens, we fail to serve two significant audiences: non-English speakers and the hearing-impaired.

Transcription and crowdsourced translation provide the opportunity to serve these audiences, addressing issues of global access, accessibility, and community engagement. Crowdsourced translation begins with same-language transcription and captioning, which also makes content accessible to hearing impaired visitors. Community building and engagement follow, as volunteers translate the same-language transcription. Volunteers who contribute translations do so to make meaningful content accessible to their own communities; to contribute their time and expertise to an organization that they believe in; and to gain recognition for themselves. As more translated captions are published, videos become accessible to larger audiences, injecting ideas and information into new communities and building bridges between communities.

The translation process also sparks a different kind of conversation amongst community managers and volunteers, discussing not only the ideas within a video, but also the particulars of language and phrasing. Contemplating ideas at the level of language offers the opportunity to gain an intimate understanding of the subject matter, generating a well-deliberated translation from a community of thinkers.

This paper will explore the impact of crowdsourced translation using case studies from organizations that have either launched or are in the process of launching open translation projects. Art21, a New York-based non-profit contemporary art organization, screens its films in museums, libraries, and community centers throughout the world. Partnering with the Participatory Culture Foundation, the non-profit creators of the Amara platform, it will launch an open translation project in January 2013. The Amara toolset—which uses a community of volunteers to create and display multi-language video captioning—currently powers open translation projects at organizations such as TED, PBS NewsHour, Coursera, and the Khan Academy. Conservation Reel, a video platform funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, gathers videos of interest to museum and conservation professionals and students involved in conservation and collections care. The Conservation Reel team plans to combine auto-captioning and translation tools with crowdsourced mediation to deliver multilingual content to an international community of practitioners. One key goal of the project is to catalyze real-time discussion amongst far-flung members of the conservation community. To do so, it is developing tools to support better translation of user comments, hoping to extend the value of multilingual captioning by facilitating conversation around the platform’s content.

The presenters will outline the dramatic growth of multilingual video content online and describe current tools for producing crowdsourced translations, transcriptions, and subtitles. The presentation and paper will analyze the effects that crowdsourced captioning and translation may have upon new and existing audiences, predict future developments in crowdsourced translation, and consider the long-term potential of video translation tools for the cultural heritage community.