Post-Research Workshop Responses: UCL

Tapping the Power of foreign Films – Audiovisual Translation as Cross-cultural Mediation
Research Workshop Event 2 – UCL 09.11.2016

Post-workshop responses

Maria Pavesi (University of Pavia)

I found the whole reception workshop very rich and stimulating, an excellent complement to the first workshop on description. The various contributions took different perspectives to the issues of reception and audience responses, from audiovisual translation to film studies, media psychology, cognitive and experimental translation studies, subtitling, audiodescription, dubbing and language learning, hence bringing to the fore the current relevance and the social impact  of this line of investigation. Marie-Noelle opened the workshop with a very timely overview that created the necessary link to previous and future work in the network while highlighting the necessary relationship between description and reception in AVT research. Her three-phase research cycle (Reception - Interpretation - Responses) was particularly inspiring  and set linguistic and cultural representation back on the agenda. Among the inspiring topics, issues and suggestions emerged during the workshop I found particularly thought-provoking  the notion of film reading as either a spontaneous  or an induced activity. The notion is connected to audiovisual literacy, to be promoted in a world where people are increasingly less involved in traditional reading activity. But not all audiovisual texts are comparable in terms of the role  the audio, the visual, the verbal and non-verbal components play in them, a fact which once again emphasises  the necessity to couple description with reception. However, different methodologies are required by these two interconnected research avenues as very well illustrated by several contributions. The wealth of innovative methodological approaches and tools presented by the workshop participants was in my view the most significant aspect of the workshop. Among other assets, it opened up a variety of possibilities to carry out research in reception also from the perspective of language learning. In this respect, I found the illustration of multidimensional measurements including immersion and cognitive load scales particularly useful together with the work on questionnaire construction and evaluation. Very refreshing was the emphasis on methodological rigour and quantitative as well as qualitative data-driven research.

As for my understanding of the options of follow-up projects, I was quite keen on so called Option 2, which I see as an opportunity to work on description as well as reception and perhaps to focus on different topics apart from or together with characterization. I am thinking for example about  multilingualism, which was dealt with quite extensively in our discussion stemming from the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona and which may include several subtopics. Having said that, I could be interested in taking part in a bigger, international project (Option 1), especially if it can be related to language learning issues and I think that longer term EU – Horizon 2020 calls are definitely worth looking into.

Louise Fryer, describer

I found this a very stimulating session providing an opportunity to link a variety of approaches from different areas of AVT. It was valuable to be able to introduce my research and research methodology to phD students, as well as experts in the field. I particularly enjoyed meeting Patrick Zabalbeascoa,whose papers I had read but whom I had never met in person. I could see how his subtitling/dubbing research could be adapted to audio description. I also enjoyed catching up with old colleagues from a number of countries. The mix of interests and languages was especially rich. The structure was fluid enough that more interesting conversations were be curtailed but were allowed to continue longer. The hubbub of discussion in the room showed how valuable it was for others as well as me. It might have been preferable to have a venue with multiple small rooms so that films and examples could be watched without sound interference or fear of distracting others but overall I think the workshops illustrated the full potential for foreign films as a valuable resource for research and I am certain that bonds forged in this short but intensive session will lead to fruitful collaborations in the future.

Keith Johnston (UEA)

Reflecting on the day I attended (research workshop first day), I think it is interesting that these are not debates that necessarily appear in much Film/TV/Media Studies work (or, at least, not that I am aware of – I wonder if it maybe appears in terms of individual national cinemas work). I was initially quite conscious of being the ‘Film Studies’ person in the room (along with Griseldis) but I think that gave me a very different (and hopefully useful) perspective on some of the areas we were discussing. I’ve also attached an updated version of my (brief) slides from my opening presentation – updated with some relevant links / citations.

I definitely found it all very stimulating and, while I am very conscious of my own time (not least while juggling my own current 3-year project), the ideas we came up with around researching European audience(s) understanding(s) of / response(s) to AVT (subtitling/dubbing/audio description) do still seem potent to me, a few days later. I will help where I can in pulling relevant people into the network and/or grant bid, if that is useful, as I am sure they could help us expand our growing knowledge of these different approaches and methodologies.

The highlight of my attendance was definitely getting a glimpse into a parallel (but heretofore unheralded) interest within the study of media, and one that I hope I can espouse to my colleagues in the coming weeks.

Griseldis Kirch (SOAS)

Prior to attending the event, I have tended to be quite cautious about reception studies. My scepticism stemmed from the issues surrounding reception, the changeability of its nature and that consumption of a mediated product is very much rooted in the reality of one's own circumstances and political inclinations. Readings of mediated products can also change over time - watching productions at several stages during one's life, for example, will significantly alter how one relates to it. Therefore, a 'reading' or, the reception of a mediated product, is never set in stone. Furthermore, by asking questions, the danger to superimpose one's own views onto the reading process of the interviewees, is a problem that is hard to overcome without endangering the results. 

However, doubtlessly, audio-visual media are very powerful and can help shape people's perception of 'the world'. By asking 'us' to identify with certain characters, sceneries, settings, we may (mostly unconsciously) aspire to emulate the role models presented to 'us'. Particularly when the consumption of an audio-visual production from another country comes into play, it may help us shape our views about this country, because we might mistake it as 'real'. In other words, watching a Japanese film might have an influence on how Japanese culture is viewed, simply by virtue of the film having been produced in Japan. While an increased media-literacy (in, for example, making more evident how framing and thus representation works, in addition to how the overall industry works and what kind of filter they create), would be desirable, the first step to the creation of such kind of media literacy would be to find out what audiences actually think about a film from another country. And, because audio-visual translation is so crucial in that respect, because it enables audience to engage with the Other in the first place, it cannot and should not be overlooked. However, at the same time, bringing in methods from film/media studies, audience studies, and industry studies, could prove valuable, because film studies can highlight (among many other aspects) how camerawork, lighting and music guide the viewers, audience studies contributes to who the understanding as to actually watches these productions across the various countries, while industry studies enables us to see how distributors in various countries create a filter by choosing one film over another. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, the crossover between various aspects and methods of media/film studies and translation studies, the project thus provides this overview and it was inspiring for myself to think about different methods for reception studies and its value in a wider field. 

Elisa Perego (University of Trieste)

Very dense but not overwhelming, perfect opportunity for networking and real discussion, which is not possible in more common settings (e.g., conferences or project meeting). Invaluable way for getting a live update on the work of colleagues and establish stronger contacts, or simply getting new ideas on own research to come. I appreciated the opportunity to follow other people’s seminars, and the very small working groups. Very fruitful way also to get in touch with good students and listen to their research topics. This reveals a lot about their interests and can be an opportunity of exchange. The “women focus group” has been very stimulating, and I think we should go on and consider a possible co-authored publication: some interesting ideas have emerged and we already have a structure that could account for a pilot paper. The paper would be interesting and we all could learn a lot from the collaboration! Last but not least, the organization was impeccable – just like the scones and the sandwiches – and the visit to the museum really enjoyable. Thank you again.

Ana Rojo (University of Murcia)

Feedback from the research workshop was most enlightening for me. The various perspectives provided from the different participants allowed me to get a clearer and far-reaching picture of the theme under discussion, AVT as cross-cultural mediation. As a specialist in research methodology, I most welcomed contributions from other colleagues who approached the theme from a more cultural and pragmatic point of view or even from the perspective of film studies. Above all, I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to listen to AVT professionals who provided us with challenging feedback from the film industry and from the collective of professional subtitlers and audio describers.

But besides the impact of the participants’ contributions on my own approach, I found the workshop particularly useful as a launching platform to sketch the design of a potential research project, giving participants a unique opportunity to work together to integrate and give shape to input and data from different research approaches. From our first meeting, we drafted two potential research projects with a strong impact on society and of high relevance to the academic and professional world: one on audience responses to AVT-mediated films, liaising with partners in the large 2003-04 Lord of the Rings international audience research project; and another one on responses to characterization in source films and AVT mediated versions. Although there is still work to do on a final research proposal, the workshop was undoubtedly a most useful and practical starting point.  

We all expressed our interest in developing our initial proposals into fully shaped research projects. We have actually started to have a fruitful online discussion, generating ideas and suggestions, which will hopefully materialise into more concrete proposals in further meetings of the team. I am firmly convinced that the initiative of organising research workshops like this one should be fostered to promote research in any field.

Regarding the two options for follow-up projects, I personally think that the Lord of the Rings international audience research project has a lot of potential to get funding, given the strong impact of the film on society. However, we would have to get round the problem of liaising with film industry partners already involved in that project. In contrast, the project on responses to characterization appears a more manageable research study on a smaller scale, but it would probably have a lesser impact. If I must take sides, I would say that if there is anyone in the team with a good chance to get in touch with people in charge of the Lord of the Rings project, it would be worth giving it a try, considering its potential impact on society; otherwise, I would probably go for the second one.

My involvement in the project would entail my expertise on research design and methodology. My experience with methods to survey audience reception and the use of experimental research tools could be of practical use to design any of the two projects we have discussed. I cannot contribute with many professionals from the film industry, but I do know some professional film subtitlers who would probably be most delighted to get involved in the project. Besides, my students at the Translation and Interpreting Degree at the University of Murcia could participate as a potential audience.

Christopher Taylor (University of Trieste)

Firstly, everyone involved remained true to the title of the workshop and a wealth of topics relating to that title were presented, discussed and debated inside and outside the confines of the workshop room. For example, there was much constructive talk to the backdrop of munching scones and in the bar of the Tavistock Hotel.

I attended Kirsten Gerdes’s talk on subtitle reception which was very interesting, given that we heard from  a subtitling professional about the difficulties involved in translating a culture-bound text across cultures, in this case from English to German. The text in question was the ‘tired Mum’ sketch from the Catherine Tate show in which Catherine plays with a child’s lettered bricks, and finds words beginning with the respective letters first to amuse the baby and then to stress her own tiredness. Needless to say the letters and words in English do not correspond neatly into German equivalents and thus a considerable level of creativity is required, and Kirsten showed how this could be done. This was particularly interesting in that the same problems would arise in an English-Italian translation (my concern), and thus the discussion proved very fruitful.

This session was followed by that conducted by Jan-Louis Kruger and Agnieszka Szsarkovska on subtitle processing bringing in eye tracking, EEG, psychometric instruments such as immersion scales, and performance tests. While my colleague Elisa and I have some experience of eye-tracking, we had much to learn about the other methods discussed. So we thank Jan-Louis and Agnieszka for their clear exposition of these aspects. Anna Rojo, in her session, also focused on factors such as emotions and personality traits and on measures imported from psycholinguistics, such as heart rate, reaction time and psychological tests.

Patrick Zabalbeascoa’s session on the discovery of professional and social practices along with the norms and criteria of a specific translation challenge (multilingual audiovisual texts) and the validation and refinement of theoretical models on audiovisual translation and multilingualism, blossomed into a whole-scale discussion on many aspects of audio-visual translation and was particularly stimulating as a result.

The previous day’s presentations allowed everyone to get a taste of the wide array of topics on offer and thus to choose which specific sessions to follow, though it would have been rewarding to attend them all. Congratulations must go to the organisers for providing such a rich platform and such an innovative form of presentation.


OutcomesJason Baldry