The human in the loop: assembling machine translation and professional identity with ethnography and SNA

Time: 16.00 - 17.30

Venue: G6, Humanities Bridgeford Street; University of Manchester; M13 9PL

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Speaker: Emma Seddon, Newcastle University

Translators seem to be on a professional knife-edge, with machine translation (MT) becoming increasingly proficient, threatening livelihoods and challenging translators’ expertise. This paper looks at the impact of the rise of MT on professional identity construction in translation. Assemblage thinking is the theoretical and methodological drive behind this mixed methods approach which shows how both MT and translators’ identities emerge from the interactions of a variety of ‘things’ and people. In order to gain a multi-textured understanding of these emergent phenomena, I have integrated ethnographic methods (interviews and participant observation) and social network analysis of Twitter data. At the centre is a translation conference that I attended both physically and in the Twittersphere. The combination of two different analytical methods challenges epistemological assumptions, and shows that ‘zooming in’ and ‘zooming out’ in research allows a more complex understanding to appear. As a result, translation and translators’ professional identities emerge as firmly situated within the seismic shifts of globalization, neoliberalism and artificial intelligence.