Eyjafjallajökull for me equals a last minute decision to drive 1257 kms from Bonn to Perugia and keep a commitment to attend the International Journalism Festival.
Not all international speakers have been able to make it and one session I was particularly looking forward on "humanitarian journalism" was cancelled. Fortunately, the panel discussion on bridging the gap between languages and cultures went ahead and offered plenty to think about for citizen journalism, blogging and translations.
It was fascinating to hear Taiwanese blogger Portnoy Zheng describe his journey to becoming one the key contributors to Global Voices. Disappointed with the media in Taiwan and particularly with the coverage of international news, Portnoy began translating articles from English to Mandarin and posting them to his blog. Portnoy said he wanted people in Taiwan "to see more of the world". Soon afterwards he was invited by Global Voices to join the team.
Portnoy pointed out the need for human translations over electronic translations as many languages are simply not a good match for a machine to do. He also described how in languages such as Malagasy, translated materials posted by Global Voices are at the top of search results. Global Voices began translating into 7 languages in 2007 now offers 26 languages.
David Sasaki of Rising Voices went into more details about "social translation". It's nothing new to say that people who have appreciated something in one language have translated it into another language to share for a common good. But the internet and Web 2.0 tools makes the process easier and more people are doing it.
Sasaki presented several innovative social translation projects that might be of interest to Th!nk3-ers.
Ecocn.org - a Chinese version of The Economist produced by volunteers. More background here.
TED to China
Jaqi-Aru - a Bolivian website dedicated to preserving the Aymara language
YeeYan - more here from Ethan Zuckerman and the recent shut down of the site.
With any sort of volunteer group or collective you might ask yourself what motivates people to volunteer their time to produce translations? David Sasaki stressed that having a sense of being part a community is a big incentive for people to do this sort of work without pay. Something he added that mainstream media could learn a lot from.
Fellow panel member Mark Herman of the Translation Exchange Project also questioned why mainstream does not take more advantage of translations or seeks a wider audience with translated materials, especially video. Using the example of video content relevant to a global audience as the recent Wikileaks' video Collateral Murder, Herman suggested that tools such as DotSUB can be used to offer video content to a wider audience.
Bernando Parella, Global Voices Italian editor, also reinforced the value of social translation projects saying that the mainstream media is in retreat. "They're calling us - they need us".
After the panel discussion I recorded a short interview with David Sasaki and you can hear more of his thoughts about social translation and bridging gap between languages and culture.