Why Experiential Translation?

In a world of digital affordances and instant communication, meaning-making is increasingly understood as an agented, dynamic, unstable, emergent process where an expanded notion of translation is key. The aim of this research network is therefore to investigate the creative process of meaning-making across media, or intersemiotic practice, as a research field with its own distinct praxis, theoretical framework and research methods, which we refer to as experiential translation. Pedagogical methods to foster intersemiotic agency, literacy and engagement will be developed for schools and communities, and intersemiotic translation will be promoted as a tool for critical research and teaching in galleries and museums with diverse audiences. 

Our approach relies on the conjunction of arts-based research and hermeneutic methods and will entail a distinct social dimension and projection. The expertise of the network participants has been drawn together into three research strands: Creative Practice, Communities & Cultural Cohesion, and Intersemiotic Literacies. Against this background we will conduct research using multimodal workshops as a method to investigate the creative processes underlying participatory art making. This will involve a series of experiential translation events in community, arts and educational settings (schools, museums, galleries) in network countries, in collaboration with local partners and commissioning a number of art works. 

The research context for our enquiry draws on disciplines generally divided along teleological rather than hermeneutic lines: we owe the concepts of translanguaging and social semiotic modalities to critical applied linguistics and language education, while intermedial and multimodal studies essentially offer frameworks for reading ‘texts’ in the arts and humanities. In the present endeavour the agents and processes of intersemiotic practice constitute the object of study with a focus on the emic experience of intersemiotic translation, or experiential translation, which we aim to understand through a transdisciplinary lens which will be of interest to both the individual disciplines cited and the communities they serve.

This includes understanding the many modes and modalities that contribute to meaning-making in cross-cultural communication (online & offline) and embracing the role of individual imagination and artistic creation in HE and arts institutions (e.g. libraries, galleries, museums). In addition, this research will aim to achieve new understanding of the implications of translation policies on language use and language learning in different contexts. 

Lock-down or social distancing measures across the globe in response to COVID-19 have made digital communication the primary site of exchange for many of us. However, whether online or offline, languages and semiotic systems are neither neutral nor symmetric places. Disciplines and artistic practices in the arts and humanities and increasingly the social sciences have highlighted the capacity of translation as a concept and a metaphor to represent the features (and also the tensions and conflicts) of our current globalized and increasingly ethno-diverse societies. Both translation theory and many disciplines where there has been a translation turn have reflected on the creation and reception of any type of representation (i.e. translation) in another context or cultural milieu, including conflictual visions of reality, cross-cultural differences and power asymmetries. This expanded notion of translation is increasingly recognized as a means to explore potential methods for fostering cross-cultural communication and creating inclusive social frameworks enabling the expression and fruitful coexistence of different cultural identities, positions and sensibilities.