By Sophie Ceneray
I had the pleasure of attending the Media For All Conference (Complex Understandings) in Stockholm back in June 2019.
It was three days packed with wonderful presentations and speakers, passionate audiovisual professionals, and excitement over a bubbling industry.
The organizers did a fantastic job of keeping the conference on schedule while providing us with delicious food and coffee.
The sessions were often divided between three or more speakers and covered topics from An Exploration of the Role of Multimodality in the Expression of (Im)politeness in the Chinese Fansubbed Version of Modern Family Comedies to The challenge of implementing SDH in immersive media. Here is a link to the program for a list of all presentations.
The conference was slanted towards academics; many students presented findings from studies they had conducted, and all were very interesting. The complexity of language, however, does make
it difficult to draw hard lines on directives to follow for all languages, under all circumstances. But discussions and studies are here to shape the way.
Of course, the key word of the conference was: accessibility. How to develop and improve audiovisual accessibility for all? Accessibility is why we are here. It is our goal, our purpose.
Fansubs! Whether we like it or not, they exist. They exist because we all want ACCESSIBLE content now, and the content we want isn’t always accessible in our chosen language when we want it. Fansubbers are part of our industry too. Their unconventional subtitling style has sometimes been referred to as “creative subtitling.”
Some Thai fansubs use different colors and utilize all the space on the screen to add extra content they deem interesting for the viewers (e.g., they may add a quick definition/explanation of a special word which is unknown in the target language, or add background about the characters currently on screen).
The OPERA project aims at raising quality standards for accessible audiovisual resources, and conducts an online evaluation of these resources pertaining to Spanish culture. Visually impaired visitors can access an online resource that describes artistic audiovisual production. The OPERA project surveys visitors to determine what information was pertinent to them, and asks if it was either insufficient or overdone, if it was easily understood, and more. Conducting such surveys will undoubtedly help set standards for providing accurate and meaningful descriptions of audiovisual media.
On a different note, are we ready for emergency situations, and how are our cities and officials making information available for all the communities?
A study conducted on online resources provided by 51 entities (counties, cities and towns) in the Rio Grande Valley showed the discrepancies of the quantity and quality of resources accessible for those with limited English proficiency, including people with disabilities, and their access to existing resources.
As pointed out, some resources may be available, but they could be difficult to comprehend due to their technical nature, or they might be available only in one form, i.e., written vs. audio or video.
On a different note, a good consequence of making more content available for all, is that people can use this content as a tool to learn new languages (and to discover and understand new cultures). This approach is a precious addition to more standard language learning tools, and may be more fun too.
We also enjoyed interesting panels, asked questions, discussed subtitling standards and quality, and brainstormed on how to encourage the creation and use of validated guides and directives.
It’s good to be reminded that we all have different roles to play; we should ask ourselves how we can contribute to the industry, and what are the standards we are setting for ourselves and others.
These conferences are also here to remind us that we have colleagues all around the world, asking themselves the same questions. We were lucky to benefit from the knowledge they shared and the
questions they raised.
Because conferences are a great opportunity to discover new horizons, I also had the pleasure to participate in a bus excursion, the day after the conference ended, organized by the fantastic Ulf Norberg, who teaches at the Institute for Interpreting and Translation Studies in Stockholm. We saw the royal Drottingholm Palace, had a lovely lunch in the countryside, admired a rune stone from the Viking Age and visited Gamla Fimstaden, “the Hollywood of Stockholm.”
Keep an eye out for the program of the next Media for All (#9) conference, in Barcelona in 2021.