For a Human-Centered AI

Translating research. From complex to simple, from incomprehensible to clickable

December 6, 2022

"Translation is not only about making research more understandable; it is also about presenting research in digestible, clickable formats that are likely to stand out"

I am reading a book. False. In actuality, I am reading several books at once, but the information would be superfluous to what I intend to argue here. Yet I gave it; I could have done better.

I did not start like this to mislead myself or the reader, but s an introduction: it happens, when you are communicating something, that you open parentheses and do not close them, perhaps losing sight of what really matters. Let’s think about the example I just made: what does really matter: that I am reading one book or that I am reading many at once? Answer: I’m reading one, Journalism Research That Matters.

It’s a collection of reflections written to present a comprehensive overview of the most pressing and challenging issues in journalism research (not journalism, but research on journalism). They range from the potential of data-journalism to forms of communication as a function of literacy for potential readers, from changing news audiences to changing business models, and much more.

As food for though, I quote this from the chapter written by Benjamin Toff: “Translation is not only about making research more understandable; it is also about presenting research in digestible, clickable formats that are likely to stand out”.

Let us close the circle and return to the initial example, that of the book being read and the books simultaneously being read. What really matters, in short, is: there is a quote in the book I am reading that is so inspiring that I want to share it with those who read my editorials. And to say it, I waited until I got almost to the end.  I should not have done that. It is a choice here referred to as a rhetorical device, which, however, is not infrequently made more or less unconsciously and ends up undermining the effectiveness of so much communication (scientific and otherwise). One of the basic rules in writing as well as in speaking should be to set the bar, to communicate what one wants to communicate, without getting lost in intersecting or parallel paths, perhaps even in language that is not very understandable. Instead, it happens to read articles in which the news (I am reading a book that made me think) takes a back seat (I read several books at once).  Readers who look at the article with interest thus run the risk of getting confused.  How to try to avoid this?  In response, I find the use of the concept of translation exactly right: translation cannot and should not be the mere repetition in another language or simplification of a text. It helps as well to transform, to meet the reader’s cultural (linguistic) habits. To strive to find effective formulas, whether old or new, but without being afraid to experiment, even in language. Reasoning about scholarly communication, actualy “make research more understandable, present it in digestible and clickable formats that are likely to stand out.

As for literary translation, those more knowledgeable than me will soon write about it on these pages.


Chiudiamo il cerchio e torni

The author/s