Translation, Teamwork, and Technology : The Use of Social and Material Scaffolds in the Translation Process

Abstract: This dissertation explores translators’ interactions with social and material resources in the translation process. The general aim of the study is to contribute to the knowledge about cognitive translation processes in naturalistic settings, with a specific focus on the ways in which translators interact with social actors and technological resources. The empirical material was collected using an ethnographic approach, which combines field observations, interviews, and the collection of documents and digital communication. The fieldwork was carried out in the Swedish translation office of a global language service provider company.The study is positioned within cognitive translation studies and employs a socio-cognitive theoretical framework. The main theoretical point of departure is extended translation, which outlines factors relevant to analyses of socio-cognitive aspects of translating and posits assumptions about the relation between translation, cognition, and environment. Extended translation draws on situated approaches to cognition developed within the cognitive sciences. In the present study, perspectives from situated cognition and distributed cognition are highlighted. A theoretical concept that has proven especially valuable as an analytic lens is that of "scaffolding", in cognitive scientist Andy Clark’s sense. For Clark, scaffolding denotes the role of social and material external structure for accomplishing otherwise less easily attainable goals.The analyses focus on interaction within the social network in the workplace, interaction with mnemonic artifacts, and interaction with query management resources. The results show that, and how, translators in need of assistance with regard to translation-related difficulties create conditions for collaboration by framing translation problems in specific ways. Problem-solving processes are shown to unfold through interaction between translators, which includes joint attention to input from material resources. Translators also interact with translation memory (TM) technology to modify situation-specific conditions for decision making. Moreover, translators use their social network to evaluate TM content, and they take action to manage and manipulate TM content. Considered in light of the assumptions put forward by distributed cognition, the analysis of the latter activities suggests that remembering processes unfold at the level of the workplace, rather than at the level of the individual. Finally, the results suggest two ways in which query management resources are exploited in the translation process: to support problem solving and to counteract undesired predicted responses from other actors, such as claims and complaints. Both these activities involve interaction with social actors.In summary, the results show how translators in the workplace interact with, and modify, external resources to create support for problem solving, remembering, and decision making in the translation process. By redefining the object of study from translators’ internal computation to their interactions with external resources, the study contributes to the growing body of knowledge of situated, extended, and distributed aspects of translating. The study also makes a methodological contribution by using an ethnographic approach to study socio-cognitive aspects of translating.