Un projet Labex Arts H2H
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2012 - 2016

From Doing to Making Translation: The Case of Algorithmic Works
By Senom Yalcin

Middle East Technical University


Algorithmic literature refers to works generated through use of code/algorithms. How one goes about translating these works is a question. In its classical definition, translation is "rendering the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text" (Newmark, 1998). Translation (as well as interpretation) is hermeneutic in origin. As Gross (2000) argues, we can regard Hermes as the god of translation and interpretation - the focus of translation work being on the meaning of a text, its mediation and transfer from one language to another.


The output of a generative work can be a linear text, many examples of which have been submitted to the the NanoGenMo (the National Novel Generation Month)  where novels of 50,000 words are created through code. Even so, these works should be regarded as systems. The intent and the meaning generated are not (purely) hermeneutic. Furthermore, the author is a composite: the human and the non-human author are at work together. So the question of translation can only be answered by responding to this complexity.


In this paper, I refer to Galloway's (2014) analogy of the gods Hermes and Furies to hermeneutic and systemic mediation - Furies being the gods that represent systems and complexity - and argue that a relevant approach to translating generative work can only be represented by the Furies. In which case, the translator will have to re-create the system, putting to use the work of both authors. Moving from hermeneutic to systemic, the process of translation will then become one of making. 


Galloway, A. (2014). Love of the Middle. In Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker and McKenzie Wark. Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. University of Chicago Press.

Gross, A. (2000). Hermes, God of Translators and Interpreters: the Antiquity of Interpreting - Distinguishing Fact from Speculation. Paper presented at the NYU Translation 2000 Conference.

Newmark, P. (1988): A Textbook of Translation. New York/London: Prentice Hall.


About the author

Senom Yalcin is a researcher and translator interested in writing, networks, and technology. She received her PhD at Indiana University, Bloomington and teaches at the Department of Foreign Language Education at the Middle East Technical University.

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