Thanks for this fascinating insight into the inner workings of Viki and the crucial role played by segmenters! Can't wait to hear more.
This interview is really interesting for the way that it highlights the fairly chaotic, grassroots vibe that persists on Viki despite its professionalisation. The Seg101 training program, for instance, is something that volunteers have initiated and built. Also, this segmenter comments on the fact that directions, guidance and advice are only given if people seek it out and that otherwise people can segment however they like.
I'm also interested in the way that geography, location and time zones play such a critical role in the fansubbing processes, despite the supposedly 'deterritorialised' nature of online spaces. Food for thought…
Yes, there is so much to look at. Its great to read Jamie's interview with a Viki segmenter and to get the inside perspective. Reading through chat forums, it seems there are quite a few divergent attitudes amongst the Viki community about the ethics of the venture. Fascinating reading…. Also, the cultural dynamics (East-West, Pan-Asian etc…) provide a really fruitful area for future work. I have touched upon these issues in my research ("Fansub Dreaming on Viki" and "Multilingual Publics"), but much more needs to be done.
Well, the work of the subtitlers on Viki is certainly not paid!
Its business model is specifically based around volunteer contributions. I guess issues of copyright are the pay off. All Viki fansubs are legal, so fans can keep doing what they love to do without contravening copyright laws. There have been grumblings in the Viki community about whether or not their business model exploitats of fan labour, and after it was sold to Rakuten in 2013, some fansubbers left at that point.
According to Hovaghimiam, the idea of paying senior volunteers was mooted early on in the company, but was ultimately rejected by the fansubbers themselves. See article by Peter Kafka in All Things Digital.
I realize my subject line may sound like a WoW reference, but I'm thinking more of how trades and crafts were once learned.
The apprenticing / training, and earning one's way into a group via some repeated basic skills until one can prove ones chops / earn a badge, is reminiscent of the old way of controlling a market or a skill — and an essentially communal / self-policed system at that.
That said, the segmenting seems to be almost reminiscent of the industrial revolution with the shift away from a worker having control from start to finish of a project to a repeated single action in a factory.
Looked at in labor terms this is an intriguing blend of pre-capital / early capital models and is especially fascinating as we apply it to Viki's fan-based for-profit model.
I am reminded very much of the communities that are devoted to manga scanlation — beyond the obvious comparison of fan translations — and the sheer organizational feats that go into the work that are really only possible because of the internet. Their for profit status combined with the offsetting (or is that a cynical take?) of what some fan communities might see as co-opted labor with the "good works" of their campaigns is especially interesting.
Thanks for the post. Viki's position is really interesting. I wonder how fans make sense of their involvement and contribution to the company's business. How do they define their ethical code and what is their shared understanding of their relationship to the company? Do you have any plan to look at this? As for fans' attitude, I wonder if there is any gender (drama fans tend to be female?) or cultural (East-West) dynamics? I am curious…
Perhaps we should organise a conference :)
Btw, Frank & Timme (Berlin) will be publishing an edited volume on fansubbing as part of its translation series.
Thanks for the comments. Yes, the issue of flows (which directions?) seems very important. I have not noticed that Viki is increasing US content! Perhaps we see two potentially contracting phenomena: the increase in the volume and speed of dominant flow + fans' free use and circulation of the dominant content without getting the copyright holders' authorisation. What does this mean for cultural globalisation and global cultural business…?
Viki is indeed very interesting but unfortunately not much info is given in the web regarding the technology behind it.
A crucial issue behind their business model is the issue of copyright.
Since money is now requested for the use of their subtitles, I wonder if the work of the subtitler is paid, and the rate.
Also workflows and distribution are interesting info that I can't read in their web.
Thank you for your post. I've been looking at Viki for some time as well and have found the self conscious elements of the site to be some of the most interesting. Your post has me thinking about whether this is a fan site or a translation engine (made of people). Viki has tried in the past to automate parts of its translation processes and the results have never been up to par with the fan work.
I'm thinking specifically about transfer here as well. Oftentimes fan translation is seen as a hobby or sub-par work, however, Viki utilizes the technical and language skills that fans build working on channels to feed into these more globally conscious projects. Work on the Billions Word March might seem more professional. Giving volunteers the opportunity to transfer what they've learned on fan channels to these larger projects are skills I hope my students develop. I wonder how much professional ethos Viki pulls from the fact that it is a corporate venture doing these kinds of projects.
Lots to think about. Luckily there's more to come on Viki for this survey.