Our study of translation involved collaboration and negotiation with various scholars, designers, and community members. By highlighting not only the products but also our processes of creating data visualizations and engaging in visual methods, we sought to present not just visuals, but voices that articulated our processes for a collaborative, community-driven approach to data visualization in writing studies and technical communication.
Because data visualizations have the potential to simplify and abstract data, we saw multiple opportunities to expand our visualizations through participant narratives and experiences. In this section, we share some of those experiences and our ongoing considerations for ethical attribution and representation in data visualization.
When sketching and modeling moments of translation, we learned that in addition to the visible acts of translation (language transformation, designing, editing), just as much intellectual and cultural work was occurring in the pause—the moments where translators were visualizing as an interpretive act, relying on an index of their cultural knowledge and experiences to make decisions about language transformation. Our challenge as researchers was not only to visualize the translation processes that our participants engaged in through digital and material modalities like word-processed documents and digital files, but to also find ways of visualizing the interpretive processes that translators experienced as they completed this work. However, through our collaborations with our participants, as we discussed the translation strategies of "repeating" and "storytelling" that translators used during translation moments, we learned that as translators make decisions in these instances of language transformation, they also frequently relive previous experiences. Our challenge in visualizing translation processes, then, is not only to reach accurate presentations and representations of a cultural practice but to also ensure that we were treating our data carefully and ethically.
For instance, if a translator is trying to decide whether a word "sounds right" in a specific sentence, she may repeat the word over and over again, indexing her cultural knowledge and experiences in order to recall how that word has been used in previous instances within her life. Often, these efforts to visualize previous conversations in order to decide on a translation may be relatively harmless, but sometimes, these memory triggers can also result in translators' having to relive their own experiences and struggles. While our visualizations of translation activities made space for translators to adapt our designs to better reflect their own processes (e.g., by selecting and de-selecting specific portions of our translation moments figure), more developments in data visualization and translation are needed to prevent unintentional triggers from impacting translators as they encounter visualizations of their practices in published work.
Although creating visualizations and expanding those visualizations by compiling and sharing video montages helped us share the complexity of translation with various audiences, as we completed and published this research, we also became increasingly aware that making this content accessible to readers and viewers requires added attention to issues of accessibility, particularly when considering how participants are being represented in visualizations and how we are accommodating visual and aural elements of videos. Working through this project with attention to accessibility prompted us to trace our process in learning to produce visual research that was not only accessible to viewers of Spanish and English, but that also complied with general publication standards for online journals and venues that produce digital scholarship in the field of technical communication.
For example, in addition to deciding how to caption non-verbal and verbal interactions in videos (Butler, 2018), working with bilingual participants meant that we had to consistently decide how and what to translate at various points in our analysis, and how to represent these translations in accessible ways for viewers of this work. Using translation strategies like reading aloud, gesturing, and storytelling, translators in the videos we include in this webtext used different varieties of Englishes and Spanishes while also engaging in various body movements and expressions. In our visualizations, we thus had to make decisions about how to present specific elements in both Spanish and English, particularly considering the fact that these visualizations were to be predominantly published in English-dominant venues. Connecting translation and data visualization processes and practices thus helped us continue thinking about accessibility in terms of both language and design. As writing studies researchers continue making connections between translation and data visualization, we envision possible considerations for expanding the languages that are included and highlighted in our publication venues. Because data visualization allows us to understand writing and rhetoric and technical communication beyond alphabetic modalities, including translation within data visualization can add another dimension to our fields' understanding of access, representation, and visualization.
Finally, throughout this project, it was also important for us to recognize the intellectual contributions that our participants made to our visualizations, even if these contributions were not always highlighted in the final products. Thus we see an opportunity for attribution, transparency, and accountability through intentional moments of data expansion—where narratives such as these interweave with our visualizations. While we sought to credit our participants in this webtext by working with our IRBs to include participants' real names and affiliations in our discussion, we also understand that publication processes and structures in both rhetoric and composition and technical communication limit the ways in which we can define authorship and give intellectual credit in published work. As our fields continue grappling with the ethical implications of data visualization, we thus also seek to continue developing methods for visualizing the humanity, intellect, and contributions of humans who are often reduced to data points in data visualization within and beyond writing studies.